Thursday 21 October 2010

Australia 'lags far behind' on climate policies

Tuesday 19/10/2010 Page: 5

AUSTRALIA lags far behind China and Europe in forcing industry to pay for its greenhouse gas emissions, according to research that will bolster the case for a carbon price.

A comparison of international climate policies found Australia is doing less than most of its major trading parties including the US and Japan to encourage a shift to a cleaner energy supply. Commissioned by the Climate Institute Australia, the study challenges claims from the federal opposition and some business groups that Australia will damage the economy if it introduces a carbon price via a tax or emissions trading scheme.

Australia's climate policies, such as the national renewable energy target, were found to be equivalent to forcing the power industry to pay $US1.70 ($A1.71) per tonne of CO2. By contrast, China has an underlying carbon price on its power sector of $US14.20 eight times higher. China's policies include the forced shutdown of its worst-performing coal-fired power stations, and the world's largest renewable energy program $US35 billion invested last year, compared with $US18 billion in the US. It is considering a carbon trading scheme.

Britain ($US29.30 a tonne), the US ($US5.10) and Japan (SU53.10) were each found to be ahead of Australia in encouraging a shift to cleaner power. Climate Institute Australia deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said the world-first research showed companies in Asia and Europe were making a strategic decision to move ahead to reap the benefits of creating new jobs and industries in clean energy.

The report by British consultant Vivid Economics backs studies that have found a direct carbon price through a trading scheme or tax is the cheapest way to reduce emissions, and warns that Australia risks losing competitiveness if it is late in embracing clean technology. Economist and government adviser Ross Garnaut recently said convincing Australians how much other countries particularly China were doing to tackle climate change was one of the most important challenges facing the government.

"I am frankly shocked at how persistent the ignorance in Australia is of that", Professor Garnaut said. "It is as if a lead veil had been inserted around the brains of most Australians and made them impervious to information that is not secret, about what is going on in other countries". The Vivid analysis found Britain's high implied carbon price was due to the European emissions trading scheme, the British tax on fossil fuel power generation and its renewable energy target. In the US, the implied carbon price has been driven mainly by tax credits to encourage investment in renewable energy. The US Senate has rejected emissions trading.

Transfield chases $300m in contracts

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 19/10/2010 Page: 31

Transfield Services is bidding for about $300 million worth of contracts in South Australia, and is determined to raise its public profile. The diversified services provider employs about 1700 people in SA. However, it has generally flown under the radar. In a bid to rectify this, and to tap into the state's burgeoning economy, Transfield Services has set up its first state manager position in the nation here, which has been filled by general manager Adam Machon. The company is also consolidating its office workforce to a new site on South Tce, which managing director Peter Goode believes will help it attract staff.

Dr Goode himself is an SA expat, with a long career in oil and gas with companies such as Santos and Schlumberger. He is keen to see the brain drain from SA reversed, and says the company already has a number of staff who have returned because of the opportunities now available in SA. Transfield Services, which has operations globally in countries including Chile, Dubai, Qatar and the US, operates eight major contracts in SA already.

It has contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with the Australian Rail Track Corporation, does work for rail company Genesee and Wyoming Australia, maintenance and capital works for Santos in the Cooper Basin, and coating work on the Collins class submarines for ASC. It also owns wind farm assets such as the Starfish Hill wind farm near Cape Jervois through the Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund, and has three other sites it might develop in the future.

Dr Goode says it is no mistake that SA was chosen as the site for the company to start raising its profile. He said he was shocked that the company was not better known here. 'We feel there's a lot of opportunity in this state, particularly around mining, but also around renewable energy", Dr Goode said. "We would like to be on a path across our business where we have recurring double-digit growth. "Once we get through the current economic environment we can get back to... sustained double digit growth and we'd like to see that in South Australia as well. "We do see South Australia as a particularly good destination for investment bias at the moment because of the opportunities that the state presents".

Dr Goode could not go into details about the contracts the company was bidding for, but said the company would be hiring "substantial" numbers of new employees depending on how successful these bids were. The company would be looking for people across the professions and trades and also had an indigenous employment program, Dr Goode said. It was reported this month that Transfield Services had already locked in $1.1 billion worth of contracts in the first quarter of the financial year, and it had contracted more than 80% of its forecast revenues.

Community ownership could herald a gust of green power.

Sunday Age
Sunday 17/10/2010 Page: 6

Australia's first community-owned wind farm. The Hepburn Community Wind Park Co-operative held its official ground-breaking ceremony last week at Leonard's Hill, 10 kilometres south of Daylesford. Vicki Horrigan, a director of Hepburn Wind, says the turbines should be ready and rotating by mid-2011. "It's over five years since the local community here had the idea. And now we're building a project worth just under $13 million".

The wind farm comprises two turbines with a combined capacity of
4.1MWs. They will be built by German company REpower Systems AG and connected to the grid. "The turbines are estimated to produce about 12,200MW hours each year", Ms Horrigan says. "That's enough to power 2300 homes, which is more than the number of households here in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs". Hepburn Wind was set up as a cooperative.

Membership is open to all Victorians, but there's a lower minimum investment threshold for locals. All members get one vote, regardless of the size of their shareholding. Once they're whirling, the turbines will generate a return for members and contribute funding for local projects. "The structure has been a real bonus for engaging the local community because they can see the idea came from here and they can participate in it easily" Ms Horrigan says. "It's a good financial model, but it's also a good philosophical model it's socially responsible investment.

People often feel powerless about climate change on a global scale. This project shows that local communities can set up systems that really go towards making ourselves sustainable". Precinct-scale power generation can also be much more efficient than a house-by-house approach. The Hepburn wind turbines will cost far less per household in the area than a comparable rollout of rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. The group's success has turned heads. "We get a couple of requests every week from other communities wanting to find out about what we're doing and how they could start something similar", Ms Horrigan says.

There's a lot of advice to pass on. Among the thorniest impediments have been raising the capital, estimating costs and gaining planning approval. For this reason, a spin-off organisation, called Embark, has been founded to support other communities through the process. Embark's executive director, Mary Dougherty says the organisation is already in contact with about 10 groups, including some working on proposals for mini-hydro and solar schemes, as well as wind turbines. "We're trying to break down the steps involved and provide practical advice and templates, like business plans, financial models and landholder lease agreements. It's much easier than starting with a blank slate".

There are scores of articles on the Embark website, covering everything from the ins-and-outs of the energy market, to how to run effective public meetings, together with case studies from both here and abroad. In Denmark, co-operatives own more than a quarter of the country's wind farms. "In the European countries where these community projects started out, they have a far greater uptake of renewable energy overall. These small projects lead to large ones", Ms Dougherty says. "In 10 years, we'd love to have started 100 projects. Through all the investors, that translates to about a million people who are exposed to the benefits of renewable energy first hand. That's really powerful".

Wednesday 20 October 2010

'Return power GST to the poor'

Friday 15/10/2010 Page: 1

AUSTRALIA'S biggest energy retailer is demanding governments siphon part of an estimated $550 million yearly GST windfall from skyrocketing electricity prices into rebates for low-income households. In landmark modelling obtained exclusively by The Australian, AGL Energy finds that soaring power prices could lead to a GST windfall of between $400m and $550m a year from NSW and Queensland 'Return power GST to the poor' alone within five years.

The price increases threaten to tip 343,902 households in those states into "fuel poverty", where they are spending about 10% of their disposable income on electricity, according to the new research. AGL Energy chief economist Paul Simshauser urged Australia's governments to earmark a "significant" share of the extra GST raised from higher electricity prices into assistance measures such as rebates paid directly on to customer bills.

"If you accept that we have a large group of vulnerable households who will be exposed to fuel poverty, then you need to act on it and that is an important function and role of government in any society", Professor Simshauser said. "We have identified a significant windfall in GST revenue as energy prices rise in the next few years and it seems that's a logical starting point when considering how best to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable".

The company also wants federally commissioned modelling on the likely impact of electricity prices on low-income households, the creation of a national energy hardship committee to advise governments, and an "essential service credit" to help households upgrade to energy-efficient appliances. The push was backed by welfare groups, who warned that cost-of-living pressures would continue to mount.

Queensland Council of Social Service president Karyn Walsh backed tapping the GST pool to help vulnerable consumers. "It's important to look at all options", Ms Walsh said. "But we think it's essential that governments at every level really understand the higher cost of living". She pointed to rising costs for housing, food and transport. "We are talking about what will be the tipping point for people. It's not something that's going to be solved by telling people to budget better".

St Vincent de Paul policy and research manager Gavin Dufty described the GST on essential services as the "gorilla in the room that nobody is talking about". "The states have to make a statement about what they are going to do with that additional revenue", Mr Dufty said. The GST pool is carved up between the states and the federal government's insistence on seizing some of it back in return for health reform earlier this year was initially resisted by key states, particularly Western Australia.

The AGL Energy research found that power bills for a typical household in Sydney and Brisbane would rise from averages of $1076 a year in 2008 to about $2289 in 2015. Over that time, the GST paid by NSW and Queensland customers on their power bills would increase from about $410m in 2008 to between $880m and $1.04 billion, according to the research, which Professor Simshauser stressed did assume the price rises triggered no fundamental changes in other household expenditure.

Significantly, the work concludes that climate change and renewable energy policies would have a relatively minor impact on bills compared to other cost pressures. The big drivers of the price increases were multi-billion dollar upgrades to the energy network, which was built decades ago and needs work to meet the growing peak demand caused by energy-guzzling air conditioners.

As well, the coal and gas that fuel electricity generators are also getting more expensive as commodities producers pursue lucrative exports to Asia, while there has been a switch from cheap coal to gas electricity generation technology. Constructing new power plants also is becoming more expensive. These findings are likely to add to business pressure on Julia Gillard to put a price on carbon.

Treasury's "red book" brief to the government warned that further delays to a carbon price would be "more costly and disruptive" and would increase uncertainty over investment in new power stations. BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers last month insisted the government should impose a carbon tax before an international agreement, while last week Wesfarmers and Boral chairman Bob Every said a carbon price was inevitable.

Earlier this week, the Energy Users Association of Australia, whose members include Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, warned that almost all supermarket goods would become more expensive. AGL Energy's findings also undermine Tony Abbott's insistence that a carbon price would be a "big bad tax".

Professor Simshauser, who is also a finance professor at Griffith University's business school and led the modelling, said that energy companies wanted to see a price put on carbon to give them certainty to invest. "When you're sick, the faster you take the medicine, the better", Professor Simshauser said. Without a carbon price, "nobody is going to let the lights go out", he said. Instead, to maintain a reliable electricity supply, companies would construct so-called "peaking plants", which are cheap to build but very expensive to run.

"When you stack end-to-end all of the cost pressures in the industry, the one thing that the numbers bear out very clearly is that prices are going to double without carbon", Professor Simshauser said. "When you put carbon onto that, the impact of it is not that significant at all". AGL Energy also wants other sector specific reforms, including a shift to much greater time-of-use pricing where utilities charge more during peak periods than during off-peak or shoulder times. Scrapping price controls which exist in all states except Victoria would encourage energy efficiency, he said.

Rapanui win highly commended award at the RSPCA Good Business Awards
Mon, 18 Oct 2010

Rapanui has won a highly commended prize at the annual RSPCA good business awards for their contribution to sustainability, animal welfare policy and for fulfilling their ethos of 'doing business the right way'.

The brand, founded by brothers Mart and Rob Drake-Knight in early 2008 aims to make eco fashion cool and to inspire people to make changes to their wider lifestyle by being open and honest about their supply chain. In response to the current state of the clothing industry they say that "It's not that people don't care, it's just that they don't know" and have designed an innovative Traceability tool and Eco-labelling initiative, aiming to inform and inspire people to go green by making it easy to find out where their clothing comes from and how it is made, "helping people shop quickly, with a conscience".

The RSPCA chooses expert judges for their awards ceremony, including Wayne Hemmingway, co-founder of Red or Dead. "...there is a real commitment within the industry to improve animal welfare, and it's reassuring to see big brands at the forefront of this change". Mr. Hemmingway said.

The brothers have already won the 2010 Sustainable Business Awards, a finals place at Enterprise UK's Enterprising Young Brits and a nomination for next year's ISPO Brand New Award. They hope their recognition at the RSPCA Good Business Awards will inspire other young people to consider entrepreneurship. Now 25 and 23 respectively, Rob and Martin Drake-Knight founded their company with £200 of savings and are now listed on the Future 100 list of top young entrepreneurs.

"We hope our business can inspire other young people, even if they have no job and no money, that they can be a success too - whether you wear a suit or flip flops"

Find out more about traceability and Rapanui

Hydrogen Highway, fuel cell buses coming
Thu, 14 Oct 2010

Connecticut's stake in the hydrogen fuel-cell industry will be showcased Friday as two separate events will feature the state's commitment to the renewable energy. At 10 a.m, in Wallingford, Proton Energy Systems and sister company SunHydro will break ground on the first fueling station in its Hydrogen Highway, a stretch of locales from Maine to Miami where fuel-cell cars can refuel with hydrogen. At 10 a.m, in Hartford, CT Transit will unveil four new fuel-cell powered buses from South Windsor-based UTC Power. The addition of four 40-foot transit buses gives Hartford the biggest hydrogen bus fleet outside of San Francisco. The CT Transit event is open to the public; the Hydrogen Highway groundbreaking is by invitation only.

Monday 18 October 2010

Biogas project to provide green energy
October, 13 2010

HA NOI -- A pilot project to install over 500 biogas generators for households, businesses, farms and small enterprises nationwide is being carried out through next year as part of Toyota Motor Viet Nam's Go Green Programme. The project aims to protect the environment and reduce pollution by using biogas to generate electricity for daily and business use, Toyota representatives told a seminar yesterday in the central city of Da Nang. Farmer Mai Tan Trien of Da Nang's Hoa Vang District, among a number of farmers to participate in the project, said his farm was saving millions of dong from using waste from his chickens to produce biogas to generate electricity.

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Bui Van Ga, who is heading up the biogas scheme, said a kilowatt-hour of power produced from biogas would save 400ml of fuel and cut CO2 emissions by onekg. Toyota Viet Nam general director Akito Tachibana said the pilot project would be expanded to thousands of household businesses and farms in remote and disadvantaged areas by 2012.

Google power

Thursday 14/10/2010 Page: 7

INTERNET search engine Google has announced that it is investing in a mammoth project to build an underwater "superhighway for clean energy" that would funnel power from offshore wind farms to 1.9 million homes without overtaxing the already congested mid-Atlantic power grid. The Atlantic Wind Connection calls for spending as much as $US5 billion ($A5.1 billion) to create a 563-kilometre network of underwater cables from New Jersey to Virginia. The grid will have the capacity to transmit 6000MWs of offshore wind power to shore.

Fund gets wind up over carbon

Thursday 14/10/2010 Page: 2

Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund says it will consider all "sensible offers" for its stake in the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station to focus on developing its renewable energy assets. Speaking at the fund's annual meeting yesterday, chief executive Steve MacDonald said the looming introduction of a carbon price was weighing on the fund's share price. TSI owns significant power and renewable-energy infrastructure, including a stake in Collinsville Power Station in Queensland.

The fund yesterday announced a $8.6 million net increase to its 2011 earnings guidance to $104 million after the successful concession extension and refinancing of its Macarthur water-filtration plant. "If there is carbon legislation hanging over these, it will be very difficult to say 'here are the future earnings of these plants'", Mr MacDonald said. TSI's shares closed up 0.050 at 66.5¢ yesterday about a third of its listing price in 2007.

Like most in the energy industry, TSI was keen for a decision on a carbon price, Mr MacDonald said. But he believed that TSI was "substantially protected" from any negative financial impacts of a tax because of the long-term contracts its wholly owned assets held. TSI chairman Peter Young said Loy Yang A, in Traralgon, in which TSI has a 14% stake, was one of the fund's "non-core assets".

Mr Young defended TSI's $28 million loss on the $191 million sale of its Mount Millar wind farm in South Australia in May, saying it was "an accounting treatment". Mr MacDonald said TSI is still intent on expanding its wind farm portfolio, a key element of the fund's long-term growth strategy. TSI reaffirmed its distribution guidance of 8.20 per security at least for the "medium term".