Friday 19 November 2010

France sets wind energy record
Indpower Monthly, 15 November 2010

FRANCE: On 11 November, wind power covered 5% of the electricity needs of France for the day, setting a new record. Strong winds over the whole country pushed this up to a peak of 7% at one point during the night, when the power output reached 3885MW, according to data provided by the grid operator RTE.

"The turbines were operating at over 70% of their total power", says the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER), a trade association. SER notes the electricity generated represents "nearly twice the average consumption of a city such as Paris."

Geothermal power pact for Alcoa, Greenearth

Tuesday 16/11/2010 Page: 7

Alcoa has flagged its intention to power part of its energy-intensive operations in Victoria with geothermal power, signing a memorandum of understanding with Greenearth Energy.

Alcoa, which operates the world's largest integrated bauxite mining, alumina refining and aluminium smelting business, will take up to 12MWs of power, contingent on Greenearth Energy proving its resources and technology. If all goes to plan, Alcoa could be using geothermal power by 2014, with the amount supplied subject to commercial negotiations.

The next step is locating a site, which Alcoa has agreed to help do somewhere on its lease, but it would need approval from the Victorian government. The memorandum is a significant step for the prospects of geothermal power, one of the few renewable resources that can provide base-load energy.

Greenearth Energy managing director Mark Miller said the agreement was an endorsement of the company's geothermal prospects, given that Alcoa was heavily reliant on security of its energy supply. "Geothermal energy is being increasingly recognised as having the potential to deliver zero emissions, reliable and, importantly, base-load renewable energy generation", he said. Greenearth Energy shares soared as much as 45% but closed 6%, or 0.5¢, higher at 8.4¢.

Acciona Energy court date delayed

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 16/11/2010 Page: 39

Acciona Energy's fight in court to defend the development of its $175 million wind farm near Mt Gambier has been adjourned into the new year to allow for medical evidence submissions. The Environment Resources and Development Court in Adelaide recently began proceedings on an appeal filed by dairy farmer Richard Paltridge over the construction of the wind farm near his property in Allendale East. The development had received approval from the District Council of Grant's Development Assessment Panel in March this year.

The council's planning and development director, Leith McEvoy, said the court had allowed for medical evidence with a doctor's statement introduced into the proceedings. "Acciona Energy and the council now have the right to bring in their own (medical) evidence", he said. "The industry needs to deal with the issues, so it's good in a way to present all the evidence".

The Spanish company - joint developer of the Cathedral Rocks wind farm near Port Lincoln with Roaring 40s and the consortium leader of the group building the Port Stanvac desalination plant through its Agua division - was scheduled to begin construction work on the 46 turbine, 70.5MW wind farm early next year.

Hearings in the Adelaide environmental court will resume towards the middle of January. It's the second development in court this year with a decision on an appeal against AGL Energy's Mount Bryan wind farm which is planned for the Razorback Ranges east of Hallett still pending.

Thursday 18 November 2010

$9 billion renewable energy windfall at stake

Clean Energy Council
12 Nov 2010

Victoria would benefit by up to $9 billion in renewable energy investment under current State Government policies, according to independent research released today. The report - commissioned by the Clean Energy Council - found that this would increase clean energy capacity by a substantial 3000MWs by 2016, the equivalent of powering an estimated 1.2 million homes.

It also found that an estimated 650 new jobs would be created each year through to 2016 in the construction and operation of renewable energy facilities. The report was conducted by respected economic consultants Carbon Market Economics at the request of the Clean Energy Council, Australia's peak body of more than 450 renewable energy companies - an apolitical not-for-profit organisation.

The study compared existing and proposed renewable energy policies in Victoria and their potential impact on renewable energy development, in the lead up to the Victorian election on November 27.

It found the effect of the Victorian Opposition policy on wind farms would be severely detrimental - between 50% and 70% of currently proposed wind farms in Victoria would not be developed if this policy was pursued. Additional expenditure in wind generation would drop by $2.6 to $3.6 billion from 2010-16.

The Clean Energy Council's chief executive Matthew Warren said that while the organisation didn't support any particular political party, it did campaign for policies which created the best environment for the development of clean energy, or against any party whose policy would restrict its growth.

"There's no doubt that substantial wind farm investment and jobs will immediately leave Victoria if the Coalition's current policies were adopted. This could effectively cripple the wind industry", Mr Warren said. It was also hugely contradictory to public opinion, he said. A recent Newspoll study found that 93% of all Victorians want more renewable energy. The report found an estimated 200 fewer jobs would be created from 2010 to 2016 if the Victorian Coalition's policy was adopted.

"The wind farm standards proposed by Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, including 2km setbacks, would make it tougher to put up a wind turbine in regional Victoria than to dig a new coal mine. "The proposed standards are not based on any scientific measure. Victoria has some of the toughest wind farm development standards in the world", he said.

For more information, contact the Clean Energy Council's Media Advisor Mark Bretherton or on 0413 556 981 or 03 9929 4111

The coal bosses' plan: mine coal, sell coal, repeat until rich.

Sunday Age
Sunday 14/11/2010 Page: 21

Preventing climate change is the last thing on the coal industry's mind, writes Guy Pearse.

Once a year, coal bosses gather for the World Coal Conference: "It's where the coal deals are done", says the brochure. This year, I went too, as an academic, an observer and someone deeply concerned about coal's indisputable contribution to climate change. Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming, and coal use generates nearly half of the world's annual CO₂, emissions.

I half-expected to find an industry worrying about rising demand for clean energy. But at the conference in Amsterdam last month, there was no hint of foreboding among the 1400 delegates The concern wasn't dwindling demand, but meeting runaway demand, mostly in China and India.

The opening session set the tone. Fred Palmer, vice-president of Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company, noted that since the "great debate" on climate change began, coal consumption had gone from 3.6 billion tonnes a year to almost 7 billion tonnes. By 2030, he predicted it would be more like 11-12 billion. "The climate change concerns of people everywhere are legitimate", he said, but alleviating energy poverty was "policy priority number one".

On the basis that it would leave billions in energy poverty, he declared it "immoral to say "we're not going to touch cog". To those saying continued coal use depends on developing carbon capture and storage or low carbon coal, his message was blunt: "We will use coal, and the world is going to use more coal". Furthermore, "using more coal to generate electricity is good for our health and good for our wealth".

There was a similarly defiant tone when I dropped the subject of climate change into conversation over lunch. Some openly doubted the science. One Australian executive said: "I just don't understand how we can ignore such an overwhelming body of scientific research", referring to the work of climate sceptics. He scoffed at the notion of capturing and storing emissions: "It isn't happening and it won't happen".

I run through the slow pace of carbon capture with a Swiss trader; the G8's goal is to have 20 plants worldwide up and running by 2020. His answer: "plant trees". The clear impression is that Asian-driven coal demand is a more powerful juggernaut than climate change. As one English delegate put it: "The Chinese don't give a stuff about greenhouse emissions, and nor do I".

The most striking thing about the conference was how few people attended the carbon capture and storage session. An almost full house had heard Palmer declare green coal the "only path" to deal with climate change. Yet a mere 35 delegates went to the capture and storage session, and fewer than 20 stayed to the end.

During question time, a British executive highlighted the contrast between the bullish talk about growth in global coal demand and the sparse attendance at the session. "Most of the industry isn't really taking notice", he warned. Instead, the focus is on supplying developing countries that have no absolute emissions reduction targets, and where capture is rarely mentioned.

A spokesman from Brazilian mining giant Vale captured the mindset: "Every morning, we get up and pray for China". Well they might. China is now building the equivalent of 10 New York Cities.

If investment bank UBS is right, Chinese annual coal consumption will rise from 3 to 5.5 billion tonnes by 2020. Many doubt that China's coal industry can grow fast enough to meet that demand, and some expect India to import 1 billion tonnes of coal annually by 2020. Coal exporters are rubbing their hands while they pray.

What's unclear is where the extra coal will come from. The only thing remotely as crucial to the equation as Chinese demand may be Australian supply, Australia produces around a third of the world's coal exports, and more than half the world's metallurgical coal exports.

Increasingly it looks as if projected demand will only be met if Australia doubles its production.

With so much hinging on Australia's continued willingness to turn a blind eye to the CO₂, it exports, it might just be Australia that the Chinese get up and pray for every morning. At the rate carbon capture is happening, the world has a hell of a problem if the coal industry's prayers are answered.

Guy Pearse is a research fellow at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland.

The true cost of energy

West Australian
Monday 15/11/2010 Page: 22

Again we see the WA Opposition criticising the Premier for increasing domestic energy prices. Unfortunately this political populism only serves to oversimplify critical issues regarding the true cost of energy, water and other resources, and who should pay these cost.

For too long, WA households and industry have enjoyed heavily subsidised energy. Make no mistake, households have borne the cost of these subsidies amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars of taxation revenue. The effect of these subsidies has been highly inefficient energy use and chronic under-investment in energy efficiency in WA industry and households alike. Conversely, in California, where energy efficiency is taken seriously, demand for the resource has remained stable while the size of the economy has been rapidly increasing.

Of course we need to ensure that low-income households do not bear an inequitable burden as a result of increasing energy prices. Creative thinking will identify a range of ways to achieve this without undermining the user-pays model that is critical to efficient operation of the energy market.

The utility cost assistance scheme is one such measure. Even better would be to provide information and financial assistance to assist low-income households upgrade homes and appliances to become more energy efficient. The shift to cost reflective pricing is a big step forward, however recent energy policy in WA has been a case "one step forward and two steps back".

The massive energy demand growth projected for WA is due to be met by an equally massive expansion in coal-fired power stations. While other countries and even Victoria are shutting down these dinosaurs (dubbed "death factories" by respected climate scientist, James Hansen), the WA Government has approved three new coal plants and is recommissioning a unit that was shut down years ago because of its pollution.

It is great to see that the Barnett Government is moving towards a much-needed strategic energy plan for WA. Sadly this could come too late the next generation of energy generation could be locked in if coal power proponents in WA are allowed to start pouring concrete. If this happens, WA households will be forced to bear the full burden of a carbon price as well, but this time the price increase will have been entirely avoidable.

The alternative is that both sides of politics wake up to the incredible renewable energy potential we have in WA, and start the urgent conversation about how our energy needs can be met from a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Piers Verstegen, director, Conservation Council of Western Australia (Inc.).

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Experts Silence Wind Farm Noise

Clean Energy Council
November 11, 2010

Australia has some of the toughest, most up-to-date guidelines controlling wind farm noise in the world. There is no evidence that residents will suffer any direct health effects from living near operating wind farms, according to an independent report released by the Clean Energy Council yesterday.

The 51-page study was commissioned by the Clean Energy Council, the peak body for more than 400 companies with renewable energy interests. The Clean Energy Council's Chief Executive Mr Matthew Warren said the Wind Farms Technical Paper on Environmental Noise by acoustic consultancy Sonus reinforced existing independent research.

"Although wind farms have been generating clean energy safely for many years in Europe, we conducted this study to see how the Australian guidelines stack up. The results are very reassuring for communities in regional Australia, who will directly benefit from the investment in wind power", Mr Warren said.

Wind farms currently provide enough clean energy to power nearly 800,000 Australian homes (1841MWs). The report says their advantages need to be balanced with the needs of communities in their vicinity. The report was prepared to provide the latest information to communities, developers, planning and enforcement authorities and other stakeholders on environmental noise from wind farms.

The report concludes there is extensive evidence that the noise from wind farms developed and operated in accordance with the current standards and guidelines will not have any direct adverse health effects. It summarises research conducted into issues including, health impact and annoyance, infrasound and low frequency noise, amplitude modulation and sleep disturbance.

It notes: "All noise from any source including wind farms, which is audible, will result in complaints from some people. Recent research indicates the potential for complaints, annoyance and its associated stress and health impacts may be exacerbated by rhetoric, fears and negative publicity".

The report finds once wind farms are built the rates of complaints are very low in Australia and New Zealand and if a noise can be heard, then annoyance can result for some people, regardless of the noise level or the standard or guideline that applies. It also discusses the "nocebo" effect - a worsening of mental or physical health based on fear or belief in adverse affects. This is the opposite of the well-known placebo effect, where belief in positive effects or an intervention may produce positive results.

Footnote: Sonus is an independent Australian consultancy, specialising in the monitoring, prediction, data analysis, policy development and assessment of environmental noise from factories, road, rail, aircraft, commercial and industrial sources and has extensive experience specifically related to wind farms.

Click here to download the report.

For more information, contact the Clean Energy Council's Media Advisor Mark Bretherton or on 0413 556 981 or 03 9929 4111 or Communications Director Rosanne Michie on 0411 868 535.

VECCI in push for green power

Thursday 11/11/2010 Page: 5

VICTORIA'S peak employment body is aiming to convince small and medium businesses it costs no more to be green. The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry is running a pilot program, called Carbon Down, to show businesses they can chop an average of $850 a year off their electricity bill by shifting to a cheaper power plan with a 25% GreenPower component.

GreenPower is a government accreditation program for renewable energy sources such as sun, wind, water and waste. Kate Elborough, VECCI's manager of government programs, said Carbon Down was a free and independent cost-comparison service. "Effectively we do all the hard work", she said.

VECCI compared the power bills of 210 small and medium enterprises with available GreenPower plans for the six months between May and October. It found that businesses with average monthly power bills of more than $690 could save $1485 a year and prevent 70 tonnes of greenhouse gas being emitted into the atmosphere.

Those with a bill less than $690 a month would save $118 a year, or 6.3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The general manager of manufacturer Unipod, Peter Sheehan, said his company had switched to a 10% GreenPower plan with AGL Energy and would save $21,000 a year.

Meridian boosts Aussie play

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 9/11/2010 Page: 40

NEW Zealand's largest renewable electricity generator, Meridian Energy, is increasing its play in the Australian market with the appointment of an inaugural chief executive to develop the business. Meridian Energy said Ben Burge's selection came at an exciting time for the renewables sector in Australia. The government-owned enterprise owns the 700MW Mount Millar wind farm on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia - and is a joint venture partner with AGL Energy in the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm in Victoria.

The former IBM Business Analytics partner said the company had "a unique opportunity to be a leader in the sector". "A progressively improving regulatory environment and increasing focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency created opportunities in Australia", Mr Burge said.

Monday 15 November 2010

A whiff of doubt about gas industry

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 6/11/2010 Page: 28

Belinda Robinson of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association spreads dangerous misinformation ("Gas is the way to go, if only we could", November 5).

She cites the conservative front group Australian Environment Foundation pointing to public opposition to Victorian wind farms because of "high energy cost, health fears and their paltry contribution to greenhouse emission reductions". Each assertion has been conclusively demolished many times over. Readers can check wind farm emission reductions on the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water website.

Robinson's arguments are laughable. She says, "One of the country's most promising geothermal projects near Geelong, which received $12 million in state and federal government support, has faced local opposition". If this is her only criticism, it raises questions about the writer's bona fides.

Winston Guynner, Alstonville

Belinda Robinson indulges in confused advocacy. She parades the claimed greenhouse gas benefits of gas, then quotes the climate change sceptical Australian Environment Foundation questioning the value of wind power.

The gas industry should come clean on its threats to the environment land disturbance and water pollution and stop claiming an unmitigated right to expand into key natural and agricultural areas. It's a finite transition fuel to a greener, cleaner future, not the destination.

Jeff Angel, Executive director, Total Environment Centre, Sydney

Dual tilt at solar costs

Courier Mail
Monday 8/11/2010 Page: 12

AUSTRALIA will inject $50 million into a joint research project with the US aimed at slashing solar power costs. The announcement was made in Melbourne yesterday to coincide with the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also insisted the US Government's decision to ditch its emissions trading scheme following a Republican resurgence in the midterm elections would not affect her plans. "I believe it's in Australia's interest to tackle climate change, and it's in Australia's interest to make sure we transform our economy to a low pollution, low carbon economy", Ms Gillard told the Nine Network. "The world is moving in that direction, it will require it of other economies, it will impact competition, how people trade, what they buy".

Ms Gillard and Ms Clinton made the solar announcement in a joint press conference, saying the project would make solar power as cheap, or cheaper, than conventional power. Ms Gillard, who announced that Australia would commit $50 million to the project, said one of the greatest barriers to a broader commercial take up of solar power was its cost. It will concentrate on advanced solar technologies such as dual-junction photovoltaic devices, hot-carrier solar cells and high temperature receivers.

Ms Gillard said the US had a strong solar power research program and the new project would build on existing expertise from both countries. "The project is part of an aggressive effort to bring the sales price of solar technology down by two to four times". Ms Clinton said the program aimed to make solar power competitive with conventional energy sources by 2015.

Solar blow-out may cost $600m in electricity rises

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 5/11/2010 Page: 5

ENERGYAUSTRALIA has warned of a $600 million blow-out in power bills next year, claiming the federal government has underestimated the number of certificates it will issue as an incentive for installing small scale solar power systems on homes and businesses. The NSW government-owned power company warns in a submission to the federal government that the estimate upon which the Renewable Energy Certificate scheme was based "is likely to prove far too modest".

The financial impact of this for our industry may be an additional cost in excess of $600 million in 2011 and is likely to have a serious impact on electricity consumers", it says. The small-scale renewable energy scheme will begin on January 1, Renewable Energy Certificates, known as Small-scale Technology Certificates, worth $40 each, will be issued to encourage the installation of photovoltaic cells and solar hot water systems. Original modelling showed that up to 11 million of these certificates would be issued next year.

But EnergyAustralia, backed by other business and industry groups, claims this will blow out to about 30 million because the take-up rate of solar power will be greater than anticipated. Under the scheme, electricity retailers are required to buy back all the certificates issued. If, for example, a power company produces 10% of the nation's electricity, it will have to buy back 10% of all the certificates issued.

EnergyAustralia says the cost blow-out, caused by having to buy back more certificates than anticipated, will be passed on to customers using conventionally generated power. The energy company AGL Energy warned in October of a 3% increase in power bills because of the anticipated blow-out. The paper and packaging company Amcor has submitted that the number of certificates should be capped or the price halved to $20.

Power prices are a hot political issue at state and federal levels. Last week the Premier, Kristina Keneally, slashed the feed in tariff that the state government paid to those with solar power systems from 600 to 200/kW of energy fed back into the grid. The move was motivated by a higher-than-expected take-up of the government's solar bonus scheme, which was putting extra pressure on already-soaring power bills.

This week the chairman of the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, Rod Sims, a member of the government's multi-party committee on climate change, told the Herald a carbon price should allow federal and state governments to phase out more expensive greenhouse gas abatement programs such as solar feed-in tariffs and the renewable energy target to take pressure off household power prices.

The federal government's small-scale renewable energy scheme was a consequence of the revamped Renewable Energy Target, which aims to have 20% of power generated from renewable sources by 2020. That scheme was split in two small- and large-scale this year after big companies like AGL Energy complained that so many certificates were being handed out that they were dwindling in value.