Thursday 17 February 2011

Administrators race to sell Griffin Coal's $1.2bn power station

14 February 2011, Page: 21

ADMINISTRATORS for Ric Stowe's Griffin Coal will launch a rapid sale process next month for the failed tycoon's $1.2 billion Bluewaters Power Stations and $200 million Emu Downs Wind Farm in Western Australia. Bidders from Australia, Asia and North America are already on the shortlist to buy the highly geared Bluewaters Power Station assets after initial expressions of interest were called last year, meaning the auction is expected to be completed quickly.

But it is unclear how investor uncertainty over the Gillard government's plans to introduce a form of carbon pricing could weigh on the sale of the coal fired Bluewaters Power Station (I and II), near Collie in WA's southwest. Bidders for the Emu Downs Wind Farm a joint venture between Griffin Energy and Queensland government owned Stanwell Corporation could include renewable power company Infigen Energy and Japan's Eurus Energy.

The auction of the energy assets comes after Indian infrastructure giant Lanco Infratech, which bought Mr Stowe's Griffin Coal in December for about $830m, revealed it planned to spend a further $1bn on a major expansion of the Collie mines. Lanco chief financial officer Suresh Kumar told India's Economic Times last week the group planned to ramp up production at Griffin Coal from 5 million tonnes a year to about 18 million by 2015. The company plans to export much of the coal to India where it aims to increase its power generation capacity from 2,100 MWs to 15,000 MWs by 2015.

Despite Lanco's involvement in power generation, it is not considered a contender to pickup the Bluewaters Power Station assets. Last week it also ruled out bidding for a controlling stake in Gina Rinehart's Kevin's Corner coal project in Queensland. Settlement of the Griffin Coal deal is expected within days and the sale should be approved by creditors at a meeting by the end of the month, paving the way for bidding to open for the rest of Mr Stowe's empire early next month.

Administrator Mark Mentha, of KordaMentha, said he believed the auction for the energy assets which are believed to have about $12bn of debt tied to them could be completed within a couple of months because the process was quite advanced. He said Mr Stowe's Bluewaters Power Stations were being auctioned separately to the mines because of the need to first put in place a coal supply deal with Lanco. Griffin Coal supplies coal to the 400 MW power station, which is owned by subsidiary Griffin Energy and is the first privately owned coal fired power station in WA.

The Foreign Investment Review Board approved the Lanco deal in December, within days of it being submitted, Mr Mentha said. The financial advisers on the Bluewaters Power Station sale are UBS and Macquarie Capital Advisers. The 80 MW Emu Downs Wind Farm is located at Cervantes, about 200km north of Perth. Griffin Coal went into administration in January last year after it defaulted on a payment to the Australian Taxation Office.

Labor's home insulation plan to cut less than half emissions first promised

11 February 2011, Page: 4

THE federal government's troubled home insulation scheme which cost $1.45 billion to install insulation in ceilings and then hundreds of millions more fixing bungled installation jobs will do far less for the environment than previously claimed. In its latest emissions projections released this week, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency estimates the program will reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 14.4 million tonnes from 2010 to 2020. That is less than half the carbon abatement predicted for the program by the government a year ago, when Labor was defending it against criticism over waste and faulty installations.

A fact sheet issued by the Department says one of the main reasons for the downward revision is that 1.2 million houses were insulated rather than the 1.9 million originally expected. The other main reason is that the department believes more home owners would have installed their own ceiling insulation over the next few years without the $1600 taxpayer funded rebates. "The estimate of how many homes would have been insulated in each year without the program has been improved and incorporated", the fact sheet says.

The Department also believes less energy will be saved than first expected because some householders will use the money saved on heating from insulation by using more electricity for other purposes. Under the latest estimates, annual emissions reductions from the program will peak at 2.4 million tonnes this year and fall to zero by 2021. That suggests the department believes if the taxpayer funded scheme had not been in place, the extra 1.2 million houses would have all been insulated by 2021.

The opposition's climate change spokesman, Greg Hunt, said the figures showed the program "not only electrified roofs, burnt down properties and contributed to tragedies, it dramatically failed to achieve its objectives of reducing emissions". Mr Hunt said the government had promised to cut up to 50 million tonnes of emissions but was delivering 14.4 million tonnes at a huge cost. The home insulation program was designed as an economic stimulus measure, but the government also promoted it as a way of significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions by improving the energy efficiency of houses.

The latest figures are the first time the government has published separate estimates for the insulation scheme. Earlier estimates combined it with two smaller rebate programs. In late 2009, the Environment Department said the three schemes would cut emissions by 49.4 million tonnes to 2020. In early 2010, a Treasury report said the schemes would cut emissions by 35 million tonnes to 2020. The government closed the program last February but still funds inspections and repairs. Its parliamentary secretary for climate change, Mark Dreyfus, was not available for comment.

Power move costs more, says Premier

Hobart Mercury
10 February 2011, Page: 2

TASMANIAN households would be paying $35 extra on their annual power bills if contestability was introduced tomorrow Premier Lara Giddings said yesterday. The call comes as the State Government came under increased pressure form the Opposition after it was revealed yesterday energy companies Origin Energy and TRUEnergy would be interested in entering the Tasmanian retail market if it was opened for competition.

Opposition energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the comments from the energy companies were in direct opposition to previous comments made by Energy Minister Bryan Green. On Sunday, Mr Green said there were five energy retailers in the Tasmanian market offering power to commercial clients and only Aurora Energy supplying household customers. He said: "The other four have flatly ruled out selling power to households if full contestability was introduced tomorrow".

However, Origin Energy told The Mercury yesterday it agreed in principle to a contestable market and would be interested if the market opened up, allowing it to sell to Tasmanian householders. Ms Giddings said the State Government would introduce greater competition into the retail energy market tomorrow if they thought it would succeed.

"We want to see cheaper electricity in this state and if that was [clearly achieved] through introducing retail contestability, we would do it today", Ms Giddings said. She said figures from the Economic Regulator's final report into contestability showed Tasmanian's power bills could climb by $35 a year if retail contestability was introduced. Mr Groom said the Liberal Party would push for legislation to ensure Tasmanian families and small businesses had a choice.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Australia admits CO₂, emissions will balloon

Sydney Morning Herald
9 February 2011, Page: 9

Australia's climate change policies will lead greenhouse gas emissions to balloon out of control in the next few years, the federal government says in an annual report to the United Nations. Instead of the 5 to 25% cut being offered by the government, the nation would pump out 24% more CO₂ by 2020, the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, said, using the data to make the case again for a price on carbon. But NSW appears to be bucking the national trend, recording a steep fall in coal fired power generation last year in a separate report by The Climate Group.

Emissions from coal fired power fell just over 10% in the state last year, from 2009 levels, even though the population and economy grew. Most of the slack was taken up by gas, hydro and wind power. Mr Combet said the national emissions data, to be published today, show that Australia needs to cut at least 160 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from its ledger on an annual basis before 2020 to make even its minimum 5% target.

"Clearly more needs to be done, and that's why we need a carbon price soon", he said in a statement. "While there is a warning in this report, it is important to remember that it is not too late for us to act". The government's projections take into account the renewable energy target, which aims to generate one fifth of electricity from non fossil sources by 2020, and some energy efficiency measures, but no future emissions trading scheme.

"At some point the government will have to confront the reality that its energy policy and climate policy are on a collision course, with ever growing investment in coal, gas and coal seam gas undermining any moves to turn our economy around", the Greens senator Christine Milne said.

In NSW the decline in coal use led to 5.3 million fewer tonnes worth of emissions from coal than in 2009, said The Climate Group, which monitors weekly emissions from energy use. The group's global energy director, Rupert Posner, said the drop in NSW reflected embryonic moves away from coal as the dominant power source, and cuts in energy demand through a relatively mild summer. Emissions from coal in NSW fell 10.02%, or about 026 million tonnes, compared with the previous year.

Power industry sources said wind generation was starting to make small inroads into peak power usage, and higher rates of home insulation were beginning to cut demand for electricity for heating and cooling. The figure is expected to fluctuate year onyear, though, and does not necessarily represent a sustained, longterm decline in coal use.

More of the state's power was also sourced from interstate last year, which contributed to the fact that Queensland and Victoria recorded only modest emissions cuts of 0.7% in their energy sectors. "These sorts of figures are still within the ballpark of the sort of cuts we need to achieve our targets", Mr Posner said. "It's quite possible that we could see falls like this for another year or two, but after that it's not going to happen without some kind of policy that brings a price signal".

Five star homes flunk energy test

Sunday Age
Sunday 6/2/2011 Page: 8

HUNDREDS of thousands of new homes across the country are not performing at their promised energy efficiency rating, forcing residents to use up to double the predicted energy required for heating and cooling, industry officials say. Research by air tightness testing company Air Barrier Technologies has shown that air leakage in new homes is five to 10 times worse than expected under the star rating scheme.

This means that an average five star home is likely to perform only to a three star level, potentially doubling expected energy bills for residents. The Victorian Building Commissioner says builders who deliver homes that have not been properly sealed or insulated to meet the set star rating could be sued by buyers. About 40,000 homes are built in Victoria each year. All must meet the five star standard. This will rise to six stars from May.

But a group of industry players, including Henley Homes, who have been lobbying state and federal government and building regulators to crack down on the air leakage problem, say unless more action is taken, customers cannot be confident their homes meet the stated star rating. "At the moment there's an assumption that houses are built to a far tighter standard than what we believe they are", Adam Selvay, Henley Homes energy and sustainability specialist, said.

The question of builder liability was raised in a meeting with the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Building Codes Board in April last year. Following that meeting, Terry Mahoney, president of the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association of Australia, emailed other attendees, as well as federal government ministers and senior public servants, criticising officials for failing to respond to the issues discussed.

"It became apparent that no amount of scientific evidence, poor global best practice comparisons or safety and health risk concerns raised by the visiting group, would engender any action or urgency, "he wrote. He noted the attendees' view that there is "overwhelming evidence" that the current star rating method "proves grossly inaccurate when constructed homes are performance tested".

Housing Industry Association building and environment director Kristin Brookfield said the association was not aware of specific research on air leakage, but said energy efficiency was affected by poor sealing. Bruce Rowse, of building efficiency consultants CarbonetiX, called for inspections to include checks on sealing and insulation installation.

Victorian Building Commissioner Tony Arnel said an auditing process had consistently demonstrated that new homes complied with regulations but admitted that research had shown more work needed to be done with the industry on "draughts and gaps".

Sunday 13 February 2011

Transfield eyes opportunities in the sun

Summaries - Australian Financial ReviewI
7 February 2011, Page: 18

Transfield Holdings says it plans to grow its local solar power business, with expansion based around its majority holding in solar thermal group Novatec Biosol. A consortium led by Transfield Holdings, and including Novatec, Transfield Services, in which Transfield Holdings has an 11% holding, and Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund, is shortlisted in the Federal Government's solar flagships program. Other bids have come from Infigen Energy, Suntech Power Holdings, AGL Energy, Parson Brinckerhoff and Wind Prospect CWP. Novatec has already won a contract to build a nine MW solar field at the Macquarie Generation owned Hunter Valley Liddell Power Station.

Wind farm claims only speculation

Herald Sun
7 February 2011, Page: 31

NO negative relationship has been demonstrated between wind turbines and property prices, according to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria ("Farms hit value", Your State, February 3). Opponents sometimes claim that particular properties have dropped in value due to their location near a wind farm.

In the same way, you could argue that in other locations wind turbines have a positive impact on values, as there are many locations near wind farms where prices are booming, such as Cape Bridgewater. If someone is having trouble selling their property and it is near a wind turbine, there could be half a dozen reasons. With the absence of any credible research to the contrary, claims of wind farms affecting property prices remain speculative at best.

Russell Marsh, Clean Energy Council