Friday 15 July 2011

Power plants agree to hold buyout talks

Sydney Morning Herald
11 July 2011, Page: 9

THE owners of two highly emitting coal fired power plants say they are prepared to talk to the government about being paid to close their generators under the carbon price deal. International Power which owns the Hazelwood plant in the Latrobe Valley confirmed last night it was open to discussions with Labor about its tender scheme to shut down 2000 MWs of coal fired generation capacity by the end of the decade.

That would be enough to shut down one large power plant, such as Hazelwood, and one smaller plant, such as Playford in Port Augusta, South Australia. In a speech last month the Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, flagged the two plants as likely targets for any buyout. The government refused yesterday to say how much it would commit to closing plants.

The chief executive of International Power, Tony Concannon, said it was clear the government was targeting a Latrobe Valley brown coal generator for closure and he wanted to work with the government to remove the uncertainty as soon as possible" around Hazelwood's future.

Alinta Energy, the owner of Playford, went further. The chief executive, Jeff Dimery, confirmed the company would put up its 50 year old plant for closure under the tender. A spokesman for TRUEnergy which has previously indicated it may also be interested in a buyout of its Yallourn W power station in the Latrobe Valley said it needed to consider details of the compensation package. Along with buyouts, $5.5 billion in permits and handouts until 2016 17 will be given to coal electricity generators.

Compensation for generators will be overseen by a new Energy Security Council. Under a concession to the Greens, the Australian Energy Market Operator will also expand its planning for the electricity market in the next 20 years to consider greater use of renewable energy, including implications of moving to 100% renewable energy.

The chief executive of the Energy Supply Association of Australia, Brad Page, said while there were positives for the industry in the deal for coal fired electricity generators, risks remained, including loss of asset value of generators. The government used the carbon deal to responded to a longstanding report into energy efficiency options for Australia. The government rejected the report's recommendation to establish a national energy efficiency target but it will consider developing a scheme to make retailers force their customers to use less energy.

$40m energy boost for bush communities

11 July 2011, Page: 6

INDIGENOUS communities will receive $40 million to construct wind turbines and install solar panels to help shift to renewable energy. The Gillard government yesterday announced the money on top of household assistance and tax cuts would be provided to help 50 remote communities obtain clean and reliable power supplies.

"Many of these remote communities currently rely on diesel generators for their power supplies", said a statement released by the Prime Minister, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet. "It will also include training in system maintenance and the provision of energy efficiency information to encourage ongoing emergency management".

A further $22 million will help indigenous Australians participate in the government's carbon farming initiative, with specialists hired to work with communities on getting projects started. This will also include funding for research for carbon farming methodologies which the government claims will create "real and lasting" opportunities for communities.

"Indigenous Australians manage around 20% of Australia's land mass, drawing on traditional knowledge of the land and its responses to fire, flooding and drought", Ms Macklin said. Kimberley Land Council deputy director Nolan Hunter said last week that indigenous people should be urged to take advantage of the opportunities that would come from carbon trading.

$10bn reasons for a clean, happy response

11 July 2011, Page: 3

CLEAN energy groups have heralded a $10 billion boost to renewables under the carbon price deal as a "once in a generation" opportunity to transform Australia's electricity sector. The significant investment in renewables was a major goal of the Greens and rural independents during negotiations on a carbon price, but the government has also ensured at least part of the new money will go to "clean energy" projects as well, such as hybrids between renewables and fossil fuels and energy efficiency.

Under the deal, $10 billion over five years will be given to a new clean energy finance corporation, which the government will set up, but which an independent board of directors will run. The clean energy corporation will make loans or take equity shares in projects that cannot find money from private lenders such as banks. Any returns the corporation makes through supporting a clean energy project will be reinvested. In a compromise between Labor and the Greens, the corporation's revenue will be split into two streams.

The first will fund only renewable energy projects, such as wind, solar and geothermal, while the second will make money available for hybrids. The corporation will also invest in energy efficiency projects and manufacturing businesses that make components of clean energy technologies, such as wind turbine blades or solar cells. But the corporation will not invest in carbon capture and storage projects, including "clean coal".

The clean energy corporation will be joined by a new independent agency to direct and manage $3.2 billion in existing government grants for renewables and biofuels, including the large scale solar flagships program. Known as ARENA, the agency will also get future funds through dividends paid by the clean energy corporation and a potential share of revenue from the carbon price via any reduction in compensation for trade exposed industries after 2014 15.

Clean Energy Council director of strategy Kane Thornton said the renewable measures were once in a generation, and "the new initiatives announced today will give us what we need to deliver action on carbon pollution and transition Australia to a clean energy future". The extra money for renewables came as environmentalists were buoyed by a surprise $946 million over six years for measures to protect Australia's biodiversity such as replanting trees and plants, and tackling feral animals.

The biodiversity fund is also expected to get some future carbon price revenue from any reduction in industry compensation. Australian Conservation Foundation head Don Henry commended the renewable energy and biodiversity spending, adding that the overall carbon price deal was not perfect but essential. Under the carbon deal, a further $429 million will be spent over six years to fund measures to help farmers reduce emissions on their land, store more carbon in soil, and other rural research and development.

Farmers will be excluded from directly paying the carbon price, but will be able to sell carbon offset permits to major companies created through measures such as reforestation that can be counted towards Australia's emissions reduction target under international rules. National Farmers Federation chief executive Matt Linnegar welcomed the $400 million program for farming carbon programs and research, but said the carbon tax would still hit his members hard and the federation remained opposed to it.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Developing nations take energy lead

Weekend West
9 July 2011, Page: 70

Investment in renewable energy last year amounted to a record $US211 billion ($198 billion), a rise of 32% over 2009 and 540% over 2004, according to a United Nations backed report. China, investing $US48.9 billion, up 28%, accounted for more than a fifth of the total, in a year when developing countries for the first time outstripped rich economies in renewables investment, the report said.

Factors behind the surge include stimulus money earmarked after the 2008 financial crash now finding its way into the market, sustained prices for fossil fuels and government perks such as feed in tariffs for cleaner power. The report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011, is a collaboration of the UN Environment Program, the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

If big hydropower dams are excluded, renewable power made up 8.1% of total world power generation capacity last year, compared with 7.1% in 2009. The report says the most mature technology, wind, continued to dominate the renewables sector, accounting for $US94.7 billion of investment projects last year. Solar investment was $US26.1 billion and biomass and waste-to-energy projects amounted to $US11 billion.

A almost catches up with wind if small scale installations, such as rooftop photovoltaic panels, are included. The small scale solar sector doubled in value last year, helped by subsidies, especially in Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic. These subsidies were being pared back by governments, but even so the market "is likely to stay strong" in 2011, the report said.

The cost effectiveness of wind and solar has risen enormously. The price of PV panels per MW has fallen by 60% since mid 2008, and that of wind turbines by 18%. "The tipping point, where renewables becomes the predominant energy option, now appears closer than it did just a few years back", it said.

Siemens, Lynas in high-tech joint venture

8 July 2011, Page: 3

Lynas Corporation will team with Siemens in a joint venture that will help the German technology company secure a long term source of supply constrained rare earth elements, coveted for their use in hybrid car engines, smart phones, iPads and other technologies. The two companies have signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture, of which Siemens will own 55%, that will specialise in the production of high powered rare earth magnets used in energy efficient engines and wind turbines.

"This planned joint venture would be an important strategic pillar for us to pursue a long term and stable supply with high performance magnets", said Ralf Michael Franke, chief executive of Siemens' drive technologies division. Lynas Corporation chief executive Nicholas Curtis said the deal was part of its strategic objective to become integrated into the supply chains of its customers. "It's strategically, in my opinion, very significant", Mr Curtis said. "We see our sustainable competitive advantage not as the mine [in Mount Weld], but as the integration in the supply chain and the intimacy with our end customer this is an example of that".

Despite negative publicity over its plans to build the world's largest rare earth refinery in Malaysia, Mr Curtis said Siemens and major Japanese investor Sojitz were satisfied with the environmental credentials of Lynas Corporation. Shares in Lynas Corporation suffered their biggest one day fall in two years last week after the Malaysian government imposed environmental and safety conditions on the refinery, where all of its rare earths ore will be processed.

"[Siemens have] reviewed it fully, they understand and are comfortable with the reality of our operations, as are the Japanese", Mr Curtis said. Siemens employs 36,000 staff in its drive technologies division. The companies will work on confirming the financial details of the joint venture, but it is believed the effect on the expected production of Lynas Corporation will be modest to begin with.

More businesses rally behind a price on carbon
06 Jul 2011

Almost 85 companies including Infigen Energy, Grocon, and The Body Shop have signed on to a joint statement backing a price on carbon. The companies join previous signatories including GE, AGL Energy, Fujitsu, IKEA, Alstom and Pacific Hydro to make a total of 54 companies pledging their support for a carbon price.

The combined businesses represent a wide variety of sectors from across the economy including infrastructure, energy, capital, technology and retail. They have united behind the statement to encourage all members of Parliament to take positive action and assist Australia's transition to a low-carbon economy.

The businesses agree that a carbon price with cost effective complementary measures is critical to reducing Australia's emissions and ensuring Australia remains globally competitive as the rest of the world reduces their emissions. The new wave of businesses signing the statement coincides with the launch of a website called Business for a Clean Economy. This has been developed out of concern that many businesses are not being represented in the current carbon price debate.

The site will allow other businesses, no matter what their size or industry, to show their support for a price on carbon. Current signatories are urging more businesses to sign the statement through the Business for a Clean Economy website: The next four months will now see carbon price legislation drafted and debated in Parliament and business support will continue to provide an important voice in the debate.

Daniel Grollo, CEO of Grocon, said:
"Personally I'm in favour of a cost on carbon. As I look forward in Australia, I see us at the threshold of some fantastic times and I get disillusioned when I see some critical decisions that need to be made for our future getting bogged down in politics."

Mark Kindness, CEO of The Body Shop Australia, said:
"Practicing responsible environmental stewardship and advocating for strong climate change legislation is a key priority for us as a business. We hope the price on carbon will act as an incentive for corporate Australia to think twice before choosing carbon intensive business practices."

The Business Statement
"As major Australian and international corporations and representative associations operating across the Australian economy we strongly support the introduction of a well-designed carbon price to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Australia must aim to be globally competitive in clean energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon technology. Pricing carbon is critical to providing business certainty and unlocking the jobs and investment that will accompany the transition to a prosperous, cleaner and internationally competitive economy.

As the costs of action are outweighed by the costs of delay the carbon price should be implemented as soon as possible. A price should be accompanied by appropriate transitional assistance for households and business, as well as complementary measures that reduce emissions at least economic cost.

We look forward to working with the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee and all members of Parliament as they implement a carbon price."

Click here for the full list of signatories.

Monday 11 July 2011

Top firms call for tax on carbon

Courier Mail
7 July 2011, Page: 31

MORE than 50 Australian and international companies, including AGL Energy, General Electric, IKEA and Alstom, yesterday joined together to back the carbon tax. They said a carbon price should be implemented "as soon as possible" to prevent Australia being left behind by other economies, such as the European Union which has had a carbon price since 2005. "Australia must aim to be globally competitive in clean energy, energy efficiency and low carbon technology", they said in a joint statement.

Daniel Grollo, of construction firm Grocon, said: "I'm in favour of a cost on carbon. I see us at the threshold of some fantastic times and I get disillusioned when I see some critical decisions that need to be made for our future getting bogged down in politics".

Separately, Westpac owned fund manager Ascalon Capital Managers yesterday said it has launched Australia's only fund open to ordinary investors who want to invest in listed clean energy companies, such as solar, wind and geothermal energy firms, in global markets.

It said the Global Clean Energy Fund would also invest in companies involved in energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles and clean building technologies. A similar fund running since 2008 has outperformed global market benchmarks, such as the MSCI World Index.

The politics of clean energy

Summaries - Australian Financial ReviewI
6 July 2011, Page: 53

Although Australia is respected for its scientific research, the country's ability to successfully commercialise inventions is seen as weak. Solar voltaic technology that was developed at the University of New South Wales has been commercialised three times by BP, CSG Solar and Suntech Power, all overseas. While there are companies such as Silex Systems, which is building a solar power station locally and has developed laser technologies being used overseas in partnership with GE, that have Federal Government support, there is a consensus that Australia's support for commercialisation is poor.

GeoDynamics says the 'massive structural changes' needed for the successful implementation of technologies such as its geothermal power require changed policy frameworks, while the Australian Coal Association's Ralph Hillman says a carbon price will not be sufficient to drive the commercialisation of new technologies. Companies such as the Australian Securities Exchange listed AlgaeTec avoid government assistance due to intrusive bureaucracy, while Canberra's Dyesol has had to go to overseas companies Tata Power Steel and Pilkington Glass to help produce its technologies.

The Government's climate adviser, Ross Garnaut, says Australia's alternative energy R&D and commercialisation policies are poor, with the Australian National Audit Office finding that the 13 low emissions funding schemes often have spent little of their funding. Garnaut has proposed the creation of a Low Emissions Innovation Council to co ordinate efforts. Resource Minister Martin Ferguson, in recent comments to a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, said the government was supporting renewable energy technologies.

Elsewhere, the CSIRO is spending funds on its 'energy transformed' project that includes building management systems that help to cut power usage, while GE has a partnership with electric vehicle group Better Place, as well as a partnership with EV Engineering that is helping develop an all electric GM GM Holden Commodore, which GE's Custom Fleet business could help.

Electric dream is a reality

Adelaide Advertiser
6 July 2011, Page: 23

WHO did kill the electric car? Or is it simply a case that its development was wounded by General Motors in the 1990s? While General Motors was held accountable for the demise of the electric powered vehicle almost two decades ago, a flurry of new release battery powered and hybrid vehicles on to the world market in recent times suggests the concept of fuel free motoring was only set back when GM scrapped the EV1 development.

There is no shortage of inventive names for the fully electric and hybrid cars to match the scientific and engineering feats taken to create them. The Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV the only two fully electric vehicles available on the Australian market are joined by close cousins, hybrids, which include the Chevrolet Volt (which GM Holden will have in its stable next year) and the well known Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrid.

The electric cars of today are much more stylish and appealing than the goofy spaceship-like EV1. But history, and the relatively slow take up of electric and hybrid vehicles in Australia, shows that there remain speed bumps too large for appealing bodywork, in vogue green credentials and fancy names to overcome with ease.
Price is the biggest factor for individual buyers, with electric vehicles for the general public still considerably greater in cost than the equivalent petrol powered models.

There also is a slow introduction of "refuelling stations" powering hubs and limitations to the driving range of these vehicles, their compact size and their capabilities that have stalled this market's growth. But car companies worldwide believe in the electric dream. Dozens of concept electric and hybrid vehicles have been exhibited at motor shows around the world over the years. And car companies in Australia have made moves to show authorities that, despite our long range driving requirements in this vast country, electric powered vehicles do have a home here.

Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood has access to a Mitsubishi i-MiEV supplied by the car maker, as do other organisations in Adelaide. A charging point is located at Mitsubishi's Tonsley offices. Nissan Australia last week presented the car keys for 16 of its new zero emission LEAF hatchbacks to the Victorian Government to kick off the company's participation in the state's five year EV Trial.

The cars, which were built at Nissan's plant in Oppama, Japan, join the Government's realtime evaluation of electric vehicles and their application in Victorian cities. Mitsubishi already has provided a fleet of its i MiEV electric cars to the EV program. Its groundbreaking all electric vehicle will take pride of place on the Mitsubishi Motors stand at this year's Melbourne International Motor Show, ahead of its public sale debut in August.

While the vehicles on the test program and on display at the show will be the current model, Mitsubishi Australia has just announced that the new 2012 model, which features a host of safety and comfort specification upgrades, will arrive in Australia in a matter of weeks.

Mitsubishi claims it will be the first all electric vehicle available on the Australian market for both private and corporate owners to purchase outright at a retail price of $48,800, a 23% reduction in price on the previous model. The price of being seen to be green is coming down as manufacturers clamber to be the first to offer all electric vehicles to the general motoring public.

The Renault Fluence Z.E, will be the first family sized all electric powered sedan to enter the Australian market when it arrives here later this year, says Justin Hocevar, managing director of Renault Australia "We see the Fluence Z.E, as being the first vehicle which ticks all the boxes for a wide variety of car users", he says. "Our aim is to take away as many of the remaining excuses as to why you can't switch to renewable energy zero emissions for your mobility needs".

Bringing further hope that the electric dream will finally come of age on our shores is partnerships like that struck between Nissan and ChargePoint. The Japanese manufacturer's business partner has installed a series of level two Electric Vehicle charging stations at Nissan's Victorian headquarters ahead of the LEAF's arrival in numbers in Australia next year. The two CT2000 stations and the CT500 fleet station have full communication capabilities, in that they can "talk" to the car under charge, take in diagnostic information and help scientists and manufacturers better understand the requirements of these vehicles.

Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson says the CT2000 stations are available for use by Nissan staff and LEAF visitors. "It will simply be a case of swiping your ChargePass card and plugging in your Nissan LEAF", he says. ChargePoint says the three recharging stations at Nissan are the first level two charge points to be installed in Australasia, but others will follow as business and consumers embrace electric transportation. ChargePoint already has more than 30 other public and private charging stations in Australia and New Zealand.