Saturday 23 July 2011

Master of the scare tactic blows it again

Sydney Morning Herald
20 July 2011, Page: 12

Tony Abbott continues his anticarbon tax crusade, this time frightening a room full of pensioners with the lie that Chinese emissions would increase by 500% at the same time as Australia was reducing emissions by 5% ("Abbott pans own 'crazy' pollution target", July 19).

According to estimates by the BP oil group, Chinese emissions of CO₂ in 2009 amounted to 7.5 billion tonnes. According to British climate change expert Nicholas Stern, based on Chinese emissions reduction plans, annual carbon emissions will be 12 billion tonnes by 2020.

By my calculations, this is a little short of 500%. I have just returned from Beijing. Yes, the place has a near permanent smoke haze. But almost every motor bike on the streets was electric. A wind turbine generator is installed every minute. Seven of the top 10 solar panel companies are Chinese.

Pro green propaganda is posted up on supermarket walls. If Tony Abbott and the anticarbon tax forces are allowed to continue to preach misinformation and lies to easily frightened, vulnerable and ignorant voters unchallenged, we maybe doomed to fall well behind the future world's leader in carbon reduction.

Glen op den Brouw, Liverpool

Situation not so dire

20 July 2011, Page: 16

MEDIA coverage of the inevitable shut down of Hazelwood power station gives an inaccurate picture of its implications. Victoria is part of an electricity grid that links all the eastern states, as well as Tasmania and South Australia. While Hazelwood accounts for 25% of Victoria's electricity production, it only accounts for about 4% of the eastern grid's electricity production. We can easily replace this with base load solar and wind power.

Pablo Brait, Richmond

Mandatory green home rating will cost $172

Adelaide Advertiser
20 July 2011, Page: 4

NEW green star rating audits will cost South Australian householders $172, about $600 less than first feared, a leaked national report says. The report received exclusively by The Advertiser yesterday showed homeowners would be forced to pay $172 for audits on greenhouse gas emissions and water efficiency before houses were sold or rented. Under the Federal Government initiative it would become mandatory for the green rating to be disclosed at the sale or rental of every property.

The new cost could have ballooned to $750 under one of five proposals submitted to the Energy Efficiency Building Information Committee. It is believed the State Government will not be considering that proposal, opting for the cheaper, less intensive version of the green star scheme. The Real Estate Institute of South Australia has opposed the greenhouse gas and water audits associated with the scheme, saying the costs will be passed on to buyers and renters who are already struggling with housing affordability.

State Energy Minister Michael O'Brien, however, has been heralding the new ratings saying they will raise the value of people's homes while helping to save the environment and slashing household bills. "There will be no return to cheap power as we have seen in the past few decades", he said. "In this climate (increasing power, gas and electricity prices), there is an appetite for the consumer to know how efficient their house is. "The fact that 90,000 people, compared to the target of 9000, took up the solar power rebates as a way of bringing their electricity prices down points to the fact that people are energy savvy now".

The audits would be conducted by private companies who would give the house a green star rating. "I'm expecting the real estate agents to use the stars as a valuable marketing tool", Mr O'Brien said. "They already have it (green stars) set up in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), and they're saying has changed from 'location, location, location' to 'location, location, star rating' ". The Federal Government soon will release the report publicly and several discussions will be held next month to debate the merits of using the star ratings.

Renewable energy gets boost in new ARENA
8 July 2011

The new Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced today by the Federal Government, would help turbo charge the development of renewable energy, according to the industry's peak body The Clean Energy Council. Clean Energy Council Director of Strategy Kane Thornton welcomed the ARENA announcement, saying it would help to take cutting edge technologies out of the lab and into the electricity grid.

"This is a reform the Clean Energy Council and its members have been calling for, to ensure targeted funding for early stage renewable energy technology. The establishment of this new independent body will also protect that funding from political interference, providing investors with greater certainty", he said.

"The Clean Energy Council urges the government to go further and add to the existing funding using revenue from a carbon price. This is in the national interest and will ensure Australia takes full advantage of all our renewable resources, which are among the best in the world.

"New technologies such as geothermal, wave and large scale solar have massive potential for Australia. Taking these technologies into mainstream use requires a stable and targeted funding commitment from government that will allow clean energy companies to also leverage investment from private investors", he said.

The Federal Government announced the new $3.2 billion agency today, which will bring together a range of clean energy initiatives previously administered by different agencies. These initiatives include the Solar Flagships program, funding from the Connecting Renewables initiative, the Australian Solar Institute and others.

Mr Thornton said consolidating existing funding programs under ARENA was "a sensible and welcome move", which should provide greater stability to companies investing in these technologies. "The creation of ARENA should not delay the roll out of existing funding, which is needed on the ground as soon as possible. Australians want action on carbon pollution and cheaper clean energy, and ARENA has the potential to play a key part of delivering this", he said.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Scotland the green

Weekend West
16 July 2011, Page: 60

As Australia grapples with a contentious carbon tax to tackle climate change, Scotland is aiming to I become Europe's green energy powerhouse. The Scots' ambitions are centred on a group of tiny Islands off the mainland. The wild and rugged Orkney Islands, where the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean collide, has become a test bed for the latest wave and tidal power technologies. Nowhere in the world conducts more research into marine energy than Scotland, whose countrymen invented the telephone, industrial steam engine and television.

Scotland's nationalist Government aims to harness that talent for innovation to the country's natural resources to lead the way on wave and tidal energy, just as Saudi Arabia has with global oil production. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond says the work done by the research organisation European Marine Energy Centre will help unlock $9 billion of investment from the likes of Germany's biggest power utility E.ON, Scottish Power, part of Spain's Iberdola, the world's biggest renewable energy producer and investment bankers Morgan Stanley.

Mr Salmond says all Scotland's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. "We're not trying to put the first Scot on the moon, this is doable", European Marine Energy Centre head Neil Ker mode said. "There aren't many energy revolutions that come around in anybody's lifetime, but this is one". The seas around Scotland have the potential to provide up to 25% of Europe's tidal power and 10% of its wave energy, according to Scottish Development International, the government body charged with fostering investment.

But not everyone is a believer. Politicians from British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party which trails in third as a political force in Scotland, industry executives and academics say Mr Salmond's vow to secure Scotland as a global hub of renewable energy is reaching too far. "The question is whether it is affordable and realistic", Gordon Walkden, a professor of geosciences at the University of Aberdeen, the hub of the North Sea oil industry, said. "Would our budget allow us to throw unlimited money at it like the Americans did when they decided to put a man on the moon? It's not a dissimilar challenge".

To achieve the green energy target, Mr Salmond is challenging Mr Cameron's Government to cede the rights to the seabed. At present, every company developing marine energy projects must pay rent to the Crown Estate, the body that has administered the monarchy's assets in Scotland since 1832. All revenue $20 million from Scotland in the year ended March 31, 2010 goes to the British Treasury in London. Mr Salmond, whose Scottish National Party won a second term in May 5 elections, wants that money to stay in Scotland.

The Orkneys, population 20,000, comprise about 70 Islands, 19 of which are inhabited, with most people living in the towns of Kirkwall and Stromness on the biggest island, known locally as the "mainland". The testing for an energy bonanza based on marine energy isn't apparent to visitors, with testing taking place under the sea and most of the boats moving about being traditional fishing vessels. Most of Orkney is undulating green fields and the main industries are beef farming, crab fishing and cheese making. For the nascent marine energy industry, the area has two main selling points, say Mr Kermode and Stephen Hagan, head of the Orkney Islands council.

First, it is the most northerly point of Britain's national grid, allowing the electricity generated from the sea to enter the power market without the need for costly cables to be laid. It also has a 130km² natural harbour called Scapa Flow, where the Germans scuttled their World War I naval fleet. A base for the Royal Navy, it was sealed off with barriers built at the behest of Winston Churchill in 1940 after Germany sank another warship, this time a British one. On one side of the barrier the sea is choppy, evidence of the potential of the waters. On the other, it's calm, allowing the industry to build infrastructure to house its equipment.

"You can't underestimate the importance of Scapa Flow, it's the jewel in our crown", says Mr Hagan, 57, a Northern Irishman who moved to Orkney 25 years ago to run his wife's family farm. "There's always been the feeling in Orkney that marine renewables is the big opportunity, but when that would happen we didn't really know", he says. Mr Salmond's Scottish Nationalist Party believes that wresting control of the Crown Estate's assets in Scotland is the key to realising this dream.

The Edinburgh legislature, re established in 1999 after a hiatus of three centuries, has power over policy areas such as education, health and justice. Foreign and defence policy plus broader economic and energy matters are reserved for Westminster in London. Mr Salmond, 56, said in an interview while campaigning in March that his Government planned to "engineer the 21st century" using wind and waves, and the green energy industry would create 130,000 jobs. His target for 2020 is to generate twice as much electricity as Scotland needs.

So far, Scotland derives about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, hydropower, marine, biomass and energy from waste. Scotland seeks to increase that to 100% by 2020. In Germany the target is 35%, where Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered her Government to speed up the exit from nuclear power after the tsunami caused disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan. The Scottish Government, unlike Westminster, is also anti nuclear.

Scotland may generate all its electricity needs from renewable sources in nine years, though the bulk of it will come from wind rather than waves, Mr Kermode, 52, says. Marine energy is at least four years away from producing power on an industrial scale and the European Marine Energy Centre puts the cost of taking a project from the drawing board to the sea at about $60 million. "That bit of alchemy of turning sea water into electricity has been done", Mr Kermode says. "Now what we've got to do is to industrialise it and do it reliably, at the right quality and down to the right price. The lead is there, it's ours to lose".

The power plays of the future

The Saturday Age
16 July 2011, Page: 6

ASSUMING the government's climate legislation gets the parliamentary green light, it promises more than just forcing large industries to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions. The plan includes a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with about $10 billion to spend over five years on seed loans, loan guarantees and equity funding for new technologies that may not otherwise get off the ground.

There will also be $1.7 billion in unspent grants handed over to a separate new body, the Australian Renewable EnergyAgency. And there will be money to improve energy efficiency, which some experts say can yield the biggest emissions cuts and financial savings in the early years. What might the energy supply of the future look like? The Saturday Age profiles six emerging technologies.

Melbourne Water was thinking odour pollution, not climate change, when it began capturing the gas released from massive lagoons of sewage at its Western Treatment Plant. It was not until it gained a clearer picture of the amount of gas emitted from the Werribee plant mostly methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO₂ that it realised its broader potential.

Partnering with energy company AGL Energy, it built a biogas fired power plant on site. Methane is captured by air tight lagoon covers, funnelled in the bio gas plant and used to generate about 95% of the energy needed on site. "People would probably be surprised to know that sewage is effectively powering one of Australia's biggest sewage treatment facilities. It's the ultimate feedback loop", said Melbourne Water spokesman Paul Pretto.

While cutting odour has been the main driver, the organisation estimates the biogas program has cut the plant's emissions by 330,000 tonnes since 2005, and reduced its annual energy bill by about $3 million Another $2 million a year has been saved at its Eastern Treatment Plant at Bangholme.

Melbourne Water is one of about 500 companies facing the carbon price its two treatment plants emit about 180,000 tonnes a year, equating to a $4.1 million bill but it says its liability has already been dramatically reduced. It is still evaluating the impact of the carbon price, but expects investment in biogas to become more attractive. Technology for converting methane to biogas is also being explored by landfill sites and coalmines.

Large scale solar
Has a project had more false dawns in the public mind than the large scale solar power plant planned for north west Victoria? Promised in 2006 to employ world leading photovoltaic solar technology, the 154 MW proposal hit a roadblock in September 2009, when developer Solar Systems went into administration. The technology was eventually bought by Sydney based Silex Systems, Australia's only solar panel manufacturer.

Nearly 18 months on, work is about to start on a two MW demonstration plant near Mildura. Subject to the pilot's success, Silex Systems plans to start work on the full station at a reduced capacity of 100 MWs next year. Generation is expected to start in 2014. The company says the power generated through its unique technology, using giant parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays, will be enough to run 40,000 homes.

Despite its delays, the Silex Systems plan is ahead of the curve, and already has $125 million in government support. Two other plants using different technology one at Moree in outback NSW, the other at Chinchilla in Queensland last month won a combined $770 million from the now defunct solar flagships scheme. Silex Systems chief executive Michael Goldsworthy said the carbon price package should help other solar plants get developed. "It's the first step in closing the gap between renewables and coal fired power", he said. "But ultimately the costs are coming down anyway, and we expect solar to reach grid parity [in price] within five years".

Geothermal energy
Melbourne consultants Hot Dry Rocks built a business locating good geothermal energy sites places where the heat of the Earth could be tapped and used to, one day, power the grid. Usually, it helps others identify the best site for drilling and then moves on. It is now branching out, looking to generate a different type of energy in the coal rich Latrobe Valley. It plans geothermal on a small scale, starting with a 500 kW pilot plant that would draw enough heat from about 600 metres beneath the surface to power about 500 houses. If successful, the vision is of tiny geothermal plants dotted across the valley.

Hot Dry Rocks technical director Graeme Beardsmore said the company had $217,000 from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and had applied for another $997,000. It would need another $3.5 million to start drilling. As with larger geothermal projects, the challenge in winning financial backing has been the lack of a precedent, and uncertainty over whether the technology can develop to compete with fossil fuels. "That's one of the big barriers we have found in getting investment for our clients. Investors say, 'Show us one working on scale,'" Dr Beardsmore said.

While the Clean Energy Finance Corporation would not offer immediate help for the Hot Dry Rocks pilot, he said it could prove vital to give the industry a kick start later in the decade. "I think this is what the geothermal industry has been waiting for from the federal government a bit of direction and a bit of steel in their spine".

Wave energy
For Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy, a big injection of cash into Australia's renewable s industry couldn't have come at a better time. In two years, the WA based company hopes to build a five MW power project in the waters near Garden Island, south of Perth, enough to power 3000 homes a year.

Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano said it would be the largest wave energy project in the world. Electricity would be generated through 20 or so pumps submerged 25 metres in the ocean, driven by the ocean's swell. They would send a stream of pressurised water to shore via a pipe, turning a standard hydropower electricity turbine.

"Effectively it is a hydroelectric project, but instead the pressure is not caused by a dam or mountain, it is created by a novel pumping technology", Dr Ottaviano said. Carnegie Corporation has just finished a trial using one pump with positive results. Dr Ottaviano said it had given the company confidence to push ahead with the full scale project.

The company is now seeking $50 million to bring the project to scale. It has attracted $12 5 million from the WA government and is looking to the Commonwealth for the rest. "What we've got is a project that is ready to go, and in fact is already underway, so the money can be put to use immediately" Dr Ottaviano said.

He said the new independent grants authority would be the first stop to fund the project. If successful in Perth, Carnegie Corporation could then look to the $10 billion clean energy Financing corporation or the private market to develop other projects around the country, including at three sites in Victoria: Portland, Warrnambool and Phillip Island.

Nano solar
It is technology that could revolutionise the solar industry and do away with bulky rooftop panels: tiny solar cells one millionth of a millimetre in diameter that can be printed on surfaces such as glass, steel and plastic and used for powering homes or as part of large scale stations.

The technology is being perfected by researchers at University of Melbourne, in partnership with CSIRO, who hope they can make it commercially available in five to 10 years. Before it can be be commercialised the efficiency of the new technology which currently generates just half the power of standard solar panel technology will need to be improved.

The researchers are seeking a corporate partner or venture capital, potentially through the new funding bodies, to help build more panels to refine the technology. The tiny panels are made from crystals called nanoparticles. Nano crystal panels are suspended in a liquid such as ink and then printed onto fiat surfaces. The ink dries and the panels are connected to the electricity grid.

"They could be used for either smaller scale uses like households generation, but also largescale power generation where you set up in a field, or somewhere in the desert, large arrays of these types of solar panels", said researcher Brandon Mac Donald.

Mr MacDonald envisages long strips of thin metal or plastic 75 centimetres wide and several kilometres long painted with the panels, rolled out over vast stretches of land and hooked up to the energy grid. For households, the panels could be painted onto windows and rooftops, removing the need to install chunky solar systems.

About 70% of the electricity generated at the large, remote power plants in the Latrobe Valley does not reach the final destination. Most of the energy is lost into the atmosphere, either in the generation process or during transmission. To tackle this, City of Sydney is bringing its energy generation on site. Using a complex system of small generators and pipes, it plans to capture the energy lost during generation and use it to heat and cool major buildings in the city. The process is known as trigeneration.

While the Sydney project will be funded through partnerships with energy companies the first tenders are being worked through now some of the money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is expect to help finance other trigeneration schemes.

Leading the project for the Sydney Council is Allan Jones a UK born engineer, not the shock jock. He said the project would cut emissions from city buildings by 40 to 60% by 2030.A series of small, natural gas fuelled power generators, potentially generating 360 MWs, will be built around the city on and in council buildings.

The heat created by the generators that would otherwise be lost will be captured and put through a network of underground pipes to warm buildings and provide hot water. A thermal cooler will be used to chill the same water through the pipe network for refrigeration and air conditioning. Mr Jones said the project would both deliver emissions cuts and shield landlords from electricity price hikes due to a carbon price.

Blow our cares away

Sydney Morning Herald
16 July 2011, Page: 21

I read in the Australian Energy Market Operator's 2011 draft South Australian Supply and Demand Outlook report that SA's greenhouse gas production from electricity generation fell from about 10 million tonnes in 2005/06 to about 8 million tonnes in 2010/11 and that this was mainly due to wind power.

I love the look of wind turbines on the nearby ridges and I was very pleased to see that they are having a significant impact on our greenhouse gas production. I'm a grandfather and, like many other people, would love to think that the world my granddaughter grows up in will not be greatly damaged by climate change.

The usefulness of wind turbines being proven by such reports as the above, and the dire possibilities of uncontrolled climate change being well known, the question arises of why so few people are willing to support wind power in the media and so many willing to disparage it? (Should the reader happen to be in the very small minority, he/she could look up Yes2Renewables.)

David Clarke, Armagh via Clare (SA)

Please note that the so called alternative sources of energy will not be very alternative when the Earth runs out of fossil fuels. So, what then? What will be the alternative?

Richard Ratajczak, Forest Lodge

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Charged with power – SA one of nation's big players in the renewable energy future

Adelaide Advertiser
16 July 2011, Page: 75

THE energy sector in Australia is under increased scrutiny, building towards its biggest overhaul in decades under the proposed carbon tax that kicks in on July 1 next year. The sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in Australia due to the way in which most of the energy is generated. While consumers are being educated to save and get smarter about using less energy, efforts are under way to unlock the huge potential of the country's natural renewable energy resources. The national renewable energy target is set at 20% by 2020.

South Australia's energy mix is better than most states and its share of total nationwide greenhouse gas emissions was just 5% in 2009. It also has a more ambitious 33% renewable energy target by 2020. But there is a long way to go in terms of investment, firstly in research and development and, subsequently, in generation and transmission infrastructure before renewable energy can be a reliable supply source. SA's power portfolio can be explained in two ways by total installed capacity of power plants and by actual contribution to demand in a given year.

Temperature, the age of the plant, outages and wear have an impact. At higher temperatures or during peak demand, the efficiency of some generators decreases. For wind farms, output may be limited to prevent overheating of the turbines. By way of installed capacity, SA has two coal fired power stations at Port Augusta, seven natural gas, three distillate and two dual fuel plants with an installed capacity of 3687 MW.

Some of these are used as base load power plants that produce electricity at the lowest cost of any type of plant and are most economically used at maximum capacity. Others simply lie idle for much of the year, used only during peak demand. Consequently, in terms of actual contribution to energy demand, more than 70% of the power comes from some coal-fired plants (44%) and the Playford and Northern coal fired plants (30%).

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates the two coal fired and two gas plants took on most of the energy demand in the 2010-11 financial year. Closure of either of the coalfired plants by the indicated date of 2014 could lead to a power crisis given the expected increase in demand from the mining sector, the desalination plant and electrification of the train network. On the renewables front, there are 14 operating wind farms with an installed capacity of 1150 MW and 72 MW of solar power.

"With enough investment, South Australia could be a major national player in clean power generation, maximising on our competitive advantages", Renewables SA commissioner Tim O'Loughlin said. Wind energy contributed to just over 20% of the energy demand last financial year, but this can vary based on wind speed, availability, temperature and transmission network limitations. The wind farms operated at less than 40% of their capacity in 2010-11.

The growth in wind generation and variability makes management of the transmission network and power system challenging. The State Government says the Green Grid project a $4.5 billion investment plan, of which $2 billion is proposed for SA, to harness wind power on the Eyre Peninsula and export it interstate will be key to resolving this challenge. The state has a high quality resource for large scale solar installations, but the capital costs are high. Currently, roof top installations are the only significant contributors to the power grid.

With a rush of households signing up before federal subsidies ended, the installed solar capacity is expected to reach 100 MW in the near future. Geothermal energy derived from the natural heat of hot rocks deep underground is still in the experimental phase but has huge base load potential. Research is ongoing, especially in the state's north, with almost 30 companies and more than 400 exploration licences.

No coal comfort ... but foresight is warming

Sydney Morning Herald
14 July 2011, Page: 14

Australia has done well out of coal, even though so much of the profit has gone overseas. But like it or not, as the world gradually wakes up to the implications of climate change, there will be a shift away from burning fossil fuels, and modern, clean, renewable technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal will take over. Our prized asset, coal, will diminish in value. But just as we've had abundant coal deposits in the ground, so we have abundant sunshine and wind.

Now is the time to invest in these technologies, which are already racing ahead in the rest of the world, so that we can be sure of developing a strong economy in the post carbon era Surely the best way to fund investment in new business is to use the profits from the old business while it's still flourishing. Any competent businessman would tell us that. Thirteen billion dollars for renewable energy projects, over five years, is a good start. I congratulate the government for taking this far sighted approach in its carbon package, in contrast to the do nothing opposition, and the grab it and run tactics of (some) big, overseas owned business.

Dominic Case, Balmain

Syngas to chase funds

Adelaide Advertiser
14 July 2011, Page: 66

SYNTHETIC fuel maker Syngas will pursue funding through clean energy programs under the carbon tax regime. A price on carbon and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation Fund and $3.2 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency Fund could support the delivery of biomass to projects under development by Syngas subsidiary BioSyngas. It has been trialling power generation from cropping waste on the Yorke Peninsula.

Hydro benefits to top $100m

Hobart Mercury
13 July 2011, Page: 5

Hydro Tasmania's carbon tax benefits are likely to be close to $100 million. The news comes as the Greens leader and Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown joined a chorus of calls for the millions of dollars in revenue expected to flow to Hydro Tasmania from the new carbon price will benefit all Tasmanians.

But Premier Lara Giddings yesterday remained tight lipped on just how the company's expected dividends would be spent. Ms Giddings said there was no indication on exactly how much the Hydro expected to gain from the tax, or the mechanisms available to the State Government to "influence where any growth in profit out of the carbon tax is actually spent". "What we do know is that all of us want electricity prices kept down as low as possible for Tasmanians, particularly considering we already use renewable energy here in Tasmania", she said.

A Hydro Tasmania spokesman yesterday said the company was working to determine revenue, which should increase because the company would receive additional revenue from higher National Electricity Market Management Company prices while being virtually exempt from the carbon tax. "We are assessing [Treasury] modelling against our information to get a better indication of the benefit to the business", the spokesman said. "It is expected to be somewhat less than the $200 million figure that has been [suggested]".

Senator Brown said he expected the revenue boost to be a "very big one" but urged that it must flow on to create more wealth for Tasmanians. "If there is tens of millions of dollars coming out of this, and it will be in extra profit line, it should be coming across to make sure that we keep our schools open, that we keep our hospitals well staffed, that we're not short of specialists at the Royal Hobart Hospital [and] that we're able to get all the things that Tasmanians want to see flowing from this outcome", he said.

Senator Brown said Tasmanians would be better off following the introduction of a carbon price from July next year. He said more Tasmanians would benefit from the Federal Government's compensation packages for people earning less than $80,000, with 93% of Tasmanians receiving the subsidies compared to 89% of interstaters. "Tasmania's going to do very well out of this", Senator Brown said in Hobart yesterday.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Sun shines on stocks as renewable sector warned to be 'realistic'

Canberra Times
12 July 2011, Page: 4

Big scale solar projects are "not for the faint hearted" and Australia must be realistic about future challenges, a global solar thermal company says. Andrew Dyer, a Melbourne based director of United States clean tech company BrightSource Energy, has welcomed the Federal Government's $13 billion renewable energy investment package and its pledge to boost clean energy generation. But he warns big solar projects will inevitably face complex environmental and land tenure challenges in Australia.

"There is a saying that no good deed goes unpunished, and that's certainly the case with large scale solar because of the amount of land required", Mr Dyer said. "Big solar projects are certainly not for the faint hearted. There will be potentially contentious issues to resolve, but we can do it".

After the Federal Government's weekend announcement of its carbon pricing package, clean energy and carbon offset shares performed strongly on the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday. Stocks in some geothermal companies rose by more than 20%, and Ceramic Fuel Cells, a leading Australian developer of low emission electricity generation units, jumped by 15%. Queanbeyan solar company Dyesol Limited gained 10%, and West Australian wave energy developer, Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy, rose by 23%.

Mr Dyer, who has worked with energy utilities in Europe and Asia, is a company director of Californian solar thermal company BrightSource Energy. The company, which specialises in solar tower technology, has raised more than $US330 million ($A309 million) in corporate financing, with investors including Google, Morgan Stanley and the Californian State Teachers superannuation fund.

Australia is "sitting on an enormous investment pot" of superannuation funds that could be used to support clean energy projects, Mr Dyer said. "It's important to get moving on these large scale projects because of the time involved in planning, securing investment and construction".

But building baseload scale solar projects can have tricky environmental consequences, as BrightSource Energy discovered last year when its $A2.06 billion solar tower project in California's Mojave desert was halted after desert tortoises a federally protected species were discovered on part of the 1457ha construction site. The company had already scaled back the project by 12%, using fewer towers and mirrors, to protect rare desert plants and tortoise habitat.

The massive solar tower project, which will generate 392 MWs of energy the equivalent of taking 90,000 cars off the road for 25 years received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee by the US Department of Energy. But despite US federal support, it has provoked opposition from influential California Democrat senator Diane Feinstein who is lobbying to protect the Mojave desert from utility scale renewable developments.

Mr Dyer said solar developments in Australia would "almost certainly come up against land rights issues" such as Native Title and environmental impact assessments.

Geothermal power heats up with newfound certainty

12 July 2011, Page: 6

SCIENTISTS estimate there is enough energy stored in hot rocks beneath Australia's surface to meet its power demands millions of times over, but bold prognostications have not been enough for the geothermal industry.

Kevin Rudd's abandonment of Labor's first proposed emissions trading scheme hit the industry hard, with share prices plummeting and investors baulking. "That policy backflip has hurt the industry, no doubt", says Terry Kallis, managing director of South Australian company geothermal Petratherm. Hot rocks power remains a highly speculative industry, but things are slowly looking up for Petratherm.

Last month, it began drilling to fracture rock four kilometres beneath the Earth's surface in the North Flinders Ranges using part of a $7 million federal government drilling grant the key step in proving a geothermal reservoir can be created deep underground and the project has a future. Mr Kallis said he believes his is the only company with an active drilling project.

Yesterday Petratherm's shares leapt 16%, reaching a high of 23.5¢ before closing at 19¢. It is a far cry from its high of 92C, but is an important reflection of the role the carbon price package and a new $10 billion clean energy finance corporation, largely paid for with carbon tax revenue could play in developing the industry. "It has put us back on track, which is very important", Mr Kallis says.

"Every geothermal project will take a bit longer and cost a bit more because of the policy backflips that we have had, and we all rely on the equity market, which was hit with the financial crisis. [But] having a carbon price out there starts to create an investor framework and gives the industry some certainty something we haven't had".

Changes in government policy is not the only thing that has held up geothermal investment. Projects take a long time to get off the ground and the costs are considerable with no guarantee of success. Petratherm's project involves injecting water into rocks deep beneath the ground at high pressure in an attempt to create fractures. If successful, power will be generated by circulating hot water between two underground wells and back to the surface.

Petratherm has no short term need for the new funding it hopes to access an existing $63 million demonstration stage grant later this year. But Mr Kallis says the seed funding available from the corporation could prove valuable for the industry if well run. "It is great to see lots of dollars earmarked for renewable energy funding. We're hoping to see more of the funding arrangements that are better tailored to our needs", he says. "The sooner they can get the funding going and out the door, the better".

China set on nuclear path

12 July 2011, Page: 5,

CHINAS hunger for uranium to underpin the expansion of its nuclear industry has not been curbed by the Fukushima disaster, according to the country's main energy agency. On the same day that China's Hanlong Mining was outed as the $144 million suitor of WA uranium junior Bannerman Resources, National Energy Commission advisory board chairman Zhang Guobao told the Boao Forum for Asia Perth conference his country's nuclear expansion plans were on track.

"It is no longer feasible to continue to rely on fossil fuels developing nuclear power is a choice of must", he told the gathering of Chinese and Australian political and business leaders. He said there were 13 operational nuclear power plants in China with another 28 under construction to take capacity to nearly 40 GWs by 2015. "And we have stayed firm on this plan", he said. Of Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis, which led many European countries to review their nuclear plans, Mr Zhang said the world "should not stop eating just because of choking".

The bullish note struck by some of China's most senior nuclear officials should bode well for Bannerman, which was set in play yesterday after admitting Hanlong's $144 million proposal. Bannerman Resources described the 61.2¢ a share cash bid as highly conditional and timed to take advantage of weakness in its share price, which it said had been battered by negative sentiment following the Fukushima disaster. But Bannerman has left the door open to further talks because it still needs project finance or a joint venture partner to develop its Etango deposit in Namibia. The target's shares soared 23% to 47.54¢.

Bannerman Resources chairman David Smith said it was understandable that the junior had been targeted. "Bannerman Resources controls one of the largest undeveloped uranium resources in the world and, despite recent events, there is no doubt that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in meeting the world's growing energy needs, as well as alleviating greenhouse gas emissions", he said in a statement.

Rio Tinto chief development officer uranium Andy Lloyd told Boao delegates Fukushima has been a major setback for confidence, particularly in the junior sector. But he was confident on the longer term outlook. "I think we can rely on the price signals of the market to pull those projects through", he said. Rio Tinto has an indirect stake in the Husab project in Namibia, which is close to Etango, being developed by Extract Resources.

Monday 18 July 2011

Hot rock energy a step closer

Adelaide Advertiser
12 July 2011, Page: 29

Fracturing work has begun at Petratherm's Paralana project in the state's north in a major milestone for the geothermal player. Fracture stimulation, or "fracking", attempts to create seismic events almost 4km underground to increase the size of a potential geothermal reservoir. With joint venture partner Beach Energy and contractor Halliburton, Petratherm has begun pumping fluid into the Paralana 2 well to create fractures in the hot rocks used to produce geothermal energy.

Achieving a successful fracture event is a major hurdle for the company to demonstrate that generating electricity from hot rocks in the state's far north is viable. The Paralana resource with multiple wells is estimated to be able to produce 13,000 MWs of power, about four times the state's current energy use. Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said the fracture work had begun yesterday morning and was progressing well. "The fracture process that is underway is a major milestone for the project and very important for the geothermal industry", Mr Kallis said. "To be able to show you can create the reservoir is a major step in de risking the project (and) we are quietly confident we will be able to propagate fractures beyond 500 metres".

In January the company did a "minifrack" at the project that produced seismic events about 300 metres from the bottom of the well after two hours of pumping. This week the company will use 8500 horsepower pumping capacity to inject fluid at 9000 psi of pressure into the well increasing progressively over several days. "The further it goes the better it is, because it gives us more rock to access and more heat to strip from the rocks", he said. "The process involves water under pressure at increasing pumping rates, which is expected to create many more fractures than what was created during the minifrack".

The work will allow the company to determine where it drills the Paralana 3 well to create production for the geothermal system. Once the production well is drilled, the company will undertake circulation testing to confirm target flow rates as the next step towards a commercially demonstrable, enhanced geothermal system power plant. It comes as geothermal industry shares recovered yesterday on the back of the Federal Government's proposed carbon price.

Petratherm's shares closed 15% higher at 19¢, GeoDynamics 25% higher at 42¢, Torrens Energy 42% higher at 7.5¢ and Panax Geothermal 26% higher at 2.9¢. Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said geothermal energy was the only baseload renewable technology on the horizon capable of replacing large coal generators. "The price on carbon provides a foundation for the development of clean energy projects into the future but other incentives must be effectively built on it to drive investment in renewable energy projects", she said.

GeoDynamics, which is developing its project at Innamincka, welcomed the Federal Government's climate change initiatives. "Clearly we are a big winner from the carbon tax and it is great news for the industry", GeoDynamics CEO Geoff Ward said yesterday. "I am also delighted for long suffering shareholders and it also augurs well for the proposed development of our pilot plant next year". Mr Ward said having a carbon price and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency to administer more than $13 billion of investment in renewables would be a significant boon for the sector.

Green energy 'gives power firms £7bn windfall'
11 July 2011

Britain's biggest energy companies will be handed a £7 billion windfall by Government plans to boost "green" power generation, analysts have said. Power companies who are already putting up household bills are set to benefit from measures to encourage the building of new nuclear power stations and windfarms, according to Credit Suisse.

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, will tomorrow set out plans to encourage low carbon energy generation techniques. The Electricity Market Reform White Paper will offer financial incentives to low carbon generators, guaranteeing them a fixed price for their power above the market price. Those incentives will be funded by households though their power bills.

According to a Credit Suisse report, higher prices will bring in an extra £24 billion for power companies between 2013 and 2020. Their costs are only forecast to rise by £17 billion, giving a profit of £7 billion. Companies' profits will be determined by the level the carbon "floor price" is set at, something the bank said was subject to "uncertainty". With energy firms already increasing household bills sharply this year, ministers are sensitive to suggestions that their plans will add to consumers' costs.

Mr Huhne yesterday insisted that the Government's plans will mean a long term reduction in household energy bills. Some estimates suggest Government "green" energy measures could add £200 to the average household's annual energy bill. Ofgem, the Government's energy regulator, has said it expects prices to rise by at least 10%.

Mr Huhne said that those estimates did not take account of other Government measures to reduce household energy consumption, such as encouraging insulation and "What it doesn't do is take account of the impact of that energy saving. That's the effect on gas and electricity prices, but once you take the effect on bills you actually find that we're getting overall bill down in the long run", he told the BBC.

Ministers believe that their plans will mean that British power stations will stop burning coal to generate power within the next three years. Mr Huhne insisted that such a shift away from fossil fuels was the only way to bring stability to household bills. Energy firms blame this year's price rises on growing demand for energy from Asia and uncertainty in the Middle East.

Britain must generate more of its energy from other sources, Mr Huhne said. "If we want to get off the vulnerability which we've got to these world markets, we've got to move to low carbon sources". According to the University of Cambridge Energy Policy Research Group, the Coalition's market reforms could increase household bills by 32% by 2030 and "send UK electricity prices towards being the highest in the European Union". Mr Huhne strongly rejected the Cambridge estimates.

Reforms mean wave power is closer to paying its way

Sydney Morning Herald
11 July 2011, Page: 10

IN AN unremarkable warehouse in Mascot, a machine for making electricity from the tidal force of the ocean is being built. When complete, the underwater power generator will be the height of a seven storey building, and use the swaying motion of the sea to generate pressure in hydraulic fluid and spin turbines.

The project is being developed by BioPower Systems, one of hundreds of renewable energy companies that watched the federal government unveil its carbon price package yesterday. "The two things are the price on carbon itself, which brings more closely together the cost of our technology and more traditional energy sources, and direct funding for renewable energy", the company's chief executive, Tim Finnigan, said.

While solar power is expected to reach "grid parity" equal to the cost of coal fired power within five years, wave energy is a little further off. "It will be five to eight years before our systems are on grid and producing significant amounts of power at a commercial scale", Dr Finnigan said. "From our perspective, we would have liked a higher carbon price to close that gap faster $23 is a fairly gradual entry point, but we'll take it".

A new statutory body, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, will dispense about $10 billion in funding for non fossil fuel energy from 2013-14, in the form of loans and equity. The Clean Energy Council, representing many wave, wind and solar suppliers, said the biggest benefits would be certainty for potential investors in the sector. "When they are talking to financiers, they will be able to point to a long term carbon price,.. and say 'you will be able to see a return on your investment'".