Friday 16 September 2011

Sell-off to fund NE wind project

Hobart Mercury
6 September 2011, Page: 13

A sell down of Circular Head Council wind farm assets should help Hydro Tasmania finance its $400 million Musselroe wind farm proposal. The State Government owned electricity generator yesterday said it was seeking a buyer for as much as 75% of its Woolnorth wind farm assets. The divestment follows this year's split of the Roaring 40s joint venture in which partner China Light and Power took full ownership of the venture's interstate wind farms. The move left Hydro Tasmania with full ownership of the 65 MW Bluff Point and 75 MW Studland Bay wind farms, which are on the giant Woolnorth property in the North-West.

Hydro Tasmania chief executive Roy Adair said he hoped the divestment process, to be managed by ANZ Project Advisory, could be finalised by the end of this year. Mr Adair said he anticipated that a new financial partner would take a stake in the 168 MW Musselroe project "Work on Musselroe is expected to progress materially in November this year with construction of the transmission line", he said.

Mr Adair said Musselroe, in the North-East, was a priority for cementing Tasmania's position as a renewable energy leader. "We are in the process of finalising new construction contracts and the choice of turbine suppliers", he said. Hydro chairman David Crean said the board also saw the move as a way of tackling Hydro Tasmania's debt. "Although today's announcement is primarily about progressing our wind development plan over the next decade, it is also about ensuring we achieve our other objectives, such as further mainland retail growth and improving our financial strength to BBB [rating] by 2015", Mr Crean said.

Mr Adair said Hydro was committed to wind farm expansion to complement its generation assets, which made it Australia's largest renewable energy generator. "A critical part of the financing strategy is appropriate equity investment from the private sector to ensure Hydro Tasmania is able to optimise its financial position, reduce its debt and continue to deliver strong returns to its owners", he said. Bluff Point, commissioned in 2004, has 37 turbines and Studland Bay has 27.

State is killing off opposition to coal

6 September 2011, Page: 10

WHAT large-L Liberal governments like Ted Baillieu's fail to see is that environmentalists are not against industrial development. We are not tree huggers but are mainstream voters who can see a better and cleaner future for our children. We want to see jobs growth. We want to see people experience prosperity. But we don't want those jobs to be in polluting, climate-endangering industries such as coal extraction, which are progressively degrading the quality of life for citizens of this state and beyond.

This is why there is outrage that the government could kill off the wind farm industry in Victoria and, along with it, hundreds of jobs. The government is simply killing off commercial opposition to its coal-industry benefactors. It is pure self interest. They forget that private investment is building wind farms with not a cent of government money. Yet without $150 million of taxpayers' money, the HRL coal-fired power station cannot go ahead.

Dan Caffrey, Traralgon

Partners hope sun will shine on them

Adelaide Advertiser
6 September 2011, Page: 1

Solar Shop entrepreneur Adrian Ferraretto is taking on the influx of imported solar panels flooding Australian markets with his new Adelaide venture, Tindo Solar. The Mawson Lakes-based business will be South Australia's sole photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacturer and its only Australian competitor is publicly listed Silex Systems in Sydney. Panel production is due to start in late November following an $8 million investment. Mr Ferraretto, who is managing director of the privately owned company, has teamed up with another former Solar Shop name, Richard Inwood, along with senior adviser Russell Mourney and finance and production manager Ben Kerry.

Twenty ship containers bringing the company's new production plant from Korea are due in Adelaide during October. The team expects it will be producing about 250,000 panels annually with a workforce of 30 to 40. Mr Ferraretto, who resigned as Solar Shop's managing director in July last year after building the business to about 200 employees nationally, has sourced plant components from all over the world. "I took a week off and thought, "Now I'm going crazy'", he says.

The mechanical engineer revisited earlier plans to manufacture PV panels locally and visited plants around the world to research the new company's unique design. Tindo solar panels will incorporate German wafer, with the team saying this product is part of the highest output PV panel measured at the Desert Knowledge solar research site at Alice Springs. Each panel will also have its own inbuilt UK-made inverter, rather than following the usual PV set-up where several rooftop panels feed into a separate inverter. "We're estimating that these advantages are giving us an additional 10% output to the average of other panels", Mr Inwood, company people and business manager, says.

The panels also incorporate glass from France and a glue from a US company. "Some of the connections will be Australian. I'm hoping to get as much Aussie in it as we can", Mr Ferraretto says. He hopes the enterprise will also usher in other locally produced product, saying Pilkington has previously made solar panel glass in Australia and this venture could encourage a restart. Mr Ferraretto believes the company could make its panels for the same price as those imported from China and other countries.

He also says that while the solar industry faces challenges with government subsidies and feed-in tariffs being stopped or reduced, this will stabilise as the comparative cost of solar reaches parity. "(The solar industry) will be able to stand on its own two feet. I would say in the next 12 to 24 months it will hit that", he says. Companies will then be less affected by changing government policy. He compares the situation to Germany where there has been one solar scheme in place for 11 years-while Australian solar companies have had to manage 14 changes nationally over the same period.

"We have 500 MW of solar Australia-wide, Germany has 8000 MW and we have nearly twice the light", Mr Ferraretto says. Mr Inwood says Tindo-the Kaurna word for sun-Solar is pulling together a strong team, passionate about renewable energy. Mr Inwood established the rural regional program for Solar Shop in 2008, oversaw training and development and in January this year trained in the Al Gore climate change project held in Jakarta. "One of the things we want to do is work with people who are likeminded", he says.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Urban cowboys spit in the wind

Herald Sun
2 September 2011, Page: 37

IT is ironic that at the same time it introduces draconian rules governing wind farm development, the Baillieu Government seems intent on relaxing rules governing urban development even further. Many Melburnians would be surprised to hear that our planning system aims at having the number of prohibited uses in residential zones reduced almost to nil, and to curtail residents' rights merely to object to (not veto) development metres from their home.

Such contradictory actions lay bare the true intentions of this Government: it has no real interest in governing for all Victorians, or it wouldn't be jeopardising one of our greatest opportunities for economic growth--wind turbine manufacturing. It's all about satisfying the demands of narrow sectional interests, whether they be landscape guardians, big urban developers or mountain cattlemen.

Anne Martinelli, Northcote

Solar cuts a threat to jobs

Herald Sun
2 September 2011, Page: 21

A CUT in the subsidy to Victorians feeding solar power into the electricity grid could cost hundreds of jobs, most likely in regional Victoria, the clean energy industry has warned. The solar feed-in tariff has been cut from 60¢ a kW to 25¢. The 50,000 people already participating in the scheme will not be affected and will still receive the higher rate.

People who have paid a deposit for a solar system or those yet to submit paperwork must do so by September 30 to receive the 60¢ rate. Some solar companies have indicated they would abandon plans to invest in Victoria if the rate was less than 40¢. Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said he supported a reduction in the rate, but it should be between 35-40¢.

Mr Marsh said the 25¢ rate would dampen demand for solar power and therefore lead to significant job losses. "When you get to below 30¢ you're talking about hundreds of jobs lost in the industry", Mr Marsh said. "It's going to be regional areas that are probably going to lose most".

Mr Marsh said a solar feed-in tariff set at 35¢ would cost consumers $4.50 on their yearly power bills. Victorian Energy Minister Michael O'Brien said under the 25¢ rate participants would recover the cost of their solar power systems within about 10 years. Mr O'Brien said it was the second most generous feed-in tariff in Australia, behind Queensland. "It will mean less of an impact on the bills of families that don't have solar", Mr O'Brien said. "We are not prepared to see the electricity bills of pensioners and others who can't afford rooftop solar jacked up".

A review of the scheme by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission is expected to start this year and report to Government early in the second half of next year. The Government announced this week it would change planning laws to give households the power to veto wind turbines within 2km of their homes.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the Government was obsessed with coal. "(Premier) Ted Baillieu is in love with brown coal", Mr Andrews said. "He hates wind power, and he's decimated that industry this week. "I fear for those people who work in the solar industry. I fear for those who've invested in the solar power industry".

True energy costs

Canberra Times
2 September 2011, Page: 16

The Canberra Times has published many letters on the cost of renewable energy where the levelised cost of energy (LCE) from the US Department of Energy is used both for and against renewable energy. Unfortunately the LCE is an inappropriate measure because it includes a discount term which leads to strange results. I can sell the energy from solar panels back to ACTEW for the same price ACTEW charges me.

If I calculate the LCE with a discount rate of 1% the LCE measure says that I am losing money and a discount rate of 7% means I am losing serious money. Yet the solar panels on my roof will give me a real return of 6% per annum for the next 30 years. The LCE measure is clearly inappropriate. Long-term investments that return inflation-proof returns are sensible investments. Almost all forms of renewable energy are economic if we use common sense measures.

Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal

New laws toss energy jobs to the wind

2 September 2011, Page: 15
The nation is poorer for the Liberals' stance on the 'green-collar' sector.

It is a telling coincidence that Premier Ted Baillieu's new anti-wind farm laws have been sharing the headlines with Australia's manufacturing malaise.

The Clean Energy Council estimates the laws will drive $3.6 billion of investment away from Victoria. Pacific Hydro has announced it will cease building wind farms in Victoria after it completes projects with existing planning approval, and community-owned wind projects near Castlemaine and Woodend are now in doubt.

The winner of the Premier's own Sustainability Award, the Hepburn Community Wind Park near Daylesford, almost certainly would not have been built under these laws. Despite protests from Planning Minister Matthew Guy, the prospect of thousands of new jobs for Victoria in a burgeoning "green-collar" industry is now very much off the table. And all this without the government identifying what problem the laws are trying to solve.

But the story of the Liberal Party's ambivalence towards renewable energy goes back further than this week's announcement. The attempt by Danish wind company Vestas to set up a manufacturing base in Australia provides a perfect illustration of opportunities that, if they are not grasped, simply pass by. In 2005, with wind projects around western Victoria, Vestas established a blade manufacturing facility in Portland and a turbine assembly plant in Wynyard Tasmania. This was a logical step for a European company looking for a base to service the growing Asia-Pacific market, and a vote of confidence in Australia's skilled manufacturing base.

The Howard government implemented a modest renewable energy target of 2% in 2001 and this capacity was duly delivered in half the time envisaged. However, after commissioning a review of the scheme which recommended that the target be doubled, the government went off the idea. Instead, at a meeting between the government and fossil fuel industry executives in late 2004, John Howard and then energy minister Ian MacFarlane opted for a $1.5 billion low-emission energy fund to try to make fossil fuel energy cleaner. This refusal to extend the renewable energy target stalled national investment in new wind projects and the Vestas operations were no longer viable.

Vestas closed its two virtually new factories in 2007, axing 130 jobs. Shortly afterwards it opened a new factory in Colorado, which today employs more than 1000 people. No other wind companies have attempted to set up manufacturing facilities in Australia since. Put simply, late Howard-era Australia had the opportunity to build and export wind power equipment to the Asia-Pacific region but chose continued support for fossil fuel energy instead. This story of lost opportunity has resonance for my home town of Ballarat, whose manufacturing base was severely shaken by the financial crisis of 2009.

The wind industry offers a range of jobs beyond manufacturing of equipment, including parts supply, maintenance and training services. With 1800 MWs of new wind farms currently approved to proceed within 100 kilometres of the city, Ballarat was in an ideal position to use this one off burst of activity to establish new jobs in these fields. But the clampdown on development in Victoria, and fears that New South Wales could go the same way under Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell, make that unlikely. Without an ongoing domestic market, industry does not have the incentive to invest and Ballarat will be the loser.

Renewable energy presents a number of challenges for the Liberal Party both in terms of policy and politics. Australia's highly carbon intensive electricity sector is responsible for 50% of our total greenhouse emissions. Cleaning that up without a significant increase in renewable energy capacity is unimaginable. Renewables are not as easily dismissed as they were in 2004.

Global investment in clean energy totalled $243 billion last year, according to the Pew Research Center Environment Group. In South Australia, wholesale power prices are consistently lower because 20% of the state's energy comes from wind. Renewable energy is also clearly popular in the electorate. Groups associated with the 100% Renewable Energy campaign recently polled more than 14,000 Australians and found 91% of respondents think we should be building more renewable energy to help create jobs.

While the federal Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull gave bipartisan support for the Rudd government's expansion of the Renewable Energy Target to 20% by 2020, this support must now be in doubt under Tony Abbott's leadership.

The Liberal's Direct Action Plan proposes a large rollout of solar panels for households but is completely silent on the development of larger renewable power generation. There must come a point where the nation's Liberal leaders and aspiring leaders come clean on their plans for renewable energy. If it is not something they want to support then they should be ready to let us know what is their alternative.

Andrew Bray is an organiser for 100% Renewable Energy, a campaign comprising more than 100 community groups nationally.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Power play

Adelaide Advertiser
1 September 2011, Page: 25

An odd coalition of welfare groups, state energy ministers and business consumers of gas and electricity have succeeded in winning a federal review of how some utility companies are allowed to pass on costs to customers. In a highly complex process-and unlike the market forces that govern revenue in other business sectors-the essential nature of gas and electricity supply to householders and businesses means that revenue is tightly controlled by government regulation.

The rules in South Australia date back to the privatisation of electricity assets in the late 1990s and the formation of the deregulated National Electricity Market Management Company, which broke down former monopolies in each state. The most significant reason given for the sale of the state's electricity assets was the fear that publicly owned companies may struggle to remain profitable in a highly competitive market. In order to make sure private operators did not suffer the same fate, with potentially catastrophic effects for the state's economy, safeguards were built into the system.

Companies are allowed to recoup reasonable costs such as infrastructure works via increased bills, the most hotly contested of which are upgrading or replacing essential infrastructure. According to consumer groups, these rules cannot prevent infrastructure works that are not needed but which are pushed by the companies so they can recoup the costs via utility bills.

It is an argument that has won favour with the nation's energy ministers, particularly SA's Michael O'Brien who The Advertiser last week revealed believed companies had been "manipulating the system" with legions of lawyers and accountants. His comments were a reflection of similar complaints by the Australian Energy Regulator which first called for reform.

The companies involved angrily dispute this and are resisting any changes to rules that would allow the independent umpire, the Australian Energy Regulator, extra powers to reject infrastructure works that they claim are essential to maintain reliable gas and electricity networks. Independent expert, UBS utilities analyst David Leitch says it is prudent for industry rules to err on the side of allowing companies to make reasonable returns on investment on networks.

Mr Leitch said the AER argued that companies were valued at 20% more than they were worth because of in-built profitability, but this was to attract investment in ageing infrastructure. "Before these recent price increases, there was a lot of discussion that there had been under-investment in the networks for a number of years", he said. "I would rather have a little bit of over-investment than under-investment, be a little generous to the shareholders rather than have underinvestment and have the lights go out. These networks were built, often in the 1960s and 1970s".

Mr Leitch said one of the problems with electricity and gas networks was the need to cater for peak demand, which only happened on a few days each year. Gas distributor Envestra has strenuously defended the company's reputation and rejected Mr O'Brien's claims of manipulation of the rules. "This debate tends to ignore the main factors driving recent increases in energy prices, being the accepted need to replace ageing infrastructure, to address increases in the cost of capital faced by all businesses post the GFC and to pay for various government impositions", managing director Ian Little says.

"I believe it is in the South Australian community's interest that the State Government is supportive of sound investment. "The Government should be pleased that companies like Envestra have been spending over $50 million each year on extending and modernising its assets, improving services to our gas consumers, and employing a large number of people in what at times over recent years, has been an uncertain economy.

MRLittle said Mr O'Brien was wrong to suggest that Envestra ever inflated the cost of projects to claim more from customers, or that the company overstated the cost of finance for the projects, or that it overstated the urgency of the works in question. Mr Little says the need for considerable investment was temporary and was expected to ease. "The AER and its preceding state regulatory bodies have developed a reputation over the years of taking a forensic and highly intrusive approach to the review of infrastructure spending proposals and have set high standards for companies to justify their spending pro-grams", he said.

"I see no evidence of gas companies exploiting the system; rather I see, in Envestra's case, the need for extensive documentary evidence to support five-year spending programs. Some 10,000 pages of material was submitted to the AER in our most recent regulatory process. "It hardly seems that the AER needs more information gathering, or indeed, other powers to fulfil its role". ETSA Utilities spokesman Paul Roberts said there were checks and balances in the system. He said the factors driving the need to invest in infrastructure were changing. There were increasing demand patterns such as urban infill, ongoing maintenance of assets and replacement of ageing assets.

He said Mr O'Brien was wrong to suggest there was over costing of projects because they were independently tested and the AER demanded cost effectiveness. "We absolutely reject any suggestion of us bending the law or undertaking unauthorised works. This is not how we operate", Mr Roberts said.

Uneven landscape

The Age
1 September 2011, Page: 16

LANDSCAPE architects often assist in determining wind farm location, our particular role being to assess visual and aesthetic impact on the landscape. While trying to minimise such impacts, we are aware the entire landscape is threatened by the pollution of unsustainable forms of energy production.

The lack of strategic consideration in the government's response is concerning. Rather than generic exclusion zones, a proper statewide assessment of suitable locations would have provided a far more mature approach in line with the government's responsibilities to all Victorians.

Individual veto of infrastructure is another concern. Will people within two kilometres of a proposed freeway get to veto the freeway? Probably not--and rightly so--yet the freeway is more polluting than any wind farm. This planning decision singles out wind farms for excessive control. Such decisions undermine faith in the rigour and robustness of the planning process.

Kirsten Bauer, Australian Institute of Architects, Melbourne

GE swoops on WA solar

West Australian
31 August 2011, Page: 3

Global giant GE's energy financing arm has taken a 50% stake in a $50 million solar farm in the Mid West, the first project of its kind in Australia to get financial approval. In a deal closed last week, GE Energy Financial Services will partner State-owned utility Verve Energy in establishing the solar farm to partially power WA's second desalination plant.

The Water Corporation has committed to purchase 100% of the new installation's output for the Southern Seawater desalination plant being built near Binningup in the South West. The State Government is providing $20 million for the solar project, of which $10 million is coming from the Royalties for Regions program. The project is GE Energy Financial Services' first renewable energy investment in Australia.

"It has all the criteria we look for: good local partner, good technology provider, sound fundamentals", the company's Australian business leader, Jason Willoughby, said. The Greenough River solar farm will be installed on 80ha of cleared land 50km south-east of Geraldton, and have an output of 10 MWs, or 20 GW/hours per annum. US-based manufacturer FirstSolar will build, operate and maintain the plant using more than 150,000 photovoltaic modules.

It is the first utility-scale solar project in the country, 10 times bigger than any other installation nationwide. It is expected to be operational by the middle of next year. "This is the only one that ticks all the key boxes for a project to be viable", Rob Bartrop, FirstSolar's Australian business development and sales manager, said. "It has a PPA (power purchase agreement) in place, it has a proven technology with a proven company delivering it. And importantly has the ownership in place, in this case with Verve Energy and GE", Mr Bartrop said.

Tony Narvaez, Verve Energy's general manager, strategy and business development, said the project was a "toe in the water" for the utility. "We would like to think that is going to kick off a pipeline of projects moving forward in solar PV", Mr Narvaez said. The desalination plant's use of renewable energy was mandated by the State Government. It will also be supplied by the 55 MW Mumbida wind farm, also in Greenough, an equal partnership between Verve Energy and Macquarie Capital. In that project, GE Energy and Leighton Holdings contractors have formed a consortium to supply and install the turbines.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Solar does NSW a power of good

Sydney Morning Herald
31 August 2011, Page: 8

THE boom in solar panel installations coupled with higher electricity prices and energy efficiency measures has pushed back the likely need for new baseload electricity generation capacity in NSW until near the end of the decade. The need for more baseload power, which operates 24 hours a day, has been steadily pushed back for several years now. When trying to sell the power industry, the then premier Morris Iemma said a power supply shortfall would occur by 2013-14.

In the annual Statement of Opportunities issued by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) today, that need has been pushed back to 2018-19, a further two-year delay since last year's forecast. A factor in the extended delay has been the 500 to 600 MWs of solar panel capacity that is being installed following the state government's generous feed-in tariff subsidy, which has now been curtailed.

Also, higher electricity prices, energy efficiency programs and the slowdown in demand due to the global financial crisis and, more recently, the decline in manufacturing, have hit electricity demand forecasts for NSW. It is a different picture in the other mainland states in the national electricity market, where demand growth is feeding through to the need for new generation capacity.

In Queensland, buoyant demand from the resources sector, with new coalmine developments coupled with liquefied natural gas export projects will mean the state needs new power stations the soonest. (Western Australia and the Northern Territory are not connected to the electricity grid linking the eastern states.) Queensland will need new base-load capacity of an estimated 341 MWs by 2013-14, although if growth is slower it could be 2015-16.

In Victoria and South Australia, AEMO has brought forward by 12 months to 2014-15 the need for new generation capacity. NSW has more than 3820 MWs of gas-fired electricity capacity being planned, with a further 6660 MWs of wind power, according to AEMO. "The [national electricity! market is still growing at 1000 MWs per annum, roughly", AEMO's managing director, Matt Zema, said. "We still need investment in generation in all the regions".

Mr Zema said the forecasts were done before details of the $23 a tonne carbon tax came out, but included a $10 to $12 carbon price. "The [proposed carbon price) doesn't have a big impact in the first five years of the [forecast]", he said, since any closure of generation capacity that may follow would not be until the second half of the decade. "The demand forecasts,.. are really driven off the back of the global financial crisis,.. the weather events we've had. "We're starting to see some energy efficiencies, with people saying "be a bit more careful, more wise' about how they use electricity".

States winds of hypocrisy

Herald Sun
31 August 2011, Page: 33

THE Victorian Government carrying through with its anti-wind farm plans demonstrates a disgraceful double standard. At Bacchus Marsh, just 50km from Melbourne, we are looking down the barrel of a horrible eyesore--the Mantle Mining open-cut coal mine. The health effects of coal are known and documented, and this proposed coal mine does not give the many residents living within 2km the right to say no and veto the project. Do we really prefer our landscapes to be scattered with coal mines instead of wind farms?

Deb Porter, Bacchus Marsh

Tradies 'face ruin' as solar agent collapses

31 August 2011, Page: 6

A COMPANY that acted as a clearing house for solar panel installers to trade their Renewable Energy Certificates has collapsed owing up to $7 million sparking warnings tradesmen will be forced to the wall.

Creditors to the company Well Being Green, which was placed in administration this month, will next week receive a report into its affairs that is expected to show directors moved about $1.6m out of the company in the weeks before it collapsed. Of this, more than $500,000 is suspected to have been sent to Pakistan, where Ali Obeid, the brother of the company's sole director, Nasir Naveed, moved to after the administrator was appointed.

Mr Naveed has told the company's administrator most of the money taken out of the company was used to pay creditors and to fund a call centre. Administrator Pino Fiorentino said he was examining the withdrawals from the company and the transfers to Pakistan as far back as 2007. He said Mr Naveed had been co-operating with his inquiries, giving him access to records, and had told him most of the withdrawals had been used to pay creditors. He had claimed the money that had been transferred to Pakistan had been used to fund a call centre.

But Brian Carroll, whose Allsafe Energy Efficient Products is owed $1.2m, said the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator should have conducted due diligence and warned installers there were risks in using an intermediary. Mr Carroll's company runs nine stores and employs about 40 people. solar panels and solar hotwater systems generate Renewable Energy Certificates and installers pay householders the value of the certificates and then redeem them through intermediaries. "One or two stores have a real prospect of having to close their doors very, very soon he said."

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said disputes between solar panel installers and intermediaries usually needed to be handled under the normal commercial and consumer dispute resolution processes. "Registration (in the scheme) allows a person to hold legal title to certificates it was not created to be a government endorsement of a company or t heir products", he said.

Welcome to the rust-bucket state

31 August 2011, Page: 16

THE myopic Baillieu government's draconian new restrictions on wind farms will mean forfeiting more than $3 billion of expected investment and hundreds of clean jobs ("Baillieu's wind farm crackdown", The Age, 30/8). It seems you can build houses and industry in green wedges and open a coal mine anywhere in Victoria, but wind turbines that threaten only the outdated and polluting brown coal-powered dinosaurs like Hazelwood are taboo.

Given the choice, one imagines rural arid regional voters would prefer to live next door to an elegant windmill than a dirty, noisy, open-cut coal mine with its health-damaging noxious pollutants any day. Why does the short-sighted government favour the coal industry and developers but not the entrepreneurs of the future? Hello, rust bucket.

Lynne Holroyd, East Hawthorn

Double standards?
Anglesea residents are left questioning what the two-kilometre exclusion zone for wind farms means for those who live within two kilometres of a coal mine. If this exclusion zone is due to alleged health concerns from the noise of wind turbines, we, too, have health concerns from the effects of airborne particles of coal that need to be tackled.

The Great Ocean Rd is off limits to wind turbines but the mine, adjacent to the road, does not, of course, make an immediate visual impact. The impacts are to the unique flora and fauna of the region and the long-term health risks of breathing in coal particles.

A decision by the Planning Minister on the renewal of the Anglesea mining lease for a further 50 years is expected within weeks. The minister needs to consider the health risks of living close to a coal mine if he is to avoid being accused of double standards. If it is not OK to live within two kilometres of a wind turbine, then how can it be OK to live within two kilometres of a coal mine?

Caroline Hawkins, president, Surf Coast Energy Group, Anglesea

Europeans accept change
I'VE just returned from Europe. wind farms are everywhere--near tourist attractions, along roads where it is particularly windy; anywhere appropriate, and especially near townships and houses, because that's where the consumers of electricity are. No one seems to have a problem with them. They also don't develop in green wedges, allow cattle to graze in their national parks, or try to make it easier to log old growth forest.

Europeans seem to have no problem accepting that, despite their per-capita emissions being way below ours, that something has to change. It's a pity we are not led by leaders. The best I can manage out of my local member, Ted Baillieu, is a form letter in reply to my concerns, uttering vague niceties about planning and the economy, and attacking the opposition.

Tim Connors, Canterbury

Monday 12 September 2011

Victoria faces electricity woes

The Age
Wednesday 31/8/2011

VICTORIA and South Australia will need new electricity generation capacity earlier than previously forecast as a result of continued stronger than expected demand. The latest forecasts, to be released today by the Australian Energy Market Operator in its annual Statement of Opportunities, brings forward by 12 months to 2014-15 the need for new generation capacity in the two states, from last year's forecast.

And buoyant demand from the resource sector, with new coalmine developments coupled with export liquefied natural gas projects, will result in Queensland also needing more power stations in the national electricity market. Western Australia and the Northern Territory are not in the market because they are not connected to the grid linking the eastern states.

Queensland will need an estimated 341 MWs of new baseload capacity by 2013-14, based on steady economic growth. But if growth is slower, this could push out to 2015-16. Alternately, faster growth would bring that forward to 2012-13. Victoria needs a further 96 MW by 2014-15, with South Australia needing another 46 MW. Victoria has 2650 MW of gas-fired electricity capacity under planning, with a further 4815 MW of wind power, according to AEMO.

"The [national electricity] market is still growing at 1000 MW per annum, roughly", AEMO managing director Matt Zema said. "We still need investment in generation in all the regions, at different times. "Queensland is first cab off the rank at 2013-14, then Victoria/South Australia in 2014-15and then New South Wales 2018-19. "Demand is still growing in most of the regions. Queensland is growing a lot faster than the rest and that's basically driven by both the mining and LNG [sectors]".

Mr Zema said the forecasts were finalised before the government released details of the S23-a-tonne carbon tax, but they do incorporate a $10-$12 carbon price. "The [proposed carbon price] doesn't have a big impact in the first five years of the [forecast]", Mr Zema said, as any closure of generation capacity that might follow the carbon tax would not be until the second half of the decade.

Windfall: $1.3 billion turbine deal to power 225,000 homes

Adelaide Advertiser
31 August 2011

One of the biggest windfarms in the Southern Hemisphere-a $1.3 billion investment-will be built on Yorke Peninsula. The wind farm, to be located about 20 km south-west of Ardrossan, near Pine Point, will generate up to 600 MW of electricity a day, which is about 25% of the state's daily consumption. It will provide enough power for 225,000 homes a year.

A huge undersea cable will link the wind farm's 180 turbines with the main power grid in Adelaide. It is one of the key projects Premier Mike Rann wanted to lock in before he stands down on October 20. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, creating 500 jobs during construction, and will provide 50 ongoing positions over 25 years.

The Suzlon Energy group, based in India, is developing the wind farm. The project will also involve a pilot power plant that would convert biomass into energy, which would also be fed into South Australia's power supply. Biomass is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. These include municipal solid waste, dead trees and clippings, which can be used to generate electricity or produce heat. Further wind farm development is expected in South Australia following the Victorian Government decision to introduce tough new guidelines for the generators.

There have been protests from landowners in South Australia about wind farms being located close to their properties-the latest in the south-east, where the Environment, Resources and Development Court blocked the proposed $175 million Acciona Energy wind farm at Allendale East. There have also been growing protests from residents in the mid-North about wind farms on the grounds of their possible health dangers.

Suzlon Energy EnergyAustralia chief executive Dan Hansen said the project, to be known as Ceres Power and named after a steamship with sails that was built in 1976 for a South Australian company, had been initiated by Yorke Peninsula farmers and local developers. Suzlon Energy has already installed 6 windfarms in South Australia with an installed capacity of 507 MW and already employs 92 people here. "The Ceres Power project will create local jobs, place the region on the global map as a leader in renewable technologies and give Peninsula farmers and landowners the opportunity to diversify their income streams", Mr Hansen said.

Mr Hansen said it was estimated the project would save up to 2600 million litres of clean water had the power been produced from a coal-fired source. "This is consistent with a commitment by the South Australian government in June, 2009, to increase its renewable energy production target to 33% by 2020", he said.

Mr Rann described the new development as "the mother of all windfarms", although he said it would have to go through the normal regulatory and planning processes. "It will be one of the biggest windfarms in the world", he told The Advertiser yesterday. "Currently, with only 7.2% of Australia's population we have 54% of Australia's wind power. We have, per capita, 5 times more wind power than Victoria and 10 times more than New South Wales". Mr Rann said South Australia was now "in the box seat for future wind power development". He said this had been done without costing taxpayers any money.

An ill wind may blow

Herald Sun
30 August 2011, Page: 25

HUNDREDS of householders in Morwell live within 2km of the proposed HRL coal-fired power station, though they have no say on whether it goes ahead. But under the Baillieu Government's new rules, if HRL were building a wind farm, any one of those people could stop the project just by saying no. Does Ted Baillieu only like electricity if it comes with pollution?

Andrew Bray, Ballarat

Baillieu's legacy

30 August 2011, Page: 12

VICTORIA used to seem staid and sensible. Not any more. The government seems set on anti-environmental pranks on an almost daily basis. Cows in parks, developments in green wedges, species protection in forests being rethought and now, not content with a report suggesting fewer jobs will be created under a carbon tax, they are keen to thwart windfarms. We may not be blessed with as many mining resources as other states, but what we do have, in abundance, is wind.

Why would we forgo this advantage especially since farming and wind turbines can coexist, with no proven health impacts? There does not seem to be broad community agitation for any of the recent changes. So why do it, just to please a well connected handful? Has this government stopped to consider its legacy of environmental stewardship or is it just too busy ticking off favours to Liberal and National party "mates"?

Jo McCubbin, Sale

Wind farm a winner, but not under new rules

30 August 2011, Page: 2

TWO months ago Australia's first community-owned wind farm was honoured by Premier Ted Baillieu. The Hepburn Community Wind Park won the community category in the annual Premier's Sustainability Award. The award was not without some irony. According to the project's chairman, Simon Holmes a Court, the two turbine plant about 10 kilometres from Daylesford would not have been built under the Premier's new wind farm regulations.

While heavily backed by the locals, with most of its nearly 2000 investors based in the region, the farm was opposed by a handful of residents living within two kilometres. "There is no way we would have got our project up under this policy", he said. Operating at Leonard's Hill since June, the Hepburn farm is expected to generate 12,200 MWs of power a year more than enough for the town's 2000 homes.

Mr Holmes a Court, who doubles as chairman of Embark Australia, a body that helps other communities develop renewable energy projects, said the policy would kill off small proposed wind farms at Woodend and Castlemaine. He said it also meant Victorians were unlikely to end up with its share of the national 20% renewable energy target by the end of the decade. "Victoria will miss out on the coming renewables boom", he says, while funding other states will go ahead.