Friday 30 September 2011

Libs sweep wind from turbine sails

The Saturday Age
24 Sep 2011, Page: 7

NEARLY four years ago, a small group of Woodend residents hatched a plan to power the historic town entirely on renewable energy. Three wind turbines would be built in a pine forest 6 km south of the town to generate enough energy to run not only Woodend, but also nearby Macedon, Mount Macedon and Newham. Wind speeds were modelled to determine the best location, community forums held, more than 500 signatures collected in support, and initial steps taken to start raising the $14 million needed. A smaller number of people expressed objections.

As of last month, the project is on hold, possibly dead, after the Baillieu government introduced Australia's most restrictive wind farm regulations. Under the changes, households have a right of veto over a turbine being built within two km of their home and wind farm exclusion zones were introduced across the state. The updated list of banned areas includes the entire Macedon Ranges shire.

Peter Hansford, a spokesman for WISE (Woodend Integrated Sustainability Energy), said project organisers were "surprised, disappointed and deflated" by the announcement. He said they had left a June meeting with Planning Minister Matthew Guy under the impression a decision over exclusion zones would be left to local councils, not dictated from Spring Street.

"All we were trying to do was to help the community take responsibility for its carbon and energy future. We're not sure why that power has been taken away", he says. "We are aware their are sensitivities around the development of wind farms in the Macedon Ranges shire, which is why we chose this site. We believe it ticks all the boxes in terms of location issues and economic benefits to the community" The Woodend proposal is one of four community wind farms blocked by the new regulations.

Others were planned for Castlemaine, the Surf Coast and under the Westgate Bridge. An analysis by environment group Friends of the Earth suggests that, once commercial developments are factored in, the regulation changes have already stalled or prevented the development of planned wind farms worth up to $955 million. Spokesman Can Walker said at least nine farms promising up to 580 construction and 57 permanent jobs were affected.

The government says the changes return "certainty and fairness" to local communities in areas where wind farms have been proposed, and that permits have been granted for about 1100 turbines that are yet to be built. Supporters of community wind power have called on Mr Guy to change the regulations to help small projects. Mount Alexander Shire Council recently passed a motion calling on the government to review the ban on wind farms east of the Calder Freeway near Castlemaine a site considered suitable for community-scale projects only.

The council asked the government to consider the potential economic benefit to the area. A two-turbine farm near Daylesford is estimated to have brought $7 million into the area during construction, offered permanent work to four locals, and generated power to run 2000 homes. Mr Guy said he had met with the group behind the Woodend proposal, and understood it faced other hurdles beyond the new regulations before it could have been built, including lacking permission to build on Crown land. He said he was yet to receive correspondence from Mount Alexander Shire Council about the Castlemaine proposal.

Coal power struggle: it's really a messy business

Sydney Morning Herald
24 Sep 2011, Page: 16

At the end of the day, a very large, very profitable multinational utility which owns a very old, very dirty brown coalfired power station in Victoria is likely to walk away from this "Clean Energy Future" carbon tax package with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. They'll be paid cash to shut down. Employees won't see a cent. The company won't be required to reinvest the money in cleaner energy. Lenders will be repaid and the balance will go whoosh! overseas.

The multi-party climate change committee's carbon tax package includes provisions for contracts to pay for closure of up to 2000 MWs of the country's dirtiest generation capacity, in the second half of this decade, after an expression-of-interest process starting this month. The touted winner is foreign giant International Power-GDF Suez, owner of the controversial 1675-MW Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley.

International Power, which combined with GDF Suez in February, has a market value of more than $86 billion. Last year, its Australian operations, including Hazelwood and the nearby 70%owned Loy Yang power station B (1026 MWs), were its most profitable globally, making $676 million from sales of $1.89 billion, based on average foreign exchange rates. In the first half of this year it made another $266 million here, in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

When a carbon price comes in, Hazelwood power station will struggle to compete. It will send power less often to the grid and it will make less revenue per unit of electricity generated. That's the point of bringing in a carbon price: internalising the cost of carbon pollution will tilt the electricity market away from dirtier generation. Left to themselves, the generators would have to clean up or go out of business.

The live question is whether Hazelwood power station and its brown coal peers would be able to stay in business long enough to cleanup by passing their increased costs on to electricity retailers and, ultimately, consumers. Climate change adviser Ross Garnaut said yes. Industry and most analysts say no, although, last Friday, Ken Thompson, a top executive at Loy Yang power stationA (2200 MWs, the country's biggest brown coal-fired generator), told a Senate inquiry commercially sensitive modelling suggested generators could pass on two-thirds of the cost, resulting in a 30% jump in wholesale electricity prices and a 10% rise in retail prices.

Just to be sure they can cope, the coal-fired generators are being showered in transitional assistance, byway of free pollution permits. 1n2009, it was the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme, providing permits worth $7.3 billion over 10 years under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This time around it's just $5.6 billion over five years, more tightly focused on the brown coal generators, but still generous-and there's an unspecified amount for closure contracts on top.

The Greens voted the old CPRS down because it "locked in failure". The ESAS was a big part of the problem. It not only gave too much assistance to generators, it required them to keep burning coal for a decade! Combine that with low targets, excessive industry compensation, high reliance on overseas permits and lack of complementary measures to promote renewable s and.., down it went. The new carbon price package addresses many of the other problems but an ESAS is still there and it sticks in the craw.

"I don't justify it", Greens deputy leader Christine Milne says. "I still think it's a very bad idea. Throughout the entire CEF [Clean Energy Future] negotiations, I argued in all meetings there was no need to be compensating coal-fired power stations and pointed out at every turn that these power stations have known for years a shift to reducing emissions was coming and they ought to have factored it into their costings". So why back it this time? Milne blames the "extreme conservatism" of the bodies that run the grid, the Australian Energy Market Commission and the Australian Energy Market Operator.

"We argued very strongly with them but they maintained their position that, to maintain energy security under carbon pricing, you needed to provide compensation byway of permits to coal-fired generators", she says. "Then, the government made it clear that there is no way government can take a course of action which is opposed by independent operators of the energy market". After insisting the AEMC put its advice in writing, Milne folded. "In my view, it is their view that has led to what is effectively a misallocation of public money", she says.

But absolutely nothing about the commission's advice was new or had changed since 2009, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says: "The advice to government on both occasions was that there was a risk to energy security that was appropriate to mitigate". A secret Morgan Stanley report in 2009 found certain debt-laden generators could suffer financial distress if a carbon price came in without transitional assistance. A government Investment Reference Group report earlier this year, backed by Deloitte, also painted a dire picture.

Power-station asset values would fall-witness the prices paid in the NSW electricity privatisation, 30-40% below book value. Generators were strapped as bank lenders, anticipating a carbon price, increased principal repayment requirements-"in some cases via a mandatory sweep of all available cashflow except for a small management fee payable to equity".

The AEMC's advice to the multi-party climate change committee stoked fears of insolvency and contagion although it stressed the concern was not about the financial position of the generators per Se, but rather its impacts on the efficient functioning of the overall market and its consequences for energy security". Comb et makes the same point, saying transitional assistance is not a handout and is not about offsetting asset devaluation or depreciation. "It's about ensuring there is stability", he says.

Are energy security fears overblown, though? ACIL Tasman chief Paul Hyslop told The Australian Financial Review recently a carbon price could affect asset values, and the interests of debt and equity investors might clash, but it was unlikely supply would be affected. "I don't think security of supply is a risk because, ultimately, the government, through the market operator, can step in and direct plant to run", he said. When bully generators threaten the energy supply by stalling maintenance or handing the keys back to the banks-it's called "blackout-mail", intimidation of politicians fearful of a public backlash if the lights go out. "Complete garbage", Combet says.

Bluster? We'll know by the price the government agrees with International Power, if indeed Hazelwood is to close. The 2009 accounts of IP subsidiary Hazelwood Power Finance stated the value of assets potentially affected by a carbon price had risen to $2.053 billion at the end of 2009 but the most recent accounts sidestep a valuation. Colonial First State is believed to have written off its 8% stake, so the uncertainty is acute. A less likely alternative to pay to close the marginally cleaner Yallourn W power station (1480 MWs, valued at $1.7 billion at June 30, according to TRUEnergy's parent, Hong Kong-listed China Light and Power).

TRUEnergy, is hoping to float on the ASX next year and the book value of Yallourn W power station is the biggest obstacle. The last thing Australian equity funds want to buy is a brown coal power station. Environment Victoria's campaigns director, Mark Wakeham, supports payments for closure-"at least there's some public interest outcome", unlike paying the generators to stay open-but he wants it to start soon, with turbines closing from next year and proceeding at roughly 250 MWs a year. The brown coal generators get money either way, whether via transitional assistance or payments for closure. It's pay day for the greenhouse mafia.

Twitter: @gpaddynnanning

Thursday 29 September 2011

Investors raise doubts on Abbott climate plan

Sydney Morning Herald
24 Sep 2011, Page: 4

INVESTOR analysts have raised serious questions about Tony Abbott's "Direct Action" climate policy, saying it is highly unlikely to achieve Australia's promised greenhouse gas reductions at the Coalition's "capped" $10.5 billion price. The Coalition aims to achieve 60% of Australia's total abatement task through soil carbon at a cost of between $8 and $10 a tonne a price essential for the Coalition to achieve its 10-year budget for the policy of $10.5 billion. In a recent brief, Citigroup told investors "we think the Coalition's assumptions about the potential for soil carbon are far too optimistic".

"Shadow minister Greg Hunt referred us to work and comments by the CSIRO and National Farmers Federation in support of soil carbon potential. Our investigations actually found these organisations to be cautious about predicting volumes and costs,.. We conclude that there is a high degree of uncertainty over both technical and financial aspects of soil carbon", a senior analyst, Elaine Prior, wrote. "We doubt that soil carbon will deliver the abatement levels and low costs assumed by the Coalition, so we think either higher expenditure will be needed or the 5% target (for emissions reductions by 2020) won't be met".

The Citi Investment Research analyst's reservations come as Nathan Fabian, the chief executive of the Investment Group on Climate Change, representing super funds and investment managers with more than $600 billion under management, said he did not believe the Coalition's policy was sustainable. "You cannot meet substantial emission reductions on the government balance sheet,.. the issue we see is that if you pay some companies in the economy to reduce emissions you aren't paying other companies whose emissions could still grow enormously,.. we don't believe a policy based on paying for abatement is a sensible long-term option", he said.

Mr Fabian said he did not believe the carbon price would have a serious financial impact on any companies and suggested some businesses had been exaggerating its impact to get more government compensation. "What companies say in the public domain is probably more to do with how they wish to be treated by government in terms of assistance than their underlying financial position", he told the Senate select committee on climate change. Mr Fabian said his group was also "closely watching" development of the government's proposed clean energy fund.

Solar dream gets caught in gridlock

Courier Mail
24 Sep 2011, Page: 4

THE solar power revolution is in danger of stalling, with the State Government admitting the electricity grid is failing to cope with its green vision. Energy Minister Stephen Robertson confirmed new applications for rooftop solar systems were being rejected in areas where Queensland's high uptake threatened the safety and reliability of its network. Thousands of homeowners hoping for promised power savings of up to $540 via a 1.5kW system are in limbo, with those wanting larger systems even being asked to pay more than $20,000 to help cover local upgrades.

Energex said the state's electricity network since the 1950s had been designed to deliver power from the station to the home and the voltage now heading "the other way" was causing a huge dilemma. Following advice from engineering experts, no more systems will be automatically approved when the penetration of solar photovoltaic systems hits 30% in neighbourhoods. The penetration refers to the maximum capacity of the transformer supplying the local zone, which can include 50 homes. In a bid to cut power bills, more than 107,000 Queensland households have jumped at the Solar Bonus Scheme, launched in 2008, exporting 72.5 million kW hours back to the grid.

However, unless significant, costly upgrades are completed, many who might want to add solar panels in the future may not be able to. Energex is warning Queenslanders considering installing solar to make applications well before entering a contract with an installer in case they are not able to proceed. Spokesman Mike Swanston told the Courier Mail about 600 local distribution transformer zones on the Gold Coast, Brisbane Valley and Sunshine Coast had reached saturation.

Mr Swanston said, at this stage, only a handful of applications had been "rejected outright", but he confirmed that 30% saturation was the "trigger" for applications to be investigated. He said the areas reaching capacity were very localised and "one street may be OK, yet the next street cannot accept any more,generation without upgrading". "As a general rule, applications to connect systems over 3kW capacity in rural residential areas where there is already solar photovoltaic nearby are being examined closely".

Mudgeeraba resident Andries Kaden was stunned when his application for a 10kW system was knocked back. Mr Kaden was told there were enough solar systems in the area and the transformer would have to be upgraded for him to install one. "Energex told me if I wanted to proceed I would have to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for an upgrade", he said. "I couldn't believe it because we have all been told to grab this, but it's not possible. You had better get in quick if you want solar is all I can say. "I fought this all the way to the minister and they have since said I can have the system but I am a guinea pig to see if the network can handle it".

Mr Robertson advised Mr Kaden he was to be part of a trial "to see if the electricity network can operate at higher penetration levels". With regard to the request for payment, he said that if Energex did not ask for capital contributions in situations such as this, the cost would "ultimately be reflected in the electricity tariffs, to the detriment of all customers". Opposition energy spokesman Steve Dickson said it was another example of a government that failed to plan while running with spin about being clean and green. "They've rushed out with the solar program without properly checking on whether distribution systems can actually handle the uptake", he said. "We have all these people who are being invited to go solar because it's better for the planet and will reduce their bills, but the reality is their applications may be knocked back because we don't have the infrastructure".

Mr Swanston said voltage management on the network and in household wiring was historically set up with one-way power flow in mind. "With embedded generation, customers are able to inject power back into the network, reversing the flow and changing the profile of the voltage (or electrical pressure)", he said. "It is similar to the water network the pipes get smaller and the pressure is designed to be lower as you get closer to the house. Start pumping water backwards into the small household pipes and strange things happen". Energex is trying to solve problems by requesting the size of the generator be reduced, adjusting base voltage, making changes to street connections, or suggesting customers change consumption patterns to use the generated energy in the home more effectively.

Ron Flynn, of Sunshine Coast solar company SolarOn, said the industry was well aware of technical challenges caused by the high uptake of solar systems in some areas. Mr Flynn said there was no doubt infrastructure had to be upgraded to match the demand if the industry was to thrive into the future. He said, because it was no longer a given that applications would be approved, he worked with clients to identify hurdles before any contracts or money changed hands. In some cases, he said, a solution might be to reduce the size of the system applied for: "I think it is the responsibility of the solar company to educate customers and help them with applications. You can't just sell a system knowing the client may be knocked back, or asked to pay for an upgrade to infrastructure".

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet recently hinted he might pressure states to dump or wind back solar schemes because they might be a waste of money. Mr Robertson said Queensland's Solar Bonus Scheme was the most successful scheme of its type in Australia. He said it provided Queenslanders with affordable access to solar power, helped them save money and was also helping create green jobs. "Today, there are approximately 1000 accredited solar installers in Queensland, compared with just 78 before our scheme started".

Switching to gas may accelerate warming

Canberra Times
24 Sep 2011, Page: 10

Switching from coal-fired power stations to gas could actually speed up climate change over the next few decades, according to new research challenging accepted wisdom about low-emissions fuel. Although burning natural gas generally releases fewer greenhouse emissions than coal, the latter releases sulfates and other particles that cool the Earth by blocking some of the sun's light. The study, published in the peer reviewed journal Climatic Change Letters, measured the relative impact of the two fuels and found using more gas would "slightly accelerate" the rate of global warming until at least 2050.

Study author Tom Wigley, a co-director of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and an adjunct professor at the University of Adelaide, said, "In principle, gas-fired power is more efficient but when you consider the full range of effects of burning coal, there are other problems that it creates. "Using more gas would reduce CO₂ emissions but it would also lead to more methane being released, and that has a much higher global warming potential", he said.

The climate model used in the study is calibrated to models used by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. The study has implications for Australia because the Federal Government's carbon tax is aimed in part at replacing the nation's coal-fired plants with gas, as well as making renewable energy cheaper compared to fossil fuels. Whether the research is taken into account would depend on whether it is accepted as part of the next assessment produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014.

Methane is 20 to 30 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO₂. Professor Wigley's paper, Coal to Gas: The Influence of Methane Leakage, found that if the amount of methane leaking from gas wells and pipelines around the world could be held below 2.5% of the total amount of methane used, the world's temperature would still rise, but increase about a 10th of a degree more slowly by the year 2100. If the leakage rate was higher, it would take even longer to start slowing temperature increases.

If the amount of methane that leaked was reduced to zero, the rate at which the world was warming up would slow slightly from about 2050. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association says the rate of leaks from coal seam gas wells in Australia is negligible, and all "fugitive" emissions are accounted for when gas companies report their emissions to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Power stations in Queensland that run solely on coal seam gas produce greenhouse emissions that are up to 73% less per MW of electricity than Hazelwood power station in Victoria, which burns brown coal, the association said.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

The Landscape Guardians – don't believe them

The article at the following link provides an in-depth look at the so-called “Landscape Guardians", what they claim to be concerned about and who actually backs them.

Readers will discover the guardians don't really care much about the landscape but in fact are really an anti-windfarm front doing the dirty work for some powerful vested groups and individuals associated with mining interests.

The ugly Landscape of the Guardians by Sandi Keane

Nuclear power plants backed at world talks

Adelaide Advertiser
24 Sep 2011, Page: 77

JAPAN'S Fukushima accident six months ago provoked major worries worldwide about nuclear power, but now the dust has settled it is clear atomic energy still has a rosy future. This at least was the main message of this year's 55th annual gathering of the 151-nation International Atomic Energy Agency at the UN body's headquarters in Vienna, which was due to wrap up last night. With just a few exceptions, most notably Germany, governments have moved to reassure themselves that their nuclear power is safe and that its two main advantages remain: it is not fossil fuel based, and it is cheap.

For India's nuclear chief the "role of nuclear power as a safe, clean and viable source to meet energy needs, as well as to adequately address the concerns of,.. climate change, cannot be undermined". The fast-growing, energy-hungry Asian giant is still planning a "major expansion" in nuclear power, Srikumar Banerjee said, having satisfied itself with a series of safety reviews that an Indian Fukushima was highly unlikely. Fellow emerging giant China, too, ordered safety inspections and stopped green-lighting new plants in Fukushima's immediate aftermath, but state media reported this week that approvals would resume in 2012.

Fellow BRICS (Brazil Russia India China) member Brazil is also sticking with reactor-building plans, as is South Africa, having decided to conduct "safety assessments" in light of Japan's experiences, the country's IAEA envoy Xolisa Mfundiso Mabhongo said. "Informed by the Fukushima accident, South Africa undertook various activities because we were convinced, like others, that we could no longer take a business-as-usual approach to nuclear safety", Mr Mabhongo said in Vienna.

The IAEA this week also endorsed an "action plan" encouraging the around 150 member states to conduct fresh safety assessments and invite foreign experts to conduct "peer reviews" of reactors. South Korea, which currently produces almost 40% of its electricity with 21 nuclear reactors, plans to build more, the country's envoy to the IAEA, Cho Hyun, said. After Fukushima, Seoul "immediately took measures to enhance nuclear safety standards", he said. "People know that we have to keep it. Korea is an industrialised country in need of cheap and reliable power".

A substantial increase in the amount of electricity generated with renewable sources like solar or wind power "requires huge investment" and is not possible "overnight", the ambassador said, l'he US, which generates a fifth of its electricity from nuclear plants, ordered a review after Fukushima but atomic energy is still a key element in President Barack Obama's plans to wean the country off fossil fuels.

In Europe, Germany decided to switch off all reactors by 2022 after Fukushima. Italian voters voted "no" to atomic energy in a referendum while Switzerland aims to phase out nuclear power by 2034. But these are exceptions. For the most part, European governments saw nothing in what happened at Fukushima, where engineers are still working to plug radiation leaks, to change their nuclear plans. France, the world's leading producer with about 75% of its power from nuclear, and Britain, where it accounts for 15%, have made no fundamental changes to their energy policies.

After Fukushima, the IAEA trimmed its forecasts for nuclear power usage in the coming decades, but its minimum projection is still for 90 new reactors to spring up worldwide by 2030. There may even be 350 more, it thinks. "Other countries are not in the affluent situation of Germany" to be able to turn its back on nuclear power, said agency head of projections Hans-Holger Rogner.

Mill waste to go to landfill

26 Sep 2011, Page: 4

CHANGES to renewable energy rules that ban native timber from attracting credits under the carbon tax regime will result in waste from a central NSW sawmill being dumped at a tip instead of burned for renewable electricity generation. Boral Timber said the changes to the treatment of mill wood waste from native forest sawlogs "results in very poor environmental outcomes for our business".

In a letter to federal Liberal member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, executive general manager Bryan Tisher says the proposed changes in the Renewable Energy Certificate scheme as part of the carbon package will result in the waste being sent to landfills, where it will produce methane emissions. Methane emissions are considered more dangerous than CO₂ emissions. He said the waste had been sent to a cogeneration facility at Condong, NSW, but the withdrawal of native sawlogs from the program would make that unviable. "We will no longer be able to send our fibre to cogeneration facilities" as these facilities required RECs. "This legislative change inhibit important bioenergy investments that Boral Timber was investigating at its Herons Creek timber mill, near Port Macquarie", he said.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the issue was a classic example of confusion resulting from the carbon tax. "Emissions will go up rather than down. Material that would have been used will now be wasted", he said. "Even Sir Humphrey would be proud". A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the RET regulations would be amended so that wood waste from native forest would no longer be eligible to create Renewable Energy Certificates. However, all biomass combustion had been excluded from the carbon price in section 30 of the Clean Energy Bill and there would be transitional arrangements for existing accredited power stations.

Hydro powers up to record $100m profit

Hobart Mercury
23 Sep 2011, Page: 15

Hydro Tasmania has announced a record $100 million annual profit The result was up more than $20 million on last year's profit and was underpinned by greater rainfall, improved corporate efficiency, booming interstate sales and increased exports via Basslink. Hydro chairman David Crean said. The business will return $51.7 million to government, up from $13 million last year. "We've had a very good year for Hydro Tasmania", Dr Crean said. "This result has been on the back of a far more efficient organisation post-Basslink and of course two years of good rainfall. "This improvement is almost entirely due to our growth on the mainland through our retail arm momentum and through our wholesale contract position on the mainland. "The interstate growth strategy is delivering dividends".

The government-owned business also expected to pay increasing dividends to government over coming years, Dr Crean said. "This financial year we will return $119 million to the State Government and we expect that to reach $180 million by 2016", he said. The Basslink electricity interconnector had shown its value last year by exporting more than 1300 GWs into the national electricity market, often at premium prices during times of high demand.

"Basslink has really demonstrated its dual purpose. It has demonstrated on the one hand its ability to provide security of supply, keeping the lights on in times of drought", Dr Crean said. "On the other hand it has demonstrated our ability to export into the national market at high prices and import at low prices". The Federal Government's carbon price was a plus for Australia's largest renewable energy generator, but Hydro Tasmania was expecting a modest windfall from the new laws. "Certainly not $200 million, $100 million probably not and it could be below $50 million", Dr Crean said. Liberal energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the profit should be directed towards reducing the cost of electricity for Tasmanian customers.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Baillieu warned not to go it alone on climate

21 Sep 2011, Page: 2

VICTORIA'S Treasury warned the Baillieu government to avoid ''state-based'' climate change policies because a national carbon price was the best way to cut emissions. Treasury's ''blue book'' brief to the incoming government also urged it to wind back any measures promoting particular renewable technologies, saying ''picking winners'' in climate change policy was ''costly and distortionary''. The brief, obtained by The Age, says the state government should review climate policies to prepare Victoria for the eventual introduction of a national carbon price.

''A national price on carbon is the most efficient and effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,'' it says. ''State-based climate change mitigation policies should be avoided.'' Premier Ted Baillieu has backed the concept of a price on carbon. But in recent weeks the government has stepped up its attack on the Gillard government's carbon tax, claiming the plan provides Victoria with insufficient compensation and will penalise the state because of its brown coal dependence.

Spring Street has also backed away from a legislated target to cut state greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020, despite signing up to it in opposition. It is preparing to back away from state renewable energy targets. Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien labelled the targets of the former Labor government an ''expensive gimmick'' after an audit report found the proportion of the state's power generated using clean energy sources had barely increased despite investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The briefing reveals that Treasury seemed to agree: ''The promotion of particular renewable technologies, being both costly and distortionary, should also be avoided and existing measures wound back.'' Meanwhile, federal government climate adviser Ross Garnaut has warned that other countries will be ''significantly discouraged'' if Australia does nothing to mitigate the effects of climate change.

''We are famous as the developed country with the highest per capita emissions,'' Professor Garnaut told a business seminar in Sydney. ''If we chose to do nothing, that will be significantly discouraging for other countries.'' He acknowledged there was uncertainty in predicting climate change mitigation costs. ''Even in the few years between 2007 and 2011 we were finding that the costs of a number of the new technologies were significantly lower than what we had been assuming.''

CBD buys wind farm

22 Sep 2011, Page: 21

CBD Energy, an Australian developer of renewables, and its partners have acquired a planned 100 MW wind power project in NSW from Britain's RES Southern Cross Group. The Taralga wind farm in the Southern Highlands has government approval for 61 turbines, Sydney-listed CBD Energy said yesterday. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

CBD Energy is a partner with China Datang Renewable Power and Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric in the AusChina Energy Group, which bought the right to build the wind farm, including the land needed for the project. The joint venture plans to develop $6 billion worth of renewable energy projects over the next eight years. Construction of the Taralga wind farm may start this year, with completion due in 2013, CBD Energy said. CBD Energy shares rose 9% to 9.5¢ on the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday.

Climate change blamed as stronger winds breeze in

22 Sep 2011, Page: 8

WIND speeds in Australia have increased by about 14% over the past two decades, but you may not have noticed because the speed of the air just above the ground has actually slowed down. CSIRO scientists analysing data collected since 1975 at numerous wind stations around the country found the average speed measured 10m above the ground had increased by about 0.7% per year, whereas that measured 2m above the ground had slowed by about 0.4% per year over the same period.

Moreover, they found that the weakest winds had increased in speed but the fastest and strongest winds increased more slowly by comparison good news for wind farm developers but potentially bad news for farmers. Alberto Troccoli, head of the CSIRO's Weather and Energy Research Unit, said the difference between the measure at 2m and 10m was due to the lower stations being shielded by obstacles such as trees and buildings, and that the higher station provided the more accurate measure.

"We think the overall increase is caused by the widening of the tropical belt, due to climate change", he said. He said the findings were important because international studies had found wind speeds generally decreasing overall in other parts of the world. "The way in which the largescale patterns change in the atmosphere is such that we have losers and winners", he said. The findings were significant for wind farm developers as they meant increased productivity, but there were implications for agriculture and building.

Russell Marsh, the policy director at the Clean Energy Council, said the findings would affect investment decisions, but government policy changes were also required. "The bankability of wind power projects is dependent on accurate wind data, and the CSIRO's work will be important for many wind companies in making decisions about investment in Australia", he said. "Although the CSIRO's research on wind speeds is good news for wind-power development, supportive government policies will continue to provide the strongest incentive for the industry". Dick Whitaker, the chief meteorologist with the Weather Channel, said winds were caused by contrasts in atmospheric temperature, and he was not surprised by the finding they had increased due to climate change.

Monday 26 September 2011

Bye solar factory, hail world-class R&D powerhouse

Summaries - Australian Financial ReviewI
20 Sep 2011, Page: 4

Although the decision by solar cells producer Silex Systems to shut down its Sydney plant is bad news for the local solar industry the ability of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to develop engineering skills that assist solar cell manufacturing offers compensation. Richard Corkish, head of the school of photovoltaic and renewable energy engineering at UNSW, says that Australia's expertise in the field has led to acclaim particularly in Asia.

The opening of the Australian Solar Institute in 2009 is another positive for the sector and signals that the federal government is supportive of research efforts. Like UNSW the Australian National University is also active in east Asia while the two universities have seen former students become globally recognised in the solar industry. Founder of the world's biggest solar panel maker Suntech Power, Zhengrong Shi, is one such student who graduated from UNSW.

An example of the ongoing relationship between UNSW and its former student can be found in expertise from the university which Suntech Power incorporates in its Pluto LNG project cells which are used at the Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Town Hall. Mr Corkish also feels that Australia should be making efforts to encourage Suntech Power and Trina Solar to use the country as a base for their research and development needs. Mr Corkish also believes that a similar approach adopted for the proposed takeover of the Australian Securities Exchange could be used to make Australia a hub for solar research in the region.

State “fudges carbon figures" – Victoria not worst hit

21 Sep 2011, Page: 1

THE Baillieu government's credibility on climate change has been undermined after economic modelling that it commissioned contradicted its own repeated claims that Victoria would be the hardest hit state under a carbon price. The embarrassment was compounded when state Treasurer Kim Wells gave a gaffe-filled media conference, in which he erroneously denied that the state had a legislated goal of cutting greenhouse emissions by 20% this decade.

And despite describing the target as "aspirational, Mr Wells would not say that the government aspired to meet it. A report by consultants Deloitte found projections of Victoria's gross state product were lower under a carbon price than without one but that the state would be less affected by 2030 than Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and the nation as a whole.

Questioned over whether he disagreed with the consultants who the government paid to do the report Mr Wells insisted that Victoria would suffer more than WA and Queensland, which were rapidly growing mining states. He said a carbon price would devastate Victorian families and businesses. "We maintain that over the longer period it will hit Victoria the hardest", he said.

The Deloitte modelling found about 35,000 fewer jobs would be created in Victoria by 2015 under a carbon price than if it was not introduced, and that investment would be $6.3 billion or 6.6% lower. It estimated that average income would rise, but be $1050 less than it otherwise would have been in 2015. The Latrobe Valley, Barwon, Geelong and Ballarat were tipped to be among the worst affected areas.

But the modelling did not factor in federal compensation, including $5.5 billion for the owners of coal power plants and $500 million for the steel industry. Nor did it consider the proposed $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. A separate analysis by ACIL Tasman found 97% of the coal power compensation would go to Victorian plants. In a gruelling media conference, Mr Wells said the Victorian 20% greenhouse target was "aspirational" and "not in legislation". In fact it was included in the Climate Change Act, introduced last year by the Labor government without opposition from the Coalition.

He was also unaware of key differences between Deloitte modelling and an analysis by federal Treasury. Mr Wells claimed there were only two differences between the two sets of modelling the Commonwealth believed there would be a greater drop in real wages, and was more optimistic about the pace of transition to dean energy But in what Deloitte described as a "fundamental difference", the state government figures assumed that Australia would make a deeper cut in emissions on its own soil and buy fewer international permits to meet its target of a 5% cut below 2000 levels by 2020.

It meant it predicted a greater impact on economic production, investment and employment than by Canberra. Deloitte said economic growth would continue to be strong, but found a carbon price would lead to national gross domestic product [GDP] being 22% lower in 2020 than it would have been without a price. In federal Treasury analysis, the difference was 0.3%. Opposition treasury spokesman Tim Holding said Mr Wells's media conference had been "disastrous", and that he had failed to answer even basic questions.

"Mr Wells gave every impression he hadn't even read his own report", he said. "In these challenging economic times, Victoria needs a strong, safe pair of hands, and these certainly don't belong to Kim Wells". The analysis finds 370,000 jobs will be created in Victoria by 2020 under a carbon price, compared with 388,000 if a price is not brought in.

Asked if an estimate of lost jobs growth was meaningful without consideration of the full compensation package, Mr Wells responded by saying he had visited the Alcoa aluminium smelter in Portland on Monday and was concerned it would be affected. Alcoa yesterday issued a statement saying its outlook was positive and it was confident of meeting the challenges of a high Australian dollar and a carbon price. Mr Wells said he did not know how much the report coast. A government spokesman later said it cost $100,000. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Deloitte figures were flawed and unreliable.

Wind farm plan for comment

Adelaide Advertiser
21 Sep 2011, Page: 63

PLANS for a new wind farm near Naracoorte in the South-East have been referred to the Federal Environment Department for public comment until September 29.

ACCIONA Energy lodged early environment assessment work under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), with field surveys showing two listed species were likely to use the potential project site. An EBS Ecology report lodged with the department referred to the South-East Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo and the Southern Bent-wing Bat.

However, it said the proposed Exmoor wind farm footprint would be "a very small" portion of the 4612ha project site 15km north of Naracoorte. The report also said Spanish owned ACCIONA Energy was committed to creating a 200m buffer from potential cockatoo feeding habitat in its final wind farm layout, and a 100m buffer for potential bat foraging habitat. "An assessment against the Commonwealth's Significant Impact Assessment Guidelines indicated the wind farm was unlikely to have a significant impact on the species", the report said. Following public comment, the Department advises whether or not formal assessment and approval under the EPBC Act is required.

An ACCIONA Energy spokesman said the company had begun initial investigations into the site "which may have potential for wind power". "An environmental survey of the area has been conducted and the findings from this will be considered as part of a referral submitted to the Commonwealth, in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act", he said.