Saturday 12 November 2011

Clean options look good for area written off as a wasteland
9 Nov 2011

FOR the federal government ''clean energy future'' is the slogan used to sell its carbon tax package. But for Whyalla, and the rest of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia-which Tony Abbott famously predicted would become ''a ghost town, an economic wasteland'' and even be ''wiped off the map'' under the carbon tax-clean energy is the future.

Mark Cant, a former Liberal candidate for the SA Parliament and now the chief executive of the Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula Regional Development Board, said the district had advanced plans to become a renewable energy centre. Advertisement: Story continues below ''We want to be one of the top 10 clean-energy regions in Australia,'' he told the Herald, rattling off a list of projects in the final stages of planning.

There's a wave energy pilot project set to begin in December, a rare earth minerals processing plant-providing metals used in modern technologies such as hybrid cars and iPods-also set to begin construction this year, well-advanced plans for a large-scale solar project and a study showing the region has the potential to provide big amounts of wind power.

Mr Cant said companies including Pacific Hydro, Orica and Origin Energy had bought land in the area and put up monitoring systems in preparation for possible wind-power investments and the region intended to apply to the federal government's clean energy fund for a high-voltage transmission line to connect the proposed projects to the national electricity network.

Mr Abbott's prediction (the ''wiped off the map'' phrase was repeating the forecast of a local union official) was based on the impact he believed the tax would have on OneSteel, the region's largest employer.

But when the carbon tax was announced, that company issued a statement saying it was ''appropriate and sensible''. The package offers OneSteel about $120 million of a $300 million, four-year steel assistance package. The company would also receive 95% of its required pollution permits free. But the industry remains under pressure because of the strong Australian dollar and the long-term impact of the tax, so OneSteel is reviewing its Whyalla operations.

Mr Cant said: ''What we are trying to do is to diversify Whyalla and the region, to get other industries to set up in our locality and most of those projects will benefit form the carbon tax,.. we want to become a manufacturing centre for the clean energy sector,.. ''We have competitive advantages in our location, our workforce and our port access. We see this as the way of the future.''

No cash for Bob’s mates

Australian Financial Review
9 Nov 2011

The chairwoman of Labor's $10 billion clean energy fund said it would not be handing out cash to "Bob Brown's friends", and warned that the money may not all be spent if p​roposed green projects did not meet strict commercial standards. Jillian Broadbent said it was important the economy developed a strong renewable energy industry to complement its resources sector and rejected claims by the opposition it would be a "Bob Brown slush fund" and put taxpayer funds at risk.

"It is not going to be day one - here is the money, come in and sign and take a whole pile of it", Ms Broadbent told The Australian Financial Review, "A lot of language of the opposition seems to suggest that type of approach - that you are going to be handing it out to Bob Brown's friends or something. It's weird", said Ms Broadbent, who is also a director of the Reserve Bank of Australia. "We are not printing money".

Announced as part of the carbon price package, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will invest in clean technologies through loans, loan guarantees and equity investment to attract private investors such as super funds, which so far have been reluctant to invest because of the perceived risk. The fund - to be set up next year - has been the subject of heavy criticism from the opposition, which has vowed to scrap it if elected.

Ms Broadbent, along with fellow senior finance sector figures David Paradice and Ian Moore, has been appointed to consult with key stakeholders and report to the government by mid - March 2012 on an implementation plan for the CEFC and its investment mandate. Ms Broadbent said it was important to see the CEFC as a component of federal and state governments' attempts to position Australia in a worldwide, low - carbon economy.

"It is a global dynamic and the sooner we set up a fund which is an integral part of that spectrum of ​policies, the better", she said. "In Australia we are a large exporter of black energy. China is one of the biggest investors in renewable energy and a lot of that has to do with how they want to position themselves for the future world, not the past world. "We have to position ourselves for the future world because we have done very well out of exporting energy and we want to be there when the technology is changing. We want to make sure that our energy doesn't get rejected just because it is black".

Appointed chancellor of the ​University of Wollongong in 2009, Ms Broadbent started her career as an economist at the RBA before moving to Bankers Trust, where she was executive vice - president. Ms Broadbent was named Qantas businesswoman of the year in 1987 and went on to serve on the boards of Qantas, Westfield, Woodside Petroleum and Coca-Cola Amatil. She is now a director of ASX Ltd and Woolworths.

The CEFC is not intended to ​compete directly with the private sector but act as a catalyst to private investment, which is now un​available. In the United States, the provision of loan guarantees for renewable energy projects has been the subject of controversy after the collapse of a solar company, Solyndra. However, Ms Broadbent said she did not believe the CEFC would be putting taxpayers' funds at risk.

"It is what financiers do all the time - balancing risk, servicing their clients and yet holding on to their shareholders' money", she said. "There is certainly going to be rigorous requirements. My idea is that 'look, you have to reach certain goal posts before this is commercial'. You have to get up the supporters. Energy development and energy policy are a long journey".

But opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the CEFC was a risky way to spend taxpayer funds. "The purpose of this fund is to invest in speculative ventures using borrowed money which the private sector would not fund", he said. "The experience in the United States as seen with Solyndra and a second collapse this week is this is an incredibly risky way to spend taxpayers' funds". Ms Broadbent said that despite the global economic environment, it was important to push ahead with the carbon price scheme and the CEFC.

"The problem is there is a hell of a lot going on in the world and it is incredibly unnerving", she said. "In the meantime, as far as the fundamentals - is energy important to Australia? Yes. Have we got a role to play in the transition to a low - carbon economy when we are exporting goods that have a very high carbon impact? That hasn't changed in 20 years, really".

Huhne: 'Wind turbines are certainly here to stay'
9 Nov 2011

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has rushed to the defence of the wind power sector, following a series of media reports arguing that the government's green energy policies are responsible for energy bill price hikes. Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Huhne hit out at the growing number of voices calling for the UK to abandon investment in renewable energy in favour of developing domestic shale gas. Huhne said that shale gas is unlikely to become a game changing technology anytime soon, and criticised those touting it as a more "realistic" technology than wind turbines.

"A golden age of cheap energy looks increasingly unlikely, and wind turbines are certainly here to stay", he said. "Shale gas has not yet lit a single room in the UK, nor roasted a single Sunday lunch. Yet those who clamour loudest for 'realistic' energy policies would have us hitch our wagon to shale alone". Huhne's article followed a series of newspaper and television reports claiming that greater supplies of renewables will push up energy bills.

A number of organisations in the green energy sector are now preparing official complaints and responses to the BBC and The Sunday Times over the newspaper's reporting of a new study criticising the cost of renewables, and the latest edition of Panorama, which laid much of the blame for rising energy bills on renewables subsidies.

Trade association RenewableUK and independent energy supplier Ecotricity are preparing to file separate complaints to the BBC over the Panorama programme on Monday. A RenewableUK spokesman told BusinessGreen that the organisation is concerned that the programme was biased and "editorially flawed", and that RenewableUK should have been interviewed to give an industry perspective. "We would have wanted to be included in the programme and they should have spoken to the body representing the industry. Not to do that is a serious oversight on their part", he said.

An Ecotricity spokesman told BusinessGreen that it is concerned that the show was polemic and relied on dubious sources. Panorama's reporter, Tom Heap, defended the BBC's position today after Guardian journalist Damian Carrington also criticised the programme for failing adequately to recognise the role that rising wholesale gas and electricity costs play in pushing up energy prices, failing to interview green NGOs, and making no mention of the climate change threat that underpins much of the UK's green energy policy.

Heap responded by arguing that The Guardian is unwilling to recognise the expense of renewable energy technologies and their reliance on subsidies. The Panorama programme was preceded by a story in The Sunday Times about a KPMG report arguing that the UK could save £34bn by ditching wind power subsidies. KPMG's methodology was immediately criticised by RenewableUK, which deemed the findings inaccurate.

BusinessGreen has learned that WWF has also drafted a letter to The Sunday Times, backed by green energy companies and investors, arguing the case for renewables and criticising KPMG's report. Meanwhile, it remains unclear when the controversial KPMG report will be released. A spokesman told BusinessGreen on Monday that the report is finalised, and a press release stated that the full study was to be published yesterday. However, a separate KPMG spokeswoman today denied that the report was ever finalised, and insisted that no release date has been set.

Friday 11 November 2011

Nuclear power 'doomed in Australia' by alternative energy
10 Nov 2011

THE success of a competitive energy market and the rise of wind power effectively spell doom for an Australian nuclear industry, an expert says. A paper authored by University College London director Tony Owen links the rise of nuclear power to government backing, but warns the private sector is unlikely to see an economic case for nuclear power because companies will face greater investment risk without government security.

"Most nuclear plants currently operating in OECD countries were built in an era when the power generation sector was a regulated monopoly," he said. "Thus, the cost of capital was relatively low as it was backed by government guarantee. "In addition, an increase in costs during construction could be clawed back from consumers in the form of higher prices arising from the full cost recovery nature of the sector's pricing regime.

"The investment risk now falls on the generator rather than the consumer ... and could be expected to be considerably higher. "Of course, this risk could be reduced by government guarantees but this would amount to a subsidy and would therefore be in conflict with the competitive market model."

The high front-end cost of energy projects will also continue to counter the attractiveness of nuclear power, Professor Owen says, with a high likelihood of construction delays and a lack of mass produced components counting against the sector. The significant expansion of wind power, particularly in South Australia, is another disincentive, he says. "Wind power displaces baseload and tends to discourage investment in traditional large-scale baseload technologies in favour of open cycle gas turbines to provide back up for the intermittent nature of wind generation."

The cost of nuclear power generation at the design stage is twice that of coal and up to four times that of combined cycle gas plants, but "notoriously" difficult to estimate because of their size and complexity, Professor Owen says, but even those costs may rise. A panel set up by Japan's Atomic Energy Commission has warned that a severe nuclear accident could add 0.006 to 1.60 per kWh (0.001c-$0.02) once evacuation, compensation and decommissioning of reactors is taken into account. It does not include the costs of decontaminating land and the long term storage of radioactive debris.

U.S. and China on brink of trade war over solar power industry
9 Nov 2011

HONG KONG — The United States and China are gearing up for a trade war that could catch American users of solar power in the crossfire. The Commerce Department in Washington on Wednesday opened an investigation sought by American manufacturers who accuse the Chinese of "dumping" solar panels into the United States at prices, aided by government subsidies, lower than the cost of making and distributing them.

Anticipating that move, the Chinese solar industry has been unusually vitriolic this week. A government-controlled trade group accused the White House of turning the commercial complaint into "a political farce, which is very likely a publicity show initiated by the Obama administration for the coming election."

Meanwhile, a new American trade group was formed this week, representing buyers and installers of solar power systems. It argues that any new Commerce Department restrictions on Chinese solar panels would slow the adoption of clean energy technology in the United States and could cost thousands of American jobs. Some environmentalists also oppose policies that might slow the adoption of solar power.

Solar power is a politically fraught issue in Washington, in part because of the bankruptcy this summer of a solar panel maker, Solyndra, after it had received more than $500 million in federal loan guarantees. The use of solar power in the United States is growing fast, but Chinese solar panel manufacturers have been growing even faster, raising their American market share to more than half now, from almost none five years ago.

By bringing together complex issues like manufacturing policy, job creation and climate change, the solar panel dispute is emerging as the most politically charged trade case in many years, potentially rivalling Detroit's legal case against Japanese automakers under a related trade statute in 1980. The solar panel case "is one of those once-in-a-generation cases," said Alan Wolff, a deputy United States trade representative in the Carter administration who is now the chairman of the international trade practice in the Washington office of the Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm.

Although solar power now contributes only about one-tenth of 1% of American electricity, the amount of new solar wattage installed in the United States has been growing more than 70% a year since 2008, according to GTM Research, a renewable energy market analysis firm in Boston. Seven American manufacturers filed a legal petition on Oct. 19 seeking the Commerce Department investigation and asking that tariffs of more than 100% be imposed on solar panels from China. The filing accused the Chinese industry of using billions of dollars worth of government subsidies to help gain sales in the American market and dumping panels at very low prices.

Under American trade laws, Wednesday was the deadline for the department to either begin a formal inquiry — unless it judged the case to be groundless — or find that few companies manufacturing panels in the United States actually supported it. Whatever action the American government might take, it could prove too late to save the American solar panel industry. China, whose government has been a big promoter of green-energy companies, already accounts for three-fifths of the world's solar panel production, giving it enormous economies of scale.

And it exports 95% of its production, much of it to the United States, rather than using it within China. That has helped push wholesale solar panel prices down sharply — from $3.30 a watt of capacity in 2008, to $1.80 by last January, to $1 to $1.20 today. A typical solar panel might have a capacity of 230 watts.

Although plunging prices could speed up the adoption of solar power, the American industry contends the Chinese are simply not playing fair. Besides Solyndra, two other American solar companies that together represented one-sixth of American manufacturing capacity in the sector went bankrupt in August, while four other American solar companies have laid off workers and cut output since spring of last year. President Barack Obama said in an interview on Nov. 2 with a television reporter from Oregon, the hub of the American solar panel manufacturing industry, that there were "questionable competitive practices coming out of China" in clean energy.

That prompted the "farce" statement this week by the government-controlled Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, condemning Mr. Obama's remark and contending that it indicated a bias in favour of the American manufacturers. "They attempt to shift the responsibility of US clean energy development failure, especially President Obama's personal responsibility, to Chinese solar cell companies," the statement also said.

The Commerce Department uses a quasi-judicial process administered mainly by civil servants to adjudicate anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Congress designed the process in the 1970s to shield the decision makers from political influence, because of a perception that a succession of Republican and Democratic administrations had ignored violations of international trade rules during the Cold War by Japan and other countries as long as they remained strong geopolitical allies against the Soviet Union.

Republicans and Democrats alike from past and current administrations have defended the current process as insulated from politics. "The methodology of this is not political," said Frank Lavin, a longtime Republican who has held a series of political appointments in Republican administrations, including overseeing the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations office when he was the undersecretary of commerce for international trade during President George W. Bush's second term.

But like many Republicans, Mr. Lavin was critical of the Obama administration for having provided a half-billion dollars in federal credit guarantees to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a California company with an alternative solar power technology. The funding is the subject of a continuing investigation by House Republicans. "It's very hard to make a case that $500 million was well spent," said Mr. Lavin, who is now a public affairs consultant in Hong Kong and not advising either side in the solar panel dispute.

The Commerce Department is required by law to issue a preliminary decision on the anti-dumping claim possibly in mid-January but no later than late March, and on the anti-subsidy claim no later than mid-May. Many trade experts expect that the decision would include steep tariffs on imports, and that those tariffs would be retroactive to 90 days before each decision and possibly retroactive to Wednesday's opening of the department's investigation.

Chinese industries have lost almost all of the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against them for decades because the United States still categorises China as a non market economy, which means that special rules are used that tend to favour the American industry. Most of the big Chinese solar panel manufacturers have subsidiaries in the United States that are the legal importers, so they — not the American installers of solar panels — would incur the initial costs of any tariffs. But those costs could be expected to be passed along to customers; otherwise, Chinese companies might find themselves vulnerable to higher anti-dumping penalties in the future.

Taking the lead in the dumping petition was SolarWorld Industries America, a unit of the German manufacturer SolarWorld. Six other American solar panel manufacturers signed on to the case with SolarWorld, but all have exercised the option to keep their identities secret. That anonymity could help relieve them and their executives from fears of retaliation by the Chinese government, which could come in the form of denying them access to the Chinese market or denying them visas.

But the secrecy also makes it hard for the Chinese industry's lawyers to figure out if the companies filing the case have themselves received American government subsidies. SolarWorld Industries America has acknowledged receiving a few million dollars in subsidies for research and none for exports. It is government subsidies that promote exports that are the ones likely to violate international trade rules.

The Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association called in its statement this week for the other six American companies to be identified. But Francisco Sanchez, the American undersecretary of commerce for international trade, said during a visit to Hong Kong last month that he believed his agency could maintain the secrecy of unidentified co-filers in trade cases.

Global wind power investment to total $820 billion from 2011 to 2017, forecasts Pike Research
9 Nov 2011

BOULDER, Colo., Nov 09, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Wind power now accounts for the majority of the world's non-hydropower renewable electricity capacity. Now that wind power has reached approximately one-fifth of total electricity generation in some countries, most in the energy industry appreciate it as a mainstream technology that is key to not only reducing carbon emissions, but also meeting rapidly increasing electricity demand around the world.

While the global economic recession significantly slowed the pace of new wind power installations in 2010, turbine deployment activity remains strong and overall capacity will continue to rise at a healthy pace. According to a recent report from Pike Research, by 2017 wind power installations will represent a $153 billion global industry, up from $77 billion in 2011. Over that period, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts, cumulative investment in new wind power capacity will total $820 billion.

Over that same period, total wind generation capacity, including both onshore and offshore projects, will increase from 235.8 gigawatts (GW) in 2011 to 562.9 GW in 2017. "Although growth rates of new wind installations will fall short of the industry's boom period, cumulative wind power capacity will grow steadily over the next six years," says senior analyst Peter Asmus. "Despite the challenging market conditions for the wind power industry, this is a dynamic time for innovation in the market, as vendors are pushing turbines to sizes never before thought practical or economical."

At the highest level, three major regional markets will continue to drive the global wind industry: Asia Pacific, dominated by China and, to a lesser extent, India; Europe, led by Germany and Spain; and North America, led by the United States. Illustrating the dynamic growth of new market entrants, the top 10 wind manufacturers supplied 79% of the wind turbines installed worldwide in 2010 -- a significant drop from 88% only two years before. The majority of these new entrants are based in China. At the same time, numerous high-level mergers and acquisitions have resulted in more dynamic, vertically integrated wind turbine manufacturing companies. Increasingly, manufacturers are acquiring wind farm development companies as a strategy for ensuring markets for their turbines.

Pike Research's report, "Global Wind Energy Outlook", provides an in-depth analysis of global opportunities in the onshore and offshore wind power markets, as well as an examination of key challenges facing the industry. It examines technology innovations that will influence the future direction of the market and also features detailed profiles of key industry players, including a competitive regional analysis of the three major wind power markets today across their respective technology, policy, and capital environments. Market forecasts extend through 2017 and include projections for installed capacity, installation costs, and offshore production revenue, all segmented by onshore, offshore, region, and country. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm's website.

Pike Research is a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets. The company's research methodology combines supply-side industry analysis, end-user primary research and demand assessment, and deep examination of technology trends to provide a comprehensive view of the Smart Energy, Smart Grid, Smart Transportation, Smart Industry, and Smart Buildings sectors.

Thursday 10 November 2011

First Solar Commences Construction on Australia's First Utility-Scale Solar Farm
November 6, 2011

Geraldton, Western Australia, Nov. 7, 2011 - FirstSolar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) today announced that construction has commenced on the 10-megawatt AC Greenough River solar farm, located 50km south of Geraldton. Once completed, the solar farm will be the first utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) project in Australia and will bring significant investment to the local community through a partnership with local civil contractor WBHO Civil - the company awarded the Phase 1 construction contract for the project.

The construction program is scheduled to take place over a period of approximately nine months. Following civil work, which commenced on Friday (Nov. 4), the project will progress to on-site construction of structural supports and the completion of above ground electrical works. The installation of FirstSolar PV modules is anticipated to begin in March 2012, with the solar farm expected to be fully operational by mid-2012.

Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50% of the Greenough River solar farm, with the WA Government providing A$20 million including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program.

FirstSolar will supply the project with over 150,000 of its advanced thin film PV modules and provide engineering, procurement and construction services. Through the partnership with local contractor WBHO Civil, and in the sourcing of local products, the project is expected to generate millions of dollars for the City of Greater Geraldton's economy. Up to 150 people will be onsite at any one time throughout the construction phase, with jobs lasting for up to nine months.

"FirstSolar aims to maximise local hiring and enable the project to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to regional communities," said Jack Curtis, Vice President, Business Development & Sales for FirstSolar. "We are also building our in-country supply chain network by procuring as many materials as possible from local suppliers at all stages of the construction process.

"Increased localisation is critical to the development of a sustainable large-scale solar industry in Australia. Developing a local capability to install utility-scale solar projects, together with stable government policy, will greatly improve the industry's long-term outlook," Curtis added.

WBHO Civil will play a pivotal role in providing site preparation services, underground electrical services and civil works. The company's local expertise and extensive network across WA will ensure that the Greenough River solar farm is built to the highest possible standards.

"This is an exciting project for the Sinosteel-Midwest and we are very proud to be working with FirstSolar, who has a reputation for the delivery of world class renewable energy projects internationally," said Michael Librizzi, General Manager - Sinosteel-Midwest for WBHO Civil. "The project mitigates harm to the environment and is a sustainable energy resource, and this fits perfectly with our internal mantra of being an environmentally-friendly corporate citizen."

Gas prices to double in 20 years as demand explodes, Santos predicts

Canberra Times
11 Jan 2011, Page: 13

The only way to meet a tripling in natural gas demand in eastern Australia is by allowing unconventional gas projects, such as coal seam gas, oil and gas producer Santos says. Santos's eastern Australia vice-president James Baulderstone told a conference that he expected gas prices to more than double within two decades, driven by demand and linking it to oil prices. Soaring global demand for liquefied natural gas is expected to contribute to Australia's wealth and make it one of the world's biggest exporters of the commodity.

However, the use of fracking to access coal seam gas or shale gas is strongly opposed by many Australians and Americans, including farmers, who say it contaminates prime agricultural land._ Santos insists that is false and gas is a safe, low-carbon alternative to coal for providing energy, with eastern Australia potentially having enough gas to supply it for a century.

"The five LNG trains already sanctioned, with more planned, represent a quantum change in eastern Australian natural gas demand", Mr Baulderstone told the Opportunities and Challenges for Australian Gas conference yesterday. "Provided natural gas development activity is allowed to proceed at the right pace, and the market is willing to pay the increased cost of extraction, there is sufficient gas in eastern Australia to meet this demand".

But he added that it was not viable to develop much of the gas reserves to meet the new demand at current Australian gas prices of about $4 a GJ. Australian gas prices were some of the cheapest in the developed world, Mr Baulderstone said. He predicted prices would move to $6 to $9 a GJ. Santos is heavily invested in coal seam gas through the $US16 billion ($A15 billion) Gladstone Liquefied Natural Gas project it is leading and is also developing shale gas projects in the Cooper Basin in central Australia. It is also close to finalising a $924 million bid for NSW-based Eastern Star Gas, which controls NSW's largest coal seam gas resource. Santos shares were down 24¢ at $12.96 yesterday.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Danes have power pylons down to a fine art

Sydney Morning Herald
28 Oct 2011, Page: 11

Denmark: Norbert Baars may 1101 know much about art, but he knows what he likes. No one is going to mistake the big 27-metre pylon, part of a power line that crosses his dairy farm in the hilly Danish countryside, for a Michelangelo. "It's one big clump of metal", said Mr Baars, who moved to Denmark several years ago because farmland is cheaper than in his native Netherlands. But the views of farmers like Mr Baars are of no slight weight these days. With the spread of renewable energy sources, such as wind and water power, the high-tension power lines that carry electricity to Danish cities and industries must be expanded and drawn anew. As in other countries, no one wants those pylons in their backyards.

So to break down that NIMBY, the Danes hit on the idea about a decade ago of having industrial architects, if not artists, design new, pleasingly sculpted pylons, the huge steel towers that sup-port the power lines. If the pylons looked more like, say, giant sculptures, the reasoning went, people might like them or at least be less resistant to having them nearby. The first such line went up several years ago, running roughly 16 km on 80 pylons, and crosses this farming village of about 900 people, just south of Mr Baars's farm. Erik Bystrup, an industrial architect from Copenhagen, won a competition organised by, the state owned utility that operates Denmark's energy grid, to find the most attractive pylon.

Unlike traditional pylons, with their lattice-work of gray galvanised steel, the ones that went up over Valsgard consisted of a single post, capped by a cluster of stainless-steel rods to hold wires that gleamed in bright sunshine almost to invisibility, obviously, there are limits to the artistry of pylons. They have to be tall and carry wires a certain distance apart, and they cannot be made of exotic materials that would bust the budget. Mr Baars tries to squeeze something positive out of the power line, noting its usefulness in navigating the area's narrow country roads at night. "Sometimes I think, 'Oh, just follow the pylons'", he said.

Shameful hypocrisy

28 Oct 2011, Page: 16

THE mine at Anglesea is already spewing carcinogenic dust over surrounding houses and farms and is within 1.5 km of the primary school. It is a shameful irony that Victoria's new wind farm restrictions prevent even community initiated wind farms being built, yet we have virtually no protection from the expansion of coal and gas mining. This is a classic example of the 1% who own the fossil fuel industry riding roughshod over the 99% who want a healthy environment and safe future for our kids.

Jane Morton, Northcote

Back to a dirty future
THE Baillieu government's Anglesea mine lease renewal shows it is stuck in 1961, when premier Henry Bolte used state debt to build state infrastructure and effectively won overseas investment for Victoria. But Baillieu's government knows that the science tells us to stop burning coal just ask the CSIRO. The shame is that the government doesn't have the courage to use state debt to build infrastructure. With wind farms and solar thermal baseload power, Victoria could have thousands of jobs and a clean energy future. Bolte didn't know how damaging coal is, Baillieu does. Whose future is Baillieu working for?

Ian Mack, North Fitzroy

Monday 7 November 2011

Solar panels losing shine

Adelaide Advertiser
28 Oct 2011, Page: 3

THE number of approvals for solar panel units has plummeted since the tariff incentive of 44¢ a kW closed last month, leading to industry fears of hundreds of job losses. ETSA Utilities spokesman Paul Roberts yesterday said there had been 342 approvals since the reduced price began this month, compared with 24,600 in September. This year, monthly average approvals were about 7000. Under the now closed scheme, ETSA pays householders with solar panels 44¢ per kW/h to feed power into the state's electricity grid. This has now reduced to 16¢ per kW/h.

Love Energy managing director Richard Mintz said the substantial drop-off in installations did not surprise him. "It's very, very quiet at the moment, but we were expecting that", he said. "Anyone thinking about solar would have made the decision in September". According to the Clean Energy Council, there are an estimated 1500 people working in the SA solar industry. Mr Mintz said companies were still working to install solar panels ordered under the previous price scheme, but he expected new orders to remain quiet until the new year.

He said this would likely lead to job cuts of up to 50% among companies that predominantly relied on the South Australian market. "You're going to see a lot of job cuts in the industry over the next three months", he said. Cleaner Energy SA chief executive Lee Lake said the company had noticed a 75 to 80% reduction in business in October and had cut jobs. "We had to do a little restructuring and cut a few jobs", Mr Lake said. "Our plan at this stage is to keep our advertising going, keep our name out there and make sure our customers have a positive experience".

But solar power companies yesterday expressed overall confidence in their long-term future because of residential electricity price rises and the implications of a carbon tax. "The long-term stability of our business is good", Combined Solar director Dion Miller said. "There'll always be a downturn straight after the rebate reduction but it's a matter of riding out the wave". Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure energy division executive director Vince Duffy said the State Government had anticipated a drop off in applications, but was confident of the industry's future.

Looking to a cleaner future

Courier Mail
27 Oct 2011, Page: 27

AUSTRALIA'S new era in sustainability will hit the spotlight when clean technology leaders gather on the Sunshine Coast tomorrow for the 2011 Clean Futures Conference. The industry, which employs 25,000 people nationally and grew 32% in 2010, includes businesses involved in renewable energy, water, waste and recycling, construction design and materials and energy efficiency. Sunshine Coast Council, which aims to attract more green firms to the region, is supporting the conference, being held at University of the Sunshine Coast's Innovation Centre.

Speakers include CEO of Sustainable Business Australia, Andrew Petersen, and chairman of Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation Ltd and director of SolarCity New Zealand Barry Leay. Revenues now see the cleantech sector at half the size of the construction industry and growing. Today's conference is backed by council, Regional Development Australia, Department of Employment and Energex.

$50,000 wind mast sparks Woodend wrangle - Local activist gobsmacked

26 Oct 2011, Page: 5

THE state government has paid $50,000 for a 60-metre high wind mast to measure the strength of wind for possible wind turbines in an area in which a former planning minister had banned for wind farms. The government said it wanted the money back, but the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy group, which plans to build the wind mast south of Woodend next week, said it had no intention of handing it back.

While the original funding agreement was made under the Brumby government, final contract negotiations for the wind mast were approved by the present government on August 19 10 days before Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced Australia's most restrictive wind farm regulations, which make the Macedon Ranges a "no-go zone" for wind farms. Woodend residents had planned to power the town with renewable energy with three wind turbines to be built in a pine forest six km south of the town.

Now the town will have a government-funded wind mast, which will show how much power the wind turbines could generate. Barry Mann, of the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy Group, said the wind mast would relay its readings to an advertising display screen in the local newsagents to make residents aware of the amount of energy a wind farm in the area could produce.

"The display will be updated every hour, with information coming from the wind mast, how much energy the wind park would have produced, average wind speeds, the value of that energy", he said. He said he was "gobsmacked" by the new wind farm planning rules that prevented the Woodend proposal. He said the group received the money for the wind mast three days before the wind farm planning changes, and would not be handing the money back. "We've spent it", Mr Mann said. "I've bought the mast, I've paid the installer, I've paid for the instrumentation".

He said spending $50,000 on the wind mast in an area now banned for wind turbines was not a waste of money. "This government is not going to be in forever", he said. "We are determined to proceed to show people the potential benefits of a project like this, and we would hope in the future common sense prevails and these restrictions are lifted". Newsagent Darren Cahill said he did not have an opinion on the wind farm proposal but was happy to assist in providing information to the public. "It is just information", he said. "See what comes of it. Can't do any harm, people can make their own minds up".

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ryan Smith, said the grant was provided by the previous government in 2010. "The previous government created a legally binding contract between the proponent and Sustainability Victoria", she said. She said the minister had now asked his department to see if the money could be retrieved. Opposition planning spokesman Brain Tee said government's wind farm policy was a mess. "This government stuff-up rubs salt into the wound of this community", he said. It exposed the blinkered opposition to wind power, which would stop local communities "who just want to help the environment".