Saturday 19 November 2011

E.ON tests wind-power storage in German gas supply network
16 Nov 2011

German utility E.ON has unveiled plans for a €5m ($6.8m) pilot plant that would use wind power to produce hydrogen for storage in the country's existing gas grid. The facility, in Falkenhagen in northeast Germany, will use power from intermittent renewable sources to generate about 360 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour through electrolysis-the process by which hydrogen and oxygen can be separated out of water.

Hydrogen produced at the plant, expected online in 2013, will be blended into the natural gas flowing in the Ontras pipeline, making the grid a storage system for renewable energy. "We need new storage capacities so that we can further increase the share of weather-dependent wind power in our generation portfolio in coming years", says Klaus-Dieter Maubach, the member of the E.ON board responsible for technology and development. "Using the existing gas infrastructure to store hydrogen is a promising approach in the long run, enabling us to combine our strengths as a power and gas company".

E.ON foresees increasing the concentration of hydrogen mixed into the gas from current levels of 5% to 15% "in the medium term". According to E.ON, the world's entire current renewable power output could be stored on the German gas grid. The company is also fast-tracking plans to boost its pumped-hydropower storage capacity. It intends to expand the existing pumped-hydropower facility at Edersee in the federal state of Hesse and has joined a consortium building a new plant on the German-Austrian border.

Local solar panel maker has to halt production
16 Nov 2011

AUSTRALIA'S only solar panel maker, SilexSolar, yesterday suspended manufacturing at its Homebush plant saying it had been decimated by Chinese imports, the high dollar and a lack of support from state and federal governments. In August, the company stopped making the cells that went into its solar panels, sourcing them instead from its Chinese partner Hareon, with the loss of about 30 manufacturing jobs.

Another 45 jobs have gone in the round of restructuring announced yesterday, with all panel manufacturing suspended and the plant put under care and maintenance. SilexSolar still employs about 20 people, mostly in sales and marketing. Its future would be decided in the next few months, said Michael Goldsworthy, the chief executive of parent Silex Systems, which paid $6.5 million for the Homebush operation to BP in 2009.

Dr Goldsworthy said solar manufacturers around the world were suffering as China had risen from 6% to 60% of global production in about three years. There was a glut of solar panels, particularly as European countries wound back subsidies, and in the US there were allegations of dumping. In Australia, too, Dr Goldsworthy said, ''Right now, we think we're seeing dumping''. He said it was ironic the decision to suspend manufacturing at this country's only solar plant was occurring just as the carbon price package was finally passing into law.

Australia had been a leader in solar technology but with the wind back of subsidies for small-scale solar under the federal government's renewable-energy target, and with no support in NSW pending a nine-month review of feed-in tariffs by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, there was now ''no value on solar power generated in NSW''.

''It's been disappointing to be honest,'' he said. ''The state government told us to see the federal government and the federal government told us to talk to the state government.'' A spokeswoman for the NSW Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, said it was ''unusual SilexSolar didn't wait until IPART handed down its draft determination into a fair price for solar before announcing a suspension of activity-given the draft report is due to be released by the end of November''.

France to complete world's largest tidal energy plant in 2012
16 Nov 2011

From Summer 2012, the French coast near Paimpol-Bréhat in Brittany will be home to the world's largest tidal energy plant. The project, which was originally conceived in 2004 and began construction in 2008, will provide power for up to 4,000 homes in the area, costing somewhere around 40 million euros (£34 million). The Irish company building the project, OpenHydro, has previously built facilities in the US, Canada, France, Scotland and the Channel Islands, but the scale of the French plant will dwarf them all.

The installation will consist of four two-megawatt turbines with a diameter of 22 metres, sitting anchored to the seabed 35 metres below the surface. Each weighs 850 tonnes and is connected to the French national grid. There are several significant advantages to tidal energy over the likes of solar, hydroelectric and wind. It has a very low environmental impact -- turbines are designed with a large open centre to allow marine life to pass through without getting caught in the blades. There are no oils or greases involved in the construction, and it produces very little mechanical noise. From the surface, they're invisible.

Then there's the benefit that tidal power is very predictable. Solar, hydroelectric and wind power output can be predicted to an extent but essentially depend on the weather, whereas we know to a very high degree of accuracy exactly how much energy will be generated by the tides at any given day and time. It's hoped that these advantages will encourage the roll-out of similar plants in other areas of strong tidal activity around the world.

Friday 18 November 2011

E.ON takes on German government
17 Nov 2011

Right now there are a lot of people wondering where the energy industry is going. A lot of people want to pull the plug on nuclear power and move on to things like wind, solar, and tidal. Well, it appears that the German government just so happens to be on the side of cancelling all nuclear power products. This is something that E.ON does not agree with. E.ON, which is the leading utility company in Germany, said that it has taken steps to sue the German government. The company said that it would sue the government over its plans to completely phase out nuclear power generation. A spokesman for the company said that they will file a complaint this week.

It's pretty easy to guess that the German government chose to phase out nuclear power after the disaster in Japan that led to the meltdown of Fukushima. A lot of places around the world are now wondering just how safe nuclear power stations really are. There are some countries, like Germany, that do not think that this kind of energy is worth the risk anymore. In fact, this is why the German government is now looking forward to cutting nuclear power out of its energy game plan. They want to introduce a series of rules that will set in motion a faster than expected adoption of other renewable energy sources.

A spokesman for E.ON said it is about interference with property rights that are protected by the most basic German laws. In the eyes of E.ON, this latest announcement from the government is completely against the constitution. E.ON is not prepared to just sit by and watch the government put such rules into effect without a fight. Of course, the German government is not the only government that feels this way about nuclear power. Many other countries around the world are in the middle of considering the same thing. They are planning on phasing out nuclear power as well. This could mean big problems for energy companies all over the world.

On top of all of this, the general public supports the phasing out of nuclear power. After seeing what happened in Japan, most people admit that they no longer feel safe with nuclear power. This is putting energy companies in a hard spot. This goes double for energy companies that rely a lot on nuclear power. It is not known if other companies around the world will fight against the phasing out of nuclear power.

Belgium will eliminate all nuclear power plants by 2025
11 Nov 2011

Belgium is a small European country with political parties that don't usually agree. But one thing they do agree on is their country's energy future–and it doesn't lie in nuclear power. Although nuclear power currently accounts for over half of the country's energy, Belgium's leaders recently announced that both of its commercial nuclear sites will be closed permanently by 2025. The two Belgian nuclear sites are located at opposite ends of the country. Doel Nuclear Power Station is on the northwest side near the port of Antwerp. The Tihange Nuclear Power Station is to the southwest along the Meuse River.

Although the country drew up plans to phase out its nuclear power plants back in 2003, public hostility towards nuclear power since Japan's nuclear crisis at Fukushima, encouraged leaders to announce formal plans for implementation. And Belgium isn't the only country to bail on nuclear power since Fukushima. Since the disaster, Japan abandoned its plans for 14 new nuclear plants and Germany announced that it would shut down all 17 of its nuclear plants by 2022. Switzerland followed Germany's example by agreeing to eliminate its dependence on nuclear power by 2034. Belgium, like these other countries, is confident that its growing energy consumption needs can be met through renewable sources.

£100m boost for green energy plans
13 Nov 2011

An extra £100 million will be made available to support green energy projects in Scotland after a deal was stuck between Holyrood and Westminster. Chancellor George Osborne announced the Scottish Government would be able to spend half of the cash in the fossil fuel levy fund. The fund, currently worth about £200 million, is held in London but can only be spent to promote the use of energy from renewable sources in Scotland.

SNP ministers have made repeated calls to be allowed to access the funding pot-which is made up with cash from suppliers of non-renewable energy sources. Mr Osborne revealed an agreement had been reached with the SNP administration that would allow them to spend half the cash in the fund. The other half of the money will be made available to support the capitalisation of the £3 billion UK-wide Green Investment Bank. Holyrood Finance Secretary John Swinney said the announcement, "though long overdue, is welcome nonetheless".

He added: "For too long Scotland's money has been sitting unspent in an Ofgem account in London. "We have consistently pressed the UK Government to deliver a pragmatic solution that accelerates the release of funding for renewable energy projects that are ready to go now in Scotland. "The proposal we put to the UK Government has at last broken this logjam and made over £100 million additional funding available now-vital funding to support further renewables investment and make the Green Investment Bank a reality for ongoing support". In the future, as further money becomes available via the fossil fuel levy fund, this will be split equally between the two governments.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Denmark’s green energy future is built on offshore wind
11 Nov 2011

Twenty years since it built its first offshore wind park, Denmark believes they are key to achieving a future free of fossil fuels. "There is a lot of wind here, and the shallow waters off the Danish coast mean it is not so expensive to build at sea here, as it is in other places," said Steen Gade, a Socialistisk Folkeparti MP who chairs parliament's Climate and Energy Committee. "We have good prospects for producing a very high degree of windmill-generated electricity for Denmark and also the rest of Europe, in the long run," he told Xinhua.

Denmark already has hundreds of onshore facilities and several offshore wind parks. According to the Energistyrelsen, the state energy regulator, the share of installed offshore megawatts jumped from 423 MW in 2008 to 868 MW in 2010. The total installed capacity, at land and sea, equaled 3.8 gigawatts last year, representing 25% of the country's electricity demand.

Moreover, Denmark is good at involving local residents in the planning of wind turbine projects, be they on or off shore. This has helped reduce complaints that wind turbines are noisy, cast irritating shadows and disfigure the landscape. "The Danish cooperative model involves private persons in the ownership of wind turbines, because you want the project to be accepted, and also to avoid the NIMBY or, 'Not In My Back Yard' effect," said Hans Christian Sørensen, board member of the Middelgrunden Vindmøllelaug, a cooperative that owns part of a wind farm in at the entrance to Copenhagen Harbour.

Clearly visible from housing and recreation areas on land, from ships plying the harbour, and from aircraft coming in to land at the nearby international airport, these turbines required full, local acceptance before they could be installed. The idea for the park was raised as far back as 1993, and consultation with area residents and non-governmental organisations about where and how to place the wind turbines started soon after. Moreover, the park is unique because it is the first Danish offshore wind farm based on sale of shares.

"As a shareholder, you buy a share for 4,250 kroner and in the beginning you get about 600 kroner back in revenue every year, which means about 14 to 15% return," Sørensen told Xinhua. "But today, after more than 10 years, we have all the money back and you get about seven% every year on invested capital. People are quite satisfied with this because it is much better than having it in a bank, and at the same time, you are doing something positive for the environment," he explained.

The park, which became operational in 2000, cost about 350 million kroner to build. Today, it has some 8,856 shareholders who are free to trade their shares. According to Prof. Peter Karnøe of Copenhagen Business School, collective ownership has deep roots in Denmark. Banks, dairies and abattoirs have all experienced success with the co-operative model, while onshore wind turbines have been co-operatively owned since the 1970s. "Those who had to look at the wind turbines in their backyard also owned the wind turbines. And when the wind turbine was turning around they could hear the money going into their bank account," Karnøe told Xinhua.

On a windy day, the Middelgrunden windmills, with an installed capacity of 40 megawatts, turn their blades briskly, even as the seawater around them grows choppy, and residents on land turn their collars up against the stiff breeze. The park produces an average 100 GW hours of electricity, equal to meeting the power needs of 40,000 Copenhagen households. The power generated is carried by cables to a transformer plant 3.5 kilometers away, and then to a central grid, which also handles power generated from conventional sources.

From here, it is redistributed to households at a set cost per kilowatt-hour. Under Danish law, wind park operators or utility companies must buy the power generated by wind parks. Individual households and businesses then buy electricity from utility companies. Middelgrunden's experience has also inspired similar co-operatively owned offshore parks near urban areas in Avedøre, in southern Copenhagen, and a 22 MW site off the holiday island of Samsø. "wind farms today are like power stations. They are very huge, so it's important to get local residents on board," said Andreas Krog, a DONG Energy spokesperson on renewable power.

The Middelgrunden park is operated by DONG, Denmark's biggest energy and utility company, which also owns half of the park's 20 turbines. "In a small country like Denmark the number and size of wind turbines you can built on land is limited. (DONG is) looking at offshore turbines because that is where we see huge potential. That is where you have good wind resources and plenty of room," Krog told Xinhua. But large, deepwater offshore parks are costly, needing deep foundations for the turbine towers and long cables to bring the power to transformer stations. They are also more expensive to build and repair because of their location. Thus, they are mostly funded by private or public companies rather than co-operatives.

Krog admits that currently, the cost advantage of offshore parks are few, but they enjoy economies of scale, as dozens of big turbines can be placed without any interference, far out at sea. For instance, DONG already operates a 160 MW offshore park off the west coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula. It is also building a 400 MW offshore park, equivalent to 111 wind turbines, and designed to meet the energy needs of 400,000 Danish households, in the Kattegat Sea, between Denmark and Sweden.

"Placing these onshore on the Danish landscape would be totally impossible," Krog observed. Meanwhile, smaller offshore projects situated in coastal waters, remain a viable option. "The idea is to have local residents involved in smaller offshore projects where you have the space for it, have better wind, and shallow water near the coast, where it is cheaper to install parks than in deep water," Sørensen remarked. Today, around 17% of Denmark's total energy production comes from renewable sources including wind, biomass, and solar power. The Danish government wants wind power to represent 50% of electricity consumption by 2020, and to phase out fossil fuel use by 2050.

Wind parks, both on and offshore, remain central to achieving these targets, but that will mean pricing green power correctly. "We should not be trapped in a situation where the government has to agree on too high a price for wind power," Karnøe cautioned. He was referring to cases in which the government has supported an above market-rate price per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by offshore wind parks, so as to encourage renewable power projects.

"Too high a price not only raises the overall energy price but also gives a bad reputation: that wind power is nice, but too expensive," he explained, adding that it is only too expensive if one does not account for environmental costs accruing from fossil fuel use. But the government is confident that wind power will become cheaper. "As evolution in the industry continues, windmill electricity is becoming more and more competitive, and the amount of money that we use to support it, is going to be lower and lower," Gade said.

Solon wins 5.5MW PV order in Germany
11 Nov 2011

European photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer Solon AG has been contracted by Green Energy 3000 to supply modules for a 5.5MW development in Scheibenberg, Germany. The panels will attach to a fixed ground mount and the facility is expected to be grid connected by the end of the year. Andreas Renker, managing director of Green Energy 3000, said, 'We wanted the best possible quality and service. That's why we decided to choose Solon AG products. Through the use of high-quality system components, we expect an annual yield of around 5.3 million kWh.' At the end of last month, Solon AG unveiled plans to construct a 10MW PV plant in Kingman, Arizona, and sold a facility in the north of Italy to Norwegian investment group EAM Solar.

China to add over 2.0 GW solar power capacity in 2011
11 Nov 2011

(Reuters) - New solar power capacity in China, the world's top energy user, may quadruple from last year to more than 2.0 gigawatts (GW) this year, an official of the research arm of the National Development and Research Commission (NDRC) said on Friday. China's total solar power capacity could reach around 3.0 GW by the end of this year, Li Junfeng, deputy director-general of the Energy Research Institute of the NDRC, told the China Energy Enterprises Summit Forum. In August, China set unified benchmark grid feed-in power tariffs for solar projects for the first time, a move that analysts said would be positive for solar power developers given a fast falling trend in development costs. The government has raised its installed solar capacity target for 2020 to 50 GW, up from the previous goal of 20 GW, state media have quoted Li as saying.

Monday 14 November 2011

Better forecasts put more wind on grid
12 Nov 2011,

MINNEAPOLIS — Using new weather-forecasting technology, Xcel Energy says it has vastly improved its ability to predict when wind turbines will run and boosted how much electricity they send to the power grid. The new capability saved $6 million last year by allowing the utility to avoid running fossil fuel power plants when it could rely on wind power instead, according to the Minneapolis-based utility. Scientists at two national labs in Boulder, Colo., contributed to the new prediction system, which was developed under contract to Xcel Energy and used by the utility over the past two years. It was formally turned over to Xcel Energy last month.

The system feeds real-time data from the National Weather Service and wind farm sensors into software that forecasts wind turbines' power output, primarily for the next day. William Mahoney, program director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the prime developer of the system, said it is 35% more accurate than previous prediction tools, and builds on decades of atmospheric research by scientists at the Boulder lab, a unit of the National Science Foundation.

"We certainly took advantage of their knowledge base, technologies that have been developed, software and other things and ... brought it to bear on this solution," he said. John Welch , director of power operations for Xcel Energy in Denver, said the technology is helping energy traders and dispatchers there to better predict the output of the utility's wind farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Each day, Xcel Energy must predict how much wind power will flow onto the grid for the next day, and decide how much to rely on coal-or natural gas-fired power plants. If wind farms generate more than predicted — sending too much juice to the grid — their output typically is curtailed by turning off some units and by other means. Big power plants can be harder to dial back.

These energy-wasting wind farm curtailments had been happening about 2% of the time. Xcel Energy says the new prediction system has cut that to about 1%. Xcel Energy, which has the most wind power capacity of any US utility, also said it is hitting new milestones in generating off-peak wind power in Colorado and Minnesota, mainly at night when wind blows and electrical demand is low. In Colorado, after two new wind farms were added, Xcel Energy said it recently generated more than 50% of its nighttime load from wind on eight occasions. In its Minnesota region, the utility said it recently hit a 37% wind power share at night.

"Five years ago I never would never have anticipated that, but it is a new reality and one that is exciting. We're glad that we're on the leading edge of this," said Welch, who attributed those milestones partly to better forecasting. Michael Goggin , manager of transmission policy for the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group, said Texas wind farms have contributed more than 25% of nighttime power, and utilities in Spain and Ireland have gotten 50% of off-peak electricity from wind. Goggin said that as wind power supplies more electricity, "we need to be doing the right types of forecasting. ... It pays tremendous dividends, as the Xcel Energy numbers point out."

South Korea to pour $9 billion in wind power generation by 2019
11 Nov 2011

(Reuters) - South Korea, heavily dependent on energy imports, will invest about 10.2 trillion won ($9 billion) in building a 2.5-gigawatt wind power generating complex through 2019 to diversify its energy resources, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said on Friday. The offshore wind farm project in the southwestern region will be led by state-run Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and its fully owned six utilities, a statement from the ministry of knowledge economy said. Power generation from the project will be equivalent to meeting the average demands of a city with 5.56 million people, or about 10% of the country's population, the statement noted.

Australian researchers develop prototype truck that runs on hydrogen
10 Nov 2011

AsianScientist (Nov. 10, 2011)-RMIT University researchers have developed Australia's first hydrogen fuel-cell truck, demonstrating how vehicle design and new sustainable technologies can make freight transport clean, green and silent. The small-scale model-an exact replica of the Scania Highline series-is operated by remote control and simulates the performance of a long-haul diesel truck, typically used between Melbourne and Sydney.

Professor Aleksandar Subic, Head of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said given the carbon tax, emissions trading and rising diesel costs, new sustainable technologies offered industry a way of stabilising costs. "For residents worried about fumes and noise, the prospect of a silent, zero-emission truck is exciting", he said. "This latest innovation stems from our comprehensive research into sustainable mobility involving hydrogen technologies. We are also researching production of hydrogen using photovoltaic arrays and electrolyses, and solid state hydrogen storage", he added.

The hydrogen-powered electrical system could also supply power for truck air-conditioning and radio, along with a trailer refrigeration unit. Hydrogen refilling stations are powered through solar PV panels. RMIT Associate Professor John Andrews said students were testing the small-scale truck against pre-defined dynamic loads, with the result being scaled up using mathematical models to predict the performance of a full-scale truck.

"A wireless data system is being used to monitor truck performance and collect the critical data such as hydrogen consumption rate and electrical power supply", Prof. Andrews said. Road freight transport is an AU$35 billion industry in Australia, and the nation has some of the highest freight levels per capita in the world. Trucks account for about 20% of Australia's greenhouse emissions by road vehicles.

Sunday 13 November 2011

760 celebrate launch of Australia’s first community wind farm
10 Nov, 2011

THE Hepburn Community Wind Park was declared officially open on Saturday, November 5. The ribbon was cut by 10-year-old Neve Bosher of St Augustine's School in Creswick, who won the competition to name the turbines. Her winning names are Gale and Gusto.

As part of her prize, Neve was given a small parcel of shares, joining 1900 others who jointly own Australia's first community-owned wind farm, 10 km south of Daylesford, in Central Victoria. The wind farm has been built by a community that decided six years ago to begin taking responsibility for their energy needs. The two turbines are projected to produce more energy than the houses in Daylesford use each year.

Per Bernard, founder of Hepburn Wind said: "In Denmark, where I was born, most wind farms are owned by communities. I am so proud that the Hepburn community has come together to benefit from renewable energy". The success of the 'Hepburn Model' has inspired communities across the nation to build similar projects, including the neighbouring communities of Woodend and Castlemaine.

Initiated with the support of Sustainability Victoria, the project recently received a prestigious Banksia Environment Award as well as the Victorian Premier's Sustainability Award. David Karoly, one of Australia's leading climate scientists, said: "This project demonstrates that there's a viable business plan for communities to build wind farms on a small scale all around Australia in rural and regional areas and it will generate income and jobs".

Simon Holmes a Court, Chairman of Hepburn Wind said: "Australians love renewable energy. With the passage of the carbon legislation this week, many other regional communities will benefit from the transformation of our energy sector". The wind farm is located on the property of long time Leonard's Hill farmers, the Liversidge family, who, as well as growing potatoes and cattle, are now wind farmers.

Solar panel raw material price to plunge
10 Nov 2011

The price of the material from which most conventional solar panels are made is going to continue to plummet, reports Bloomberg The price of polysilicon is expected to drop nearly 40% from its already rock-bottom price of $33/kg today to $20/kg after 2012, according to an analyst at HSBC Bank quoted in the Bloomberg report. Three years ago, the price of polysilicon was $435/kg.

The price decline is directly attributable to a corresponding increase in the supply of the raw material. In 2011, the global industry produced 20% more polysilicon than the year before. In 2012, that number is expected to grow again up another 28%. That, in turn, is anticipated to result in a dramatic thinning of the entire raw materials industry, with up to two-thirds of the world's 66 polysilicon producers being either forced to merge or going out of business, according to analysts in the Bloomberg report.

One country will be hit worst of all by the glut, specifically, the one that has prized itself on cheap manufacturing: Up to 90% of China's 35 polysilicon producers, accounting for over half of the country's total output, could halt production due to the increased supply, the report notes. Chinese polysilicon producers have gotten themselves into an unwinnable arms race with European and American polysilicon producers, according to Taiwanese news website Want China Times.

Though China achieved record levels of exports in the three months from July through September, according to the China Customs department, the amount of polysilicon exports for the first three quarters of 2011, 49,000 tons, is roughly the same as the number of exports, over 48,000. Meanwhile, in the United States, the harsh business reality of a polysilicon oversupply is already changing business plans for at least one of the three American polysilicon companies.

The country's and the globe's biggest polysilicon producer, Hemlock Semiconductor Group, announced on Thursday that it was delaying plans to open a new facility in Tennessee in 2012 and cutting an unspecified number of 2,500 contractors scheduled to work on the project, Bloomberg reported. That plant would've expanded the company's polysilicon production capacity by 28%.

IPCC report supports feed-in-tariffs
8 Nov 2011

Australian states without solid feed in tariff programs or reviewing their current arrangements should take note of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Released some months ago and prepared by over 130 lead authors working with the IPCC, the report seemed to hardly make a ripple in Australia, perhaps due to its complexity. Consisting of 11 chapters, the section on Financing, Policy and Implementation alone is 135 pages.

The authors state a number of studies, including those carried out for the European Commission, have found well-designed and well-implemented feed in tariffs are the most efficient and effective support policies for promoting renewable energy generated electricity.

In relation to net metering, the option currently available to New South Wales solar households since the sudden-death of the Solar Bonus Scheme for new connections, the report says while it is generally considered an easily administered tool for promoting uptake and also benefits power companies, the experience in the USA has shown the level of incentive is generally insufficient to stimulate substantial growth of PV. Opponents of feed in tariffs usually base the crux of their argument on cost.

The IPPC report states: "It is also important to include all costs and benefits to society in that calculation. Conducting an integrated analysis of costs and benefits associated with RE is extremely demanding because so many elements are involved in determining net impacts.... Few studies have examined such impacts on national or regional economies; however, those that have been carried out have generally found net positive economic impacts".

The recent NSW Auditor General's report on the state's Solar Bonus Scheme was particularly scathing, but was focused on cost rather than the real value the Scheme. For example, New South Wales Opposition leader John Robertson flagged the volume of households participating in the scheme has resulted in New South Wales not needing any new billion-dollar base load coal-fired power plants for several years.

While the very generous rate offered by the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme likely went on for too long, the Government's reaction to the situation and current snail-pace in re-implementing a more sustainable scheme has also raised questions about its commitment to renewables.

According to a report on the Daily Examiner, John Robertson commented on Monday that Premier O'Farrell is making a special effort "to kill off every form of renewable energy in this state". Aside from "doing everything they can to attack the solar industry", Mr. Robertson says Premier O'Farrell is on the record as saying no further approval for wind turbines in NSW would be granted if he had his way.

Also on Monday, across the border in South Australia, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) released its draft report on solar tariffs. Recent changes to South Australia's feed-in tariff scheme have changed the rate new customers installing solar power systems are paid. The revised scheme will be open to new applications until October 2013.

New connections under the program now receive 16¢ per kW and an electricity retailer's contribution of an additional 6¢. The combined rate of 22¢ is roughly equivalent to current retail electricity costs; so in effect, a 1:1 feed in tariff for now, as electricity prices will increase.

The electricity retailer's contribution rate for solar households in South Australia is under review and will be determined by ESCOSA. The amount to be determined is to "reflect the fair and reasonable value to a retailer of electricity fed into the network, and all retailers selling electricity to eligible customers would be required to pay the amount".

While the revised electricity retailer contribution rate looks like it will be increased by up to a few¢, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) says overall it is disappointed with the report due to its narrow scope and ESCOSA's lack of recognition of a range of benefits home solar power contributes "simply because calculating those benefits might be difficult".

However, the CEC says the report had some positive aspects, in particular the commission's willingness to accept the impact distributed PV has on reducing overall and peak electricity prices.