Thursday 29 March 2012

Siemens sees renewable energy unit back in black
24 Mar 2012

(Reuters)-German conglomerate Siemens expects its renewable energy unit to return to profit following a loss in the first fiscal quarter, a management board member told a German magazine. "Overall, we will probably be back in the black at our renewable energy unit in the ongoing quarter and, over the year, (results) will be significantly positive", Michael Suess, who leads the company's Energy Sector, told WirtschaftsWoche in an interview to be published on Monday.

In the first quarter of Siemens' fiscal year 2012, which started in October, its renewable energy unit comprising wind, solar and hydroelectric power posted sales of 943 million euros ($1.25 billion) and a loss of 48 million euros. (Reuters)-German conglomerate Siemens expects its renewable energy unit to return to profit following a loss in the first fiscal quarter, a management board member told a German magazine.

"Overall, we will probably be back in the black at our renewable energy unit in the ongoing quarter and, over the year, (results) will be significantly positive", Michael Suess, who leads the company's Energy Sector, told WirtschaftsWoche in an interview to be published on Monday. In the first quarter of Siemens' fiscal year 2012, which started in October, its renewable energy unit comprising wind, solar and hydroelectric power posted sales of 943 million euros ($1.25 billion) and a loss of 48 million euros. In January, Siemens said it expected the wind business to improve in sales and to return to profit in coming quarters.

AGL buys rights to mega wind farm
23 Mar 2012

AGL Energy expects to start work next year building a 282-turbine, 300- MW ( MW) wind farm at Silverton, NSW, after acquiring the development rights for an unspecified sum, estimated at tens of millions of dollars. The $750 million project, acquired from Epuron and Macquarie Capital, adds to AGL Energy's already-significant 389 MW wind portfolio in Australia.

Silverton could eventually become the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, with concept approval for a further 316 wind turbines in subsequent stages which could lift the capacity at the site to 1000 MW, subject to the capacity of the electricity network.

Deutsche Bank energy analyst John Hirjee said there was a ''reasonable likelihood'' that the first stage at Silverton would be developed, but subsequent stages would depend on the state of the market for Renewable Energy Certificates and carbon pricing from 2015.

The viability of major renewable projects has been hamstrung by an oversupply of large-scale RECs, generated by domestic solar panels and hot water systems before the renewable energy regulations were tightened.

''We see development of Silverton as a valuable in-house option for AGL Energy when oversupply eases,'' Mr Hirjee said. ''The company has previously indicated its RECs obligation is covered to 2015, around the time Silverton could commence production. We see further wind farm developments as consistent with AGL Energy's strategy of developing renewable energy assets in-house.''

AGL Energy managing director Michael Fraser said today the Silverton acquisition showed AGL Energy's ''ongoing commitment to developing Australia's leading privately owned portfolio of renewable energy assets, in which we have invested $3 billion over the past five years".

Draft New South Wales government planning guidelines for wind farms, announced late last year, could make further stages at Silverton harder to develop. The guidelines emulate restrictive wind farm regulations introduced in Victoria, which impose a buffer zone within which residents have a right of veto on new wind developments. Submissions on the draft guidelines closed last week.

Clean Energy Council Policy Director, Russell Marsh, warned if the final guidelines were too restrictive they could chase up to $6 billion of new wind farm investments away from NSW, generating 4000 jobs and providing clean power for the equivalent of more than two million homes.

Battle over SA wind farm expansion
24 Mar 2012

South Australia's title as Australia's largest users of wind power is set to become ever more solidified with the latest news that suggest the state government will move to increase the state's reliance on the renewable energy form. SA is already home to more than half of this country's wind farms, providing 26% of the state's electricity use. This is only set to further increase as Labor pushes to construct more farms.

The state currently relies more heavily on gas-fire electricity than coal, which is markedly more expensive. With SA's clime, many have pointed out the logical nature of the state's investment in wind power for both economical and environmental reasons. "The theory was always that wind is very intermittent, so it wouldn't displace baseload power and would need to be backed up", says EnergyQuest Chief Graeme Bethune, "but in fact that doesn't seem to be the case".

However, the expense factor is something that both governments are heatedly debating about, with the Liberal party strongly backing an Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) report that suggests a correlation between wind power and expense.

The report shows a correlation between high energy cost and areas that have a high reliance on renewable energy technologies, with Denmark, Germany and SA showing high levels of energy cost and renewable energy reliance respectively.

"We know that Denmark has more wind power than any other electricity market and Germany has the highest level of solar photovoltaics. The South Australian Labor government has pushed both of these technologies here", says state opposition leader Isobel Redmond, "when Labor's carbon tax is introduced in July this year, the average power bill is tipped to rise by $150, which will make South Australian electricity prices the world's highest".

However, the Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) has labeled the report as sensationalist, stating that it is common knowledge that energy bills have and will continue to rise, going so far as to suggest that sections of the report are even incorrect. "Many of the claims in this report are inaccurate or exaggerated" says ESAA Chief Matthew Warren, "the reality is Australia doesn't have the most expensive energy prices in the world".

While the dispute over wind farming in SA continues, it is hard to deny the success of the technologies in terms of statistics. SA has already reached its 2014 renewable energy target of 20% renewable energy production and are already increasing that target to 33% by 2020. In addition to this, of the $2.8 billion invested into wind power more than 3000 jobs have been created both directly and indirectly related to the technology.

Environmentally, they are finding great success. Economically they are seeing a boost. The liberals may have a difficult time convincing South Australians of the detriment of further wind farm investment.

Portland wind turbine jobs to go
23 Mar 2012

WORKERS will be laid off by Portland engineering firm, Keppel Prince, because orders for wind farm towers have dried up until next year. The company announced yesterday it had called for voluntary redundancies among its 450 employees, but did not indicate how many positions would be cut. It has just finished the job for 140 towers at the giant Macarthur wind farm and is starting on a smaller order for the 13-tower Mortons Lane project near Caramut.

However, that work will cease in May leaving the company without advance contracts. The opposition has blamed new wind farm planning guidelines for creating industry uncertainty. Although five new wind farm projects were recently given development plan approval by the state government Keppel Prince does not expect new orders to flow until late this year. Company general manager Steve Garner said a full workforce could not be maintained during the downturn.

"It's unfortunate that projects have been delayed", he said. "I've had to make the big call. It's been a difficult decision. "We'll re-assess the situation next week after the initial response to our call for redundancies. "The rest of our operation is doing well and there are other long-term contracts in engineering and maintenance".

Keppel Prince is Portland's second largest employer behind the aluminium smelter which has 600 employees. The smelter's recent cost-cutting has also affected the volume of its work with Keppel Prince. Plans for a $10 million upgrade of the engineering factory are on hold. Mr Garner is confident the company will win a large percentage of new wind tower contracts in the next few years under new federal legislation for renewable energy targets.

It started work in the wind sector 10 years ago with the Yambuk project and is associated with 20 wind farms in Australia. Keppel Prince and its other mainland competitor based in Adelaide can each build up to 200 towers a year. Opposition spokesperson on energy, Lily D'Ambrosio, blamed the downturn in contracts on state government policy.

"This is disappointing for Portland and district", she said. "I would hope it causes Minister O'Brien to reconsider his government's policy. "The Baillieu government needs to admit it got it wrong".

Meanwhile, figures released yesterday from The Westpac-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Survey of Industrial Trends indicated the Australian manufacturing industry shrunk for the fourth consecutive quarter.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

'Exorbitant' planning fees stifle wind farms
23 Mar 2012

The largest wind farm developer in New South Wales has complained of exorbitant State Government planning fees-which it says create a significant barrier to investment in renewable energy. Andrew Durran from the renewable company Epuron says planning fees for wind farms in New South Wales are significantly higher than in other states.

"The costs applied to wind farms are exorbitant and that planning fee needs to be addressed to make sure that we can continue to develop high quality wind farms in New South Wales", he said. "For a project that you'd expect to pay $15,000 for a planning fee in Victoria, you could pay well over $1 million in New South Wales. "Our recommendation is that we cap planning fees in New South Wales".

Labor temporarily reduced wind farm planning fees in 2009-but proponents are again having to pay the full price. Labor MP Luke Foley says the O'Farrell Government has been relentlessly hostile to renewable energy. "Every possible roadblock is put in the way of the development of the wind industry", he said. The Premier has previously said if it was up to him no new wind farms would be approved.

Wind and solar 'not to blame' for rising energy costs
23 Mar 2012

A renewable energy lobby group says the South Australian Opposition is wrong to conclude wind power is forcing up South Australian electricity prices. Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond says SA has parallels with Denmark and Germany, which both rely heavily on wind and solar power. SA came in third behind those places in a global survey of energy costs.

The Energy Users Association of Australia released a report which compared the household electricity prices in 92 countries, states and provinces. Russell Marsh from the Clean Energy Council says prices are rising because the state network has to supply a small number of users spread over a vast area, not because of the issue of wind farms or solar power generation.

"The figures tell us that South Australia's leading Australia in the deployment of wind power in particular, but the important thing to note also is that it hasn't come at a high cost", he said. "At the moment about 2% of South Australian consumers' electricity bills are going to pay for the deployment of wind power".

U.S. solar firms cheer tariff on Chinese rivals
21 Mar 2012

(MoneyWatch) The U.S, increase in tariffs on solar panels imported from China could annoy Beijing without helping American manufacturers. The tariffs, announced Tuesday by the US Commerce Department, range from 2.9% to 4.73%, far less than the 20% minimum increase analysts had expected.

News of the tariffs came only hours before President Obama headed to Nevada to promote his administration's plan for renewable energy. Commerce Department officials said the tariffs are a response to the ample subsidies that Chinese solar manufacturers get from China's government, which critics say gives them an unfair competitive advantage.

The U.S, imported more than $2 billion worth of Chinese solar cells and panels last year, twice the amount imported in 2010 and up from $21.3 million in 2005. Chinese solar panels account for more than half of all those sold in the US, while panels from American companies account for less than a third.

"Punitive tariffs of less than 5% would be manageable for Chinese solar makers given that their panels are sold 25 to 30% cheaper than US-made panels", Min Li, head of alternative energy at research firm ¥ta Securities, told Reuters.

American solar gear makers expressed support for the new tariffs. "Today's announcement affirms what U.S, manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and World Trade Organization-illegal subsidies", said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios Solar Works, in a statement. "We appreciate the Commerce Department's hard work in bringing these subsidies to light, and we look forward to addressing all of China's unfair trade practices in the solar industry".

China slowdown could spur global recession Cisco and China: The evil business of doing business with evil Even China's own data say its economy is troubled

The Obama administration's action is just the latest step in a long-running fight over Chinese trade practices. Last week, the US, European Union, and Japan brought a case before the WTO about China's restrictive policies on so-called rare-earth metals, which are minerals used in manufacturing. The White House also recently created a trade-enforcement unit to investigate China's trade practices.

Although American solar manufacturers face major economic challenges, including fierce competition from Chinese rivals, demand for solar power in the U.S, growing fast. The domestic market for solar power equipment is projected grow about 51% this year, according to a recent report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Some 2,800 MWs of solar panels are expected to be installed in 2012, up from 887 MWs in 2010.

Despite that growth, a glut of solar panels on the market caused prices to fall by more than half last year. Some analysts believe prices are so low that some companies selling at a loss.

President Obama was scheduled to speak today in Boulder City, Nevada, at the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the nation. The president is touting "clean" energy sources, such as solar and wind power, as way to create jobs and preserving the environment.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Renewable energy generates jobs and investment - not major price hikes

Clean Energy Council
21 Mar 2012

The contribution of renewable energy to rising power bills is tiny compared to the huge investment required to meet peak demand and replace ageing poles and wires, the Clean Energy Council said today.

Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said more than $20 billion in investment and thousands of jobs would be unlocked by Australia's pledge to generate 20% of its electricity in 2020 from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, bioenergy, wave and geothermal 'hot rocks'.

"Renewable energy is supported by the vast majority of Australians and the national 20% Renewable Energy Target is designed to come at a minimal cost", he said. "According to the Australian Electricity Market Commission, more than 90% of the price rises over the next three years will come from increases in costs for the traditional energy system".

Mr Thornton said Australia was staring down the barrel of a 37% hike in national power prices over the next three years, but passing the buck would not help solve the problem.

"It is widely acknowledged that this rise is due to the cost of replacing old poles and wires, as well as building new capacity to meet additional electricity demand for appliances such as air conditioners and televisions. Every average sized air conditioner costs electricity users around $7000 in extra costs to the power grid, according to the Federal Government's draft Energy White Paper. The paper also states that peak demand represents around a quarter of total network costs".

Mr Thornton's comments came after the Energy Users Association of Australia released a report saying our nation's power prices are high compared to many other countries. It was followed by a call from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to abandon renewable energy schemes.

"Organisations like the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry risk their credibility by trying to pin rising power bills on renewable energy, while apparently ignoring the main factors that have led to recent price hikes", he said. "Renewable energy produces about 10% of Australia's electricity. The idea that 10% of our electricity somehow makes the other 90% unaffordable is absurd".

SA wants to lead with renewable energy
22 Mar 2012

South Australia's Labor government wants to be a leader in renewable energy and wants more wind farms to do it. SA has more than half of Australia's wind farms and they provided 26% of the state's electricity last year, up from 18% in 2010, and less than one% just five years ago.

The Liberals say Labor's renewable energy push is driving up electricity prices. Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond seized on a report this week from the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA), whose members include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Blue-Scope Steel, that says SA power is the third most expensive in the world after Denmark and Germany.

"We know that Denmark has more wind power than any other electricity market and Germany has the highest level of solar photovoltaics. The South Australian Labor government has pushed both of these technologies here", Ms Redmond said. "When Labor's carbon tax is introduced in July this year, the average power bill is tipped to rise by $150, which will make South Australian electricity prices the world's highest".

But the Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA), whose members include CitiPower, Energex, InterGen, Origin Energy and TRUEnergy, says the EUAA report she was citing is "sensationalist". ESAA chief Matthew Warren said it was designed for "shock and awe" value rather than to help find solutions to rising energy prices.

"We all know energy bills have been rising and they will increase further in the future", Mr Warren said. "But many of the claims in this report are inaccurate or exaggerated. "The reality is Australia doesn't have the most expensive energy prices in the world". He says structural changes across the energy sector are driving up prices. That's the upgrading of ageing networks and infrastructure, continued increases in peak demand, a shift to lower emissions energy technologies and increases in the cost of fuels.


UK-Norway power link wins EU study grant
20 Mar 2012

(Reuters)-NorthConnect, a consortium planning to lay an electricity interconnector cable between Britain and Norway, on Tuesday won funding from the European Union to conduct a preliminary study on the 1,400 MW link, it said. The partners received 690,000 euros ($913,700) as part of European Union plans to work toward integrating the continent's electricity network, estimated to cost at least 140 billion euros over the coming decade.

Britain is currently linked to France, Ireland and the Netherlands through cables with a combined capacity of 3,500 MWs ( MW). The interconnector between Britain and Norway, due in operation before 2020, will be the first to link the UK's electricity network with Scandinavia.

"Furthermore it will facilitate the development of renewable generation in both regions, as the high penetration of wind generation in UK and hydroelectric-energy in Scandinavia complement each other", the consortium said in a statement.

NorthConnect is owned by Vattenfall, ECO2 Energi, Agder Energi (AE), Lyse and SSE Interconnector Limited. According to Vattenfall, a landing point around Peterhead in northeast Scotland has been identified, while a landing point in Norway will be assessed shortly.

Vattenfall building 10 MW wave energy device with Pelamis
20 Mar 2012

Stockholm,--Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall is working with Scottish wave energy technology company Pelamis Wave Power to build a wave energy farm off the southwestern Shetland coast of Scotland. The wave energy project, a joint venture called Aegir Wave Power, will use 11 Pelamis Wave Power Wave Energy Converters. These will produce 10 MW of capacity serving 8,500 households.

The Pelamis Wave Power device converts the motion of the waves into renewable energy. It is a semi-submerged unit composed of five cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints, which move with the waves. This movement pumps fluid through hydraulic motors that drive an electrical generator to produce power. The hydraulic systems are housed inside each joint.

Aegir Wave Power, of which Vattenfall owns 62%, was granted an agreement for lease by the Crown Estate for the Shetland site in May 2011. The joint venture is currently conducting environmental and resource assessments ahead of an expected planning application to be submitted to Marine Scotland in 2014.

Vattenfall has also signed an agreement with Scotland's ocean energy research and development center, the European Marine Energy Center, for the final berth in their wave energy test site at Billia Croo in Orkney to study the latest Pelamis Wave Power wave energy device by 2013.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Engineers enlist weather model to optimize offshore wind plan
20 Mar 2012

ScienceDaily: Politics aside, most energy experts agree that cheap, clean, renewable wind power holds great potential to help the world satisfy energy needs while reducing harmful greenhouse gases. wind farms placed offshore could play a large role in meeting such challenges, and yet no offshore wind farms exist today in the United States.

In a study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of engineers at Stanford has harnessed a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for 34% of the nation's electrical demand and 35% of CO₂ emissions.

"It is the first time anyone has used high-resolution meteorological data to plan the placement of offshore wind grid", said senior author Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And this sophistication has provided a deeper level of understanding to the grid plan".

Beginning with 12 energetic potential locations, the engineers winnowed down the sites to four optimal sites. Total maximum capacity of the interconnected grid is 2000 MWs, roughly equivalent to the yearly capacity of one-and-a-half conventional coal-fired power plants. Each farm would have approximately 100 turbines, delivering an individual maximum capacity of 500 MWs.


Vattenfall to develop second UK wave project
19 Mar 2012

(Reuters)-Swedish utility Vattenfall has signed an agreement to develop a wave energy test project off the Orkney Islands in Scotland, the company said on Monday. The project, in conjunction with the European Marine Energy Centre, will use 10 Pelamis Wave Power wave energy converters with a total capacity of 10 MWs, the company said. The wave farm should be able to supply electricity to 8,500 households if grid connections to mainland Scotland are sufficient, the company said. "The goal is to have the latest generation test machine from Pelamis Wave Power installed in 2013", Vattenfall said in a statement.

Vattenfall already has a 62% in a joint venture with Scottish wave energy technology company Pelamis Wave Power, called Aegir Wave Power, which is involved in a 10 MW wave energy project off the Shetland Islands. "Vattenfall wants to focus on wave energy to support the transition to renewable energy with low CO₂ emissions. It requires safe and reliable technology", said Karl Bergman, head of Vattenfall's research and development.

The utility is not the only one to explore the potential of wave energy in Britain. Alstom and SSE Renewables, the marine developer arm of UK energy firm SSE, have formed a joint venture to develop a wave energy installation off the coast of Orkney. Acquamarine Power plans a 2.4 MW wave energy converter demonstration project there and the UK government has announced that Britain's first marine energy park will be developed in south west England.

Winds of change blow through China as spending on renewable energy soars
19 Mar 2012

World's biggest polluter spends £4bn a year on wind and solar power generation in single region as it aims to cut fossil fuel use.

The remote, wind-blasted desert of northwestern Gansu could be the most unloved, environmentally abused corner of China. It is home to the country's first oilfield and several of the coalmines and steel factories that have contributed to China's notoriety as the planet's biggest polluter and CO₂ emitter.

But in the past few years, the landscape has started to undergo a transformation as Gansu has moved to the frontline of government efforts to reinvent China's economy with a massive investment in renewable energy. The change is evident soon after driving across the plains from Jiuquan, an ancient garrison town on the Silk Road that is now a base for more than 50 energy companies.

Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6 GW of wind power-roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest wind farm in the world.

This is the other side of China's development. Although it is the world's biggest CO₂ emitter and notorious for building the equivalent of a 400 MW coal-fired power station every three days, it is also erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east.

It is part of a long-term plan to supply 15% of the country's energy from alternative and renewable sources by 2020. Most of that will come from nuclear and hydroelectric, but the government is also tapping the wind and solar potential of the deserts, mountain plateaus and coastlines.

The scale of investment has led to hopes that China may emerge as the world's first green superpower. This is premature. Breakneck economic growth has left much of the country enshrouded in a murky grey smog. But the environmental crisis is so bad that it is a driver for change.

Read more…

Government issues tenders for brown coal exports
20 Mar 2012

The Victorian Government will launch a tender process for Australian industry to process brown coal for export. The Government will release new coal allocations and run a campaign promoting the benefits of coal for the State's economy. Energy Minister Michael O'Brien says countries like China and Japan are developing low-emissions technology to burn coal for electricity.

He says the Government's campaign will counter a push by extreme green groups to stop coal mining. "It's an unrealistic agenda that says that we should have an Australia that's powered with no coal", he said. "We don't believe that's practical. We don't believe that's necessary, because with low-emissions technology there's no reason why you wouldn't continue to use coal. "But we also have the potential to use it in a high value way".

He says drying the coal in Australia before export will create jobs. "There are a number of countries [and] a number of companies who have got great confidence that they have technology that can use Victorian brown coal in a low emissions way which has got to be a win win for both the environment and the economy", he said. The Mayor of the Latrobe City, Ed Vermeulen, says the region has 400 years supply of brown coal still in the ground. "We need to pursue that kind of future", he said. "To ignore the resource here locally would be just folly and would be to our economic deteriment as a State and as a nation".

Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria says the Government's coal strategy is unlikely to create new jobs. He says billions of dollars worth of coal contracts were offered 10 years ago with little response. He says the Government is promoting so-called clean coal technologies that do not exist. "Ted Baillieu seems to be chasing these phantom jobs in polluting industries that are very unlikely to materialise" he said. "We're ignoring some real clean energy jobs in industries like the wind industry and the solar industry and the State Government's actually withdrawing support from those genuinely clean industries".

Blair: Just when you think the Baillieu government couldn't possibly get any more out of touch with reality, they kick another own goal by ignoring reality and promoting a dying industry that is being ditched around the world. If Ted Baillieu really wanted new jobs he would be investing in renewable technologies and infrastructure in this state. Apparently his foresight doesn't extend that far.