Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Green groups take on clean coal claim with new website

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 26/12/2008 Page: 8

clean coalTHE war of words over "clean coal" technology has escalated with the launch of a new website by US environmentalists proclaiming: In reality, there is no such thing as clean coal." The site,, is sponsored by prominent US conservation organisations, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The website links to a spoof video on clean coal showing an engineer walking through a door to a "clean coal facility". It opens onto a windswept empty landscape as he says: "Take a good long look. This is today's clean coal technology."

The Rudd Government is heavily promoting clean coal technology as the answer to the industry's problems with high greenhouse gas emissions. It launched it biggest clean coal initiative last month, setting up a new research institute in Australia at a cost of $100 million a year for the next four years. It is also strongly lobbying the UN to allow countries such as Australia and Japan to offset their greenhouse gas emissions with investments in "clean coal" technology.

The launch of the environmentalists' website is a response to lobbying by US coal and power companies to promote clean coal technology and argue against laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The American industry has launched a $US45 million ($66 million) television advertising campaign tagged "I Believe" which promotes the technology as the answer to the greenhouse crisis with the slug line: "Clean Coal. America's Power." The campaign is sponsored by 48 coal and power companies that make up the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Last month the Australian Coal Association launched an interactive website,, promoting its campaign to develop technology to clean up emissions from coal-fired power. Significantly, the Australian industry dropped the phrase "clean coal". Market research found the public were confused about the idea of "clean coal" so it decided to use the expression "new generation coal" instead.

We believe it is important that there is a strong focus on, and understanding of, the new generation of coal technologies rather than a phrase that creates confusion," the head of the Australian Coal Association, Ralph Hillman, said at the launch of the website.

Coal-fired power stations in Australia are the greatest single source of the country's greenhouse gas emissions but the black coal industry is also concerned that its vital export markets in countries such Japan could be jeopardised in the future if greenhouse emissions front coal cannot be contained.

The Australian industry website, however, promotes the same "carbon capture and storage" technology as the US industry which is designed to capture about 85% of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations and then bury them.

Critics, such as the US environment groups, say there are no commercial clean coal plants in the world and, on best estimates, it is unlikely the technology will be commercially viable until after 2020. The International Energy Agency recently estimated that at least $US20 billion would need to be invested in clean coal technology in order to get viable demonstration plants operating in the near future.

Every roof a solar power house

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 27/12/2008 Page: 4

Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council plans to become an exemplar of environmental sustainability by installing solar panels on every building in the municipality. The East Coast council has applied for $8.5 million in Federal Government funding to make the grand plan possible. Councillor Noel Stanley, from the council's Natural Resource Management Committee, said the council would seek funds from Aurora and the State Government to make up the $23 million required for the project.

"If we can make this happen we will be a net producer, we will produce far more energy than we consume, because there are a lot of shacks and summer homes in our area," he said. "Around 42% of our houses are unoccupied for large parts of the year. which means they will not be consuming any energy and for much of the year they will be generating power and feeding it straight back into the grid earning credit for the owners." Cr Stanley said if every one of the 2500 homes in the municipality was fitted with a solar array, the area would become a model for other rural regions.

He said the sunny East Coast was perfectly positioned for large-scale solar energy generation. Public buildings, such as community halls, were ideal locations for solar arrays, as their comparatively low occupancy meant they would generate more energy than they consumed.

"Our latitude is ideally suited to solar generation over the entire year and we have more sun in a year than either Sydney or Brisbane," Cr Stanley said. "And so far not a single resident has said no to the idea." Glamorgan-Spring Bay mayor Bertrand Cadart said the entire council was enthusiastic about the idea.

AGL set to burst at the seams

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 24/12/2008 Page: 23

THE wave of consolidation sweeping through the NSW coal seam gas industry has rolled into AGL Energy, which is crouched to pounce on the troubled explorer Sydney Gas. Shares in AGL, Sydney Gas and its 20% shareholder AJ Lucas were locked in trading halts yesterday, pending the announcement of a takeover play before the market opened this morning.

It is understood AGL will offer Sydney Gas shareholders close to 40¢ a share - a premium of 45% on the target's pre-trading halt price of 27.5c-valuing Sydney Gas at about $160 million. It is unclear if the offer is cash, shares or a combination. Companies in the deal were tight-lipped, but an informed source said they were within a whisker of agreement, pending late negotiations involving Babcock and Brown, which has a 6.5% stake in Sydney Gas.

Given its debt woes, the cash strapped investment group is expected to welcome the offer. The deal follows a string of buy-outs in the coal seam gas sector- the energy market darling of the year. Foreign oil companies poured billions into the sector, but investment ran mostly to Queensland reserves that had been earmarked for liquified natural gas export.

Recent activity- including AGL's $370 million purchase last week of reserves in the Gloucester Basin from Molopo Australia and AJ Lucas - shows energy giants are watching NSW. Sydney Gas would protect AGL from expected rises in the gas price flowing from green energy demand by giving it additional reserves.

AGL is a 50% exploration partner with Sydney Gas in the Hunter, where the target last month said it had defined 25,000 petajoules, a large potential resource, from coal seams. The offer may also signal the final chapter on the chequered history of Sydney Gas, which has churned through 26 directors since 2002, and in 2006 made a colossal blunder by rebuffing a takeover bid offering one Queensland Gas share for every two Sydney Gas shares.

The AGL deal is expected to offer shareholders about one seventh of what they would have received if Sydney Gas had sold to QGC, which was bought by BG Group of Britain for $5.75 a share in October. In the past week Sydney Gas shares have risen 49%, including a 20% rise on Monday. An ASX spokesman said the exchange had noticed the movements and would investigate pre-halt share trading once details of the takeover were available.

Rees review for climate change programs

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 24/12/2008 Page: 2

THE Premier has asked for a review by the independent pricing tribunal of every major NSW climate change program. Among programs to be reviewed will be residential rebates for solar hot water systems and insulation, the schools energy efficiency program, and the building sustainability or BASLX program that requires every new home or renovation to meet set environmental standards.

The review by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will examine the efficiency and effectiveness of 12 state programs designed to cut greenhouse gases and whether they are compatible with the federal scheme announced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, last week. The review will examine, in particular, the operation of the NSW Climate Change Fund created by former premier Morris Iemma, which includes $340 million for residential rebates and to promote renewable energy in schools, businesses and homes, and $137.5 million for energy efficiency programs.

Nathan Rees requested the review after Mr Rudd unveiled his scheme, which includes a modest national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 5 and 15% below 2000 emissions by 2020. The NSW programs, some dating back to premier Bob Carr's era, were designed to put NSW ahead in cutting emissions. Mr Rees's instruction to the tribunal notes that the Government regards Mr Rudd's scheme as the ''principal'' national policy measure to cut greenhouse gases.

The NSW Minister for Climate Change and acting premier, Carmel Tebbutt, said yesterday the Government remained "strongly committed to measures to support the community and businesses to use energy more efficiently and reduce emissions". Ms Tebbutt said the review of the state climate change programs by the tribunal was part of an agreement by all state governments to examine their climate change programs in light of the federal scheme to ensure they were complementary.

Public submissions to the review can be made until mid- February. The review will go to Mr Rees by May before he and Ms Tebbutt announce the state's climate change plan. Mr Rudd's scheme has been criticised by environmental groups and the Government's own climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, as being too weak and handing over too many free permits to pollute to the most greenhouse intensive industries, including coal-fired power generators.

Figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics show the mining industry in particular has become less energy efficient over the past 15 years, wiping out improvements from other sections of the economy. Energy consumption by industry accounted for more than half of the country's total use, with residential households making up just 12% and transport 37%.

Surge in power cut time, Aurora pays the bill

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 24/12/2008 Page: 8

TASMANIANS were left in the dark longer because of power failures, costing Aurora more than $1m in fees, the latest performance report into the state's electricity supply has revealed. Aurora was penalised $1.22 million in the 2007-08 financial year for its failure to meet reliability targets set under the 2003 Price Determination. But these financial penalties were scrapped on July 1. under the 2007 Price Determination.

The annual review by the Independent Energy Regulator has shown the Aurora and Transend networks both maintained consistent levels of supply to the previous financial year. But while, on average Tasmanians experienced slightly less than three power failures over the year, the average time it took to get the power back on was longer.

In the 2006-07 financial year customers experienced an average of just over four hours without power. But in the 2007-08 period that jumped to more than five hours. Energy Regulator Glenn Appleyard said this had a lot to do with the bad weather experienced in the first half of 2008. "Weather continues to have a significant impact on the performance of Aurora's distribution network, with the April 2008 storms affecting around 70.000 customers." Mr Appleyard said.

Last financial year customers experienced an average of 1.76 network interruptions - excluding interruptions associated with significant weather events - the best performance recorded by Aurora for this reliability measure. "Aurora has completed upgrade work on the network to lessen the impact of storm s and wind damage," Appleyard said.

Mining industry doubles energy use in 15 years

Canberra Times
Wednesday 24/12/2008 Page: 7

The mining industry might have secured significant concessions in the Government's plan for emissions trading, but fresh data shows it is becoming a worse greenhouse gas polluter with each passing year. Mining companies are heading in the wrong direction on climate change, using more energy and becoming less energy efficient. The industry more than doubled its energy use over the 15 years to 2006. And the amount of energy used per unit of output - called energy intensity - has been increasing by 3.7% a year.

The fight against climate change is generally held to involve using less energy and becoming more energy efficient. The findings are in a report by the Federal Government's Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics. The Government's white paper on emissions trading, issued last week, offered a significant number of free permits to mining companies to shield them from the full costs of emissions trading. Conservationists have strongly opposed the move, while the Government's own climate adviser, Ross Garnaut, said assistance to business was "over the top".

According to analysis commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, mining giants will reap billions of dollars worth of free permits under emissions trading. In the first year of emissions trading in 2010, Rio Tinto will get $462 million in free permits, BlueScope Steel $174 million, and Alcoa $170 million. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics report found mining companies' energy efficiency was getting worse because the industry was going after lower grade ores, and ores which were deeper in the ground. The industry was using more energy in exploration.

The report also found agriculture was heading in the wrong direction on climate, with energy efficiency in decline. But this was because of the drought cutting production. Other industries were headed in the right direction. The construction industry had significantly improved its energy efficiency, while the manufacturing and services sectors had modestly improved their efficiency.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

In hydrogen he trusts

Courier Mail
Tuesday 23/12/2008 Page: 28

Evan Gray"I LIKE coal it's a fascinating material," says Evan Gray. "I just don't like burning it." The affable Associate Professor has occupied the same box-like claustrophobic office at Griffith University for the past 20 years or more. For more than three decades, he has been working with hydrogen, the most universal of all the elements in the universe, to learn how to harness its potential.

But after years of scratching around for funding to continue his work, it appears his epoch may be fast approaching. And where environmentalists see Queensland's abundant coal resources as a liability, Gray and others in his field are seeing it as an asset.

The world's populous growing ever larger by the day needs power and coal provides about a quarter of our energy. But the world is searching for ways to produce energy that doesn't pump out gases that are changing the planet's climate. In hydrogen, Gray firmly believes he has the answer.

"Hydrogen is so universal you get it from water and it turns to water. It's a beautiful solution," he says. "We are working not towards the ultimate solution, but the most sustainable solution for the world." In the US last week, President-elect Barack Obama named his environmental and energy team, giving it a mandate to wean the super-power of its addiction to oil and coal.

At the same time the Rudd Government launched a White Paper for its carbon pollution reduction scheme Australia's first card drawn from the climate change mitigation deck. With the trading scheme the Government is pinning its hopes on an economic ideology which, when a price is put on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, forces markets to create less of it.

"There's enough coal at the moment for at least 300 years," says Gray, "Australia has about 9% of the known reserves of coal. What I see when I look at coal... well, it's several things... but I see the reality that we can get hydrogen from it. And if you burn hydrogen carefully, you get nothing but water. "I do believe hydrogen is the logical end point in fuels that started with wood and went to, peat, then oil, coal and natural gas. I believe that's where we can go. The missing key is a government that says we can go there.

"Kennedy said we would go to the moon by the end of the '60s and because he said that America went there in July 1969 when I was a sixth-form school student sitting watching it on my TV." Last week, the Australian Research Council announced it had given Griffith University $350,000 to establish a facility to "underpin the nation's research into hydrogen energy technology" with Gray leading the project. Those funds will be added to more than $400,000 from Griffith together with cash from the universities of Monash, UQ, Curtin and QUT.

Gray is hoping that next year a similar amount will come forward to enhance the facility's goal of driving Australia towards a "hydrogen economy". "From a technological point of view there are barriers," explains Gray. "The technology of using hydrogen to power vehicles is still fairly new, but it's reasonably well established. fuel-cell buses have already nun reliably in pilot projects. "Storage is what is judged to be the technical barrier storing it so that it's neither too big or too heavy.

"At the moment these techniques are very expensive, but the most important barrier of all is political will. A step in this direction is the carbon trading scheme where you put a price on carbon and allow the free market to trade in credits. But it has to be strong enough." The announcement of Gray's new National Hydrogen Materials Reference Facility puts southeast Queensland at the heart of Australia's research into hydrogen.

The region is already home to the National Hydrogen Materials Alliance, a collaboration of 12 universities, the CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Dr Andrew Dicks, at The University of Queensland, heads the alliance and he has similar hopes for the future of coal.

"Ultimately it would be best if we could make hydrogen from renewable energy use solar energy to basically split water," says Dicks. "But before we advance to that, there are other methods and one is to use coal gasification." Dicks explains that coal gasification still generates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide but in a way that is much easier to capture.

He says such a demonstration plant could be 10 years away, which is about the same time-frame that experts have put on so-called "clean coal" technology. This research, focused primarily on ways to capture and then store carbon dioxide underground, has attracted more than $100 million in funding from the Queensland Government alone.

"In Australia, we rely on coal for most of our power more than 80% and clearly it's been great for the economy," says Dicks. 'But if you are going to (capture and store) CO2, then the hydrogen route is the better way." Dicks has spent a similar number of years in hydrogen research as his counterpart Gray.

"When you work with hydrogen, you're either accused of being a dreamer and maybe sometimes I am or people say that it's that far away that we shouldn't worry about it too much. But neither of these views are right," says Dicks. Dicks argues that instead, Australia needs to take some eggs out of its "clean coal" basket and spread them around in its search for the right energy mix. "It's a bloody hard problem," adds Gray. "But because it's difficult, that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile."

Man Group closes ‘eco’ business
London, 18 December:

Hedge fund giant Man Group is winding down its Man Eco operation in a move that a source close to the company describes as a reorganisation - but which will raise concerns about how environmental investment is set to weather the financial crisis. The approximately 10 staff in the unit will be redeployed within the firm, if possible, the source said, and some $600 million of assets held by funds within the Man Eco operation will be retained by the company, and transferred to another part of the business.

The move is part of a restructuring at the London-listed firm, which had $61 billion under management as of November, to remove a layer of management between the Man Investment holding company and the underlying investments. Its five "core investment managers" - of which Man Eco was one - are being reduced to three.

The $600 million comprises a 25% stake in Nephila Capital, a catastrophe and weather risk specialist investment manager, for which Man paid $50 million in June, and a majority stake in MTM Capital Partners, which manages a $600 million carbon fund specialising in methane capture.

The assets will be transferred to RMF's New Alternatives group, another Man Group investment manager, which specialises in environmental investing, and which manages an environmental fund-of-funds. The source stressed that the Man Group was still interested in the environmental investment sector, but the move was in the context "of people generally reassessing risk" and costs in the hedge fund sector.

Stanley Fink, the former head of the Man Group and an advocate of environmental finance, recently backed a new sustainable investment venture, Earth Capital Partners. That company, launched earlier this month, includes at least one Man Eco alumnus, Coen Weddepohl, the former head of Man Group's environmental finance business. The Man Group declined to comment.

2009 sustainability convergence, 'Breakthrough: from Recession to Sustainability'

Presented by Sustainable Living Foundation, Friends of the Earth, and Greenleap Institute

As we face a looming financial crisis, what are the threats and opportunities to social and environmental movements?

How do we break the 'business as usual' model? How do we 'bail out' the planet? This convergence seeks to bring together people from across Melbourne to start to develop a pathway through the recession to a sustainable economy. What would this look like and how we would we get there? What about livelihood and good work, what about community resilience? What about our place in the world? How do we respond effectively to the looming crisis of climate change? And what does this mean for the social and environmental movements in the short term?

This one day forum will look at the opportunities and threats connected to the economic downturn – political, financial, cultural. We will look at hope and fear (and how we can speak in frames not of opposition but of hope and determination), sketch out pathways to a better future, and how we could get to a safe climate economy in 10 years.

We will also consider how we could make Melbourne a sustainable city – one that is compact, people friendly, based on public transport, renewable energy, biodiversity and food production There will be a session for workshops – you are welcome to send proposals in before the conference or nominate speakers for the plenary sessions

Saturday February 14, 9am – 5pm

Inner North (Venue TBC)

Low income - $15, Waged - $25 (no one excluded through lack of funds)

Further Information:
Cam at FoE:

This is the third sustainability convergence – details on the first two can be found here: And in early 2009 we will have details up on this event on this website

Rudd fails to negotiate first hurdle

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 23/12/2008 Page: 27

IN 2007 Kevin Rudd declared Australia would be a leader in the world's battle to stop dangerous climate change. His government's 2020 emissions targets announced last week are a capitulation to those who have always said that it's all too hard. What does leadership in the world community mean, if it doesn't mean being out at the head of the pack, influencing others by example? It's all very well to talk about being decisive and bold, but you don't become these things by just uttering the words.

The Rudd Government's cautious interim emissions target condemns Australia to be a follower - never a leader - in the world's battle to stop dangerous climate change. We'll never be able to claim attention from others while we're so patently avoiding any leading stance ourselves.

About the same time as Europe committed to cut emissions by 20% by 2020, Australia has set a 2020 reduction target of between 5 and 15% - more likely 5 than 15. Applied world-wide, the science tells us that our Government's target would bring on dangerous climate change. If this is leadership, we're in trouble.

It would seem when Mr Rudd talked about Australia's ambitions last year he had little idea of the obstacles he would have to negotiate. Now he's more aware of some of these obstacles, he's unwilling to make the effort needed to get past them. It's time Australia has some big hurdles to negotiate. Since 1990, Australia's carbon emissions have risen by at least 25%, if you set aside some dodgy figures for land use change and forestry. Even with such figures included, we've managed to increase our emissions by about 10%.

A big sticking point is the fact that by world standards, individual Australians are heavyweight carbon emitters. On average, each Australian causes the release to the atmosphere of around twice the amount of carbon of the average Briton and nearly six threes that of your average citizen of China.

Professor Ross Garnaut pointed out that from such a position it's a big turnaround to get emissions down at all - let alone to get them down by any meaningful amount. The Rudd Government now knows that, but can't find the courage to do what's necessary for a full U-turn. "We are not going to make promises that cannot be delivered," declared Kevin Rudd when he launched his plan.

Considering the near-certain outcome for us and our children if the world adopts Australia's position, such words are pitifully inadequate. Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong should not take such criticism alone. Some in the corporate world - notably resource industries - have been campaigning incessantly for subsidies to allow them to continue what they've always done with no extra financial cost.

They've managed to convince the Australian Government that several billion dollars of taxpayers' money would be well spent propping up industries that must with all possible speed change their ways or wind down their business, something they have surely known all along. But we're all culpable. It's the responsibility of everyone to pick up their particular tab and start making the payments by reducing their impact on the planet and living more in tune with nature, rather than counter to it. This is no longer a green-fringe mantra, but a matter of survival.

Our responsibility doesn't end there. Somehow we have to convince our political representatives that for Australia to lead, its own standards must be high and its actions decisive. Of course we must try to take others with us, but we must also be prepared to put our heads above the parapet. The alternative is simply to wait for the end. Who wants that?

Peter Boyer is a Hobart-based science writer and a presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Free permits to big polluters

Saturday 20/12/2008 Page: 4

HazelwoodSIX of Victoria's coal-fired power stations - including the notoriously dirty Hazelwood - will receive $2.8 billion in free carbon pollution permits over five years tinder the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme, a report estimates. Under the scheme to cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, some of Australia's wealthiest companies will get $5.3 billion in free permits by 2015, predicts the analysis, which was produced by financial advisory company Innovest for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The aluminum industry would receive the largest assistance to trade-exposed sectors of $1.2 billion in 2014-15. Top recipients include Rio Tinto at $620 million, BlueScope Steel ($233 million), US company Alcoa ($228 million), the UK-Netherlands company Royal Dutch Shell ($186 million), and Chinese trading company CITIC ($48 million in 2015). Four of Victoria's coal-fired power stations will get the lion's share of assistance to coal-fired generators over five years, with Hazelwood receiving $990 million, Yallourn ($738 million), Loy Yang A ($677 million) and Loy Yang B ($344 million).

Under the scheme, detailed in the Government's white paper this week, most businesses will have to pay for permits to pollute. By limiting the number of permits, the Government aims to force companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To offset industry's costs, the Federal Government will return some of this money in free permits. The Australian Conservation Foundation attacked the Government for giving "handouts to big polluters". "Australia's carbon pollution reduction scheme should not be a pay-the-polluter scheme," ACF executive director Don Henry said.

But the deputy chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, Brendan Pearson, said Australian business world pay the world's "highest carbon costs" under the white paper design. "Nearly 90 per cent, or $120 billion, of Australia's minerals exports will face full carbon costs under the emissions trading scheme," he said. "An average Australian firm with a 1 million tonnes carbon liability will pay $111 million in carbon costs over the first four years of the ETS." Industry has argued that trade-exposed companies should receive relief because of their economic importance in terms of exports and jobs.

While the Government has given big concessions to trade exposed sectors, it has also protected domestic coal-fired plants. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Government had taken on the concerns of industries while building a "low-pollution economy". In a separate analysis, the Climate Institute Australia think tank found the increased compensation offered under the Government's final carbon trading scheme model meant it was unlikely Australia could meet its target of cutting emissions by 15 per cent by 2020. "The more we look, the worse this package appears, and we will have to seriously look at recommending the whole package goes back to the drawing board," said John Connor, the institute's chief executive.

Sun sets on generous solar rebates

Canberra Times
Tuesday 23/12/2008 Page: 3

Households earning less than $100,000 have just six months to install solar panels or they will probably pay thousands of dollars more. The Federal Government announced last week it would change its rebate for solar panels, and said all households would get "up to" $7500. The change was billed as good news, but it is fiendishly complicated. Now it appears the rebate will be worth considerably less than $7500.

This means any household earning less than $100,000 a year will have as mach as $3600 lopped off its solar rebate when the new scheme starts in July. But those earning more than $100,000 will do mach better. Under the current system, the Government gives a means-tested rebate of $8000 to any household earning less than $100,000 which installs solar panels. There is also a small, separate rebate.

The new system gives a non-means-tested rebate to all households, but it is tied in with the Renewable Energy Target scheme and the value of it will fluctuate. To make things more complex, different cities will get different amounts. For Canberrans and people living in other "warm zone" cities - Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide - the rebate for households earning under $100,000 will drop from $9275 to $6374.

This is based on installing an average-sized 1.5 kW system, on current prices. For those earning above the threshold, government rebates will rise from $1275 to $6374. For people living in Victoria and Tasmania - the "cold zone" - the rebate for households on less than $100,000 will drop from $9093 to $5466. For households above the threshold, rebates will rise from $1093 to $5466. These calculations are based on data provided by solar panel manufacturer Conergy.

Managing director Rodger Meads said the value of the new rebate would fluctuate and he could not say exactly what it would be worth, but he drew some conclusions. "People over $100,000 a year ... will be better off, in my opinion," he said. It was a different story for households earning under $100,000. "On the preliminary figures today, they will be a little bit worse off. There won't be quite the same amount of money for them." But Environment Minister Peter Garrett's office says most Australians will receive about $7500.

"In the current market, the full value of solar credits for a 1.5 kW system would be around $7500 through most of Australia ... Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth," a spokeswoman said. "In Melbourne and Hobart, the value would be around 15% less simply because solar systems in these cities produce around 15% less energy." In Darwin the value would be more than $8000. It would be up to retailers to pass on the discount to consumers.

One little word undoes the PM's claims on greenhouse gases

Tuesday 23/12/2008 Page: 11

WE ALL think the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme will cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 5% relative to 2000 levels - right? No, we're wrong. Treasury modelling estimates that even with a cleaner, more effective model than the one now adopted, Australia's emissions in 2020 would rise 5.8% above 2000 levels. We would pump out more emissions in 2020 than we do now. It's an ugly reality that exemplifies why the Government's model is doomed to fail. It promises change, but tries to shield everyone from all the points that drive change.

As I have argued before, the problem is not the targets themselves. If we were to cut our emissions in 2020 to 5% below 2000 levels, that would be a rapid cut of 25% in emissions per capita from current levels. A cut to 15% below 2000 levels, promised if we get a good international agreement, implies a cut of 33% per capita between 2006 and 2020. If we achieved that, it would be real progress towards the ultimate goal of halving global emissions.

The problem is that with Rudd's decision to shield companies and households from the changes the scheme is meant to drive, it's unlikely that Australia will reduce its emissions. Yet that is what he promised to do.

There's a crucial point we all overlooked. Labor has not committed Australia to cut its emissions by 5%, but to cut its emissions allocation by 5%. And that is very different. In 2000, Australia emitted 553 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. In 2020, the Government will allocate permits for 525 million tonnes of emissions. But even before last week's changes weakened the scheme, Treasury estimated that Australia would emit 585 million tonnes.

The key to it is that the scheme allows companies to use unlimited numbers of permits from other countries instead of our own. And the permits we import will be subtracted from our emissions tally. They would come from other Western countries or (more likely) from developing countries, under rules such as the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism (CDM), which allows Western companies to buy permits for emissions saved in developing countries by using cleaner technology. A noble idea, unfortunately it has proved easy to rort.

The Garnaut report proposed a tighter test, but the Government refused. Permits from CDM and "joint initiative" projects in countries with emission reduction targets are expected to be plentiful and cheap. That's why Treasury estimates that emissions trading will prove cheap.

On Treasury modelling, even with constraints that will no longer apply, Australia in 2020 would import permits for another 46 million tonnes from other countries. And by 2050, Rudd pledges, Australia will reduce emissions by 60% from 2000 levels, to 221 million tonnes. But Treasury projects that in fact Australia would cut its emissions by only 24% to 420 million tonnes and buy 199 million tonnes of permits overseas.

Moreover, its modelling assumed Labor would limit the use of foreign permits, to supply at most half the cut in emissions. But Rudd threw out that constraint, allowing an even larger share of our "emissions cuts" to be bought overseas. What's wrong with that? Nothing, so long as it really cuts emissions. But we have seen China sell "certified emissions reduction' permits for phasing out Chlorofluorocarbons, which it has to do anyway under the Montreal Protocol.

The ease of rorting is one reason why economists such as Jeffrey Sachs plead instead for a carbon tax. The Government's spurned climate change adviser Ross Garnaut spelt out eloquently in Saturday's Age how its scheme would waste the revenue from emissions trading in unjustifiable and/or extravagant compensation payouts to interest groups, rather than using it to drive change. It's a sad picture of a weak Government that crumbles under pressure from big business.

The net effect will be to reduce emission cuts in Australia, so the targets are achieved by buying dubious overseas permits. The scheme won't be a write-off, but it will be rorted, and it will not achieve what it claims to do. Labor has tried to deflect criticism by focusing on the cuts in per capita emissions. That would be fine if the cuts really happened, and if, like Garnaut, it proposed that contraction and convergence to a global per capita emissions target by 2050 be the framework for an international agreement.

But when Penny Wong addressed other environment ministers at Poznan, she did not mention per capita emissions. Why? Because Australia's per capita emissions are the sixth highest in the world - and under Garnaut's framework we would have to make (or buy) the sixth biggest cuts. Yet there is no other viable way for the world to cut emissions to levels that would end global warming. The greenhouse gases that threaten environmental catastrophe are not those already up there, but the far greater volume to be emitted in future, mostly from developing countries.

We need real leadership - not this.

Around the world on solar power

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 20/12/2008 Page: 73

solar powerA SWISS engineer has completed the first around-the-world trip in a solar energyed car after more than 17 months on the road during which he crossed almost 40 countries. Louis Palmer, 36, arrived back in Lucerne in central Switzerland yesterday in his "solar taxi" after covering 53,451km over four continents. Since his departure on July 3 last year, he travelled through eastern Europe, the Middle East and India before heading to New Zealand, Australia, South-East Asia and China and finally the U.S. He finished his trip after a detour through France, England, Scandinavia and Germany.

"We have achieved our first world tour without using a single drop of oil," Mr Palmer said at the end of his trip. The three-wheeler solar taxi, which towed a trailer packed with batteries charged by the sun, reached speeds of 90km/h. It had a battery for travel in the night and in cloudy conditions. "One of my goals was to persuade as many people as possible that renewable energy is ecological, economical and reliable," he said.

His vehicle only broke down twice during the tour, he said, and surmounted the extreme heat in the Middle East and the hazardous terrain in America's Rocky Mountains. The small blue-and-white vehicle carried about 1000 passengers in all, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Mr Palmer has said the prototype for the solar taxi could be mass-produced, but that it would need serious modifications. He said he planned to travel around the world in 80 days for his next challenge, but in a faster car.

Cutting the red tape for solar panels

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 22/12/2008 Page: 22

RESIDENTS and small business owners will be able to fit solar panels on their roofs without getting council planning approval from January 1. Urban Development Minister Paul Holloway said the Government had reduced the amount of red tape involved in fitting an array of solar panels weighing less than 100kg. The Government will soon begin consulting industry bodies to establish a process to accredit tradespeople qualified to fit the panels.

"Exempting solar panels from the approvals process will remove a costly disincentive in both time and money to installing this energy-saving technology," Mr Holloway said. "...the Rann Labor Government hopes to further encourage this already national leading rate of household installations." He said SA had about 40 per cent of the nation's grid-connected solar panels and five times the number of household installations of the next highest state.

"South Australia's feed-in scheme leads the nation on tackling climate change by paying people to double the tariff for excess solar energy they feed back into the electricity grid," he said. "Householders and small energy consumers using solar panels are currently being rewarded with a guaranteed credit of 44c for every unit of electricity or kW hour, fed back into the grid."

Residents link up as a power generation

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 20/12/2008 Page: 56

FRUSTRATED with the Federal Government's inaction and weak stance in reducing emissions, a group of Adelaide residents has decided to take matters in their own hands. Semaphore will be at the heart of South Australia's first solar neighbourhood. More than 75 households have banded together to take local action they say can go a long way in saving the planet from global warming. Project organiser Dr Brad Page, 35, of Semaphore, says the team of four set out to convince at least 50 like minded households to install solar panels, because more panels would attract a better deal from suppliers.

"The primary motivation for us was to create a visual statement of solar panels that were clustered in a really small area," he said. "This would create a lot of local interest in the fact that it can be done." For each home with a standard 1000 watt (1kW) solar energy system, the cost is down to just $2500 after the rebate, which is a discount of about $2000. Dr Page said the system could be expected to reduce the average home's power bills by at least $200 a year.

In SA, the feed-in tariff should bring in another $200 a year because electricity companies pay 44c per thousand watts fed back into the grid. That's a total saving of $400 a year. "Our Lefevre Solar Neighbourhood will be bounded to the south by Grange Rd, and to the east by Frederick Rd and the Port River and to the west by the ocean," Dr Page said. "None of the organisers will make a penny out of this. We're in this for the concept, not the cash." But in a sad twist of fate, Dr Page and co-organisers Dr Jane McKenzie, Tim Edkins and Natasha Piltz are likely to miss out on the deal.

Dr Page said he was "gutted" to discover that his household would not be eligible for the $8000 Federal Government rebate on panels installed in the 2008/09 financial year, because the income means test will be applied to taxable income in the previous 2007/08 financial year. "I won't be eligible for the $8000 and the cost will be $3000 extra after July 09, which wipes me out," he said. "The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure it will also knock out the other organisers, Tim and Tash." This week the Federal Government announced a decision to scrap the means-tested rebate that was worth up to $8000.

Under the new system, to operate from July next year, the rebate will be smaller but everyone - households, businesses and community groups - can access it, regardless of income. The maximum rebate for an average-sized 1.5 kW system will be about $7500. A smaller 1 kW system will attract a rebate of about $5000. Rebate values may fluctuate and will decline from 2012.