Thursday, 30 December 2010

Subsidies put solar panels top

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 22/12/2010 Page: 17

THERE were more than 100,000 solar power systems installed across Australia last year, which is more than in the previous decade combined. Industry group Clean Energy Australia said yesterday rooftop solar photovoltaic systems were becoming the "Hills Hoist" of the 21st century, driven by generous state and federal government subsidies. However, growth in industrial-scale renewable power was "modest" in the year to the end of October, because of policy uncertainty about how the industry would be subsidised.

The group's 2010 report also predicted more than 55,000 jobs would be created in the industry by 2020, up from about 8085 now. About 7817 jobs were expected to be based in SA by 2020, up from 751 now. The increased employment and projected investment of more than $20 billion is being driven by the Federal Government's target to have 20% of the nation's power supplied by renewal sources by 2020.

"Much of this growth will be in regional Australia, creating employment opportunities and an economic boost for towns and communities", the report says. "In 2009-10 alone, clean energy in Australia generated just under $1.8 billion in investment".

The proportion of Australia's electricity production generated by renewable means rose significantly to 8.67%. However, this increase was largely driven by a 15% rise in hydroelectric generation from good rainfall. Growth in industrial power generation was just 210MWs, down from 993MW the previous year. "Policy and investment uncertainty played a major role in the drop in new projects in 2010 compared with the year before", the report says.

"The success of household renewable energy such as solar power and solar hot water in 2009 led to an oversupply of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). "With a glut of RECs in the market, the price remained low. For large-scale projects this REC price is critical". South Australia accounts for 9% of the nation's installed renewable capacity at 966MW. The state renewable energy target is to have 33% of SA's power generated by renewables by 2020.

Solar becoming the new Aussie Hills Hoist

Clean Energy Australia 2010 report
21 Dec 2010

There was more solar power installed on rooftops between January and October this year than for the entire previous decade, according to the Clean Energy Australia 2010 report released today.

The increased affordability of solar power in Australia meant the technology was fast becoming "the Hills Hoist of the 21st century", according to Matthew Warren, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Australia's peak body for more than 450 renewable energy companies.

There were more than 100,000 solar power systems installed during 2010, compared with a total of 81,232 from 2000-2009. "Over the past year more than 100,000 households have made a significant personal investment to take individual action on climate change and protect themselves against rising electricity prices," Mr Warren said.

The report also includes new modelling that predicts more than 55,000 jobs are expected to be created in renewable energy by 2020, many in regional areas. The Clean Energy Australia Report provides a snapshot of the renewable energy industry over 2010. Other trends include:

  • 8.67% of Australia's electricity was generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind in the last year, a total of 21,751GW hours. This was the equivalent of over three million Australian households.
  • Good rainfall in key catchments led to a 15% increase in hydro electricity from previous years.
  • According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the renewable energy sector experienced just under $1.8 billion in new financial investment during the 2009-2010 financial year.
  • There was a total of 209MWs of large scale clean energy projects added to the grid between January and October this year.

Mr Warren said continued policy uncertainty in the first half of 2010 had slowed development of a number of industrial scale clean energy projects. "The enhanced renewable energy target starts on New Year's Day. With some major projects in the pipeline such as the Macarthur wind farm we are looking forward to continued growth of clean energy in 2011," he said.

Click here to download the report or visit www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au.

Energy target gives us vital impetus

Age
Tuesday 21/12/2010 Page: 12

IN PUSHING for the removal of industry development policies such as the 20% renewable energy target, Heather Ridout seems to believe in the silver bullet theory of addressing climate change ("Labor energy policy costly, inefficient: Ridout", The Age, 20/12). If groups like the Australian Industry Group have their way, an emissions trading scheme will not provide a sufficient price signal to change investment in the stationary energy sector for at least 15 years.

With more than 40% of Australian greenhouse gas emissions coming from producing energy, urgent action is required. Policies such as the renewable energy target play a significant role because they divert investment away from dirty forms of energy to clean sources. By supporting the deployment of clean energy technologies, we create new industries in regional Australia, stimulate investment and diversify our energy generation mix.

These benefits do not have a big price tag, as some like to suggest. Over the next 10 years the large-scale portion of the 20% renewable energy target will add less than 0.75% a year to most consumers' energy bills. This is small compared with recent cost increases associated with building and maintaining distribution and transmission networks.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Energy efficiency zapped

Sun Herald
Sunday 19/12/2010 Page: 18

ELECTRICITY retailers in NSW have been urged not to spend the $17.9 billion they had set aside for new substations, wires and power poles and to concentrate instead on making customers more energy efficient. If the spending goes ahead, household power bills could rise by as much as 35%, the NSW Greens have predicted. In addition, Greens MP John Kaye said new substations and powerlines could affect people's health, as a result of electromagnetic radiation, and could damage environmentally sensitive sites.

The call to curb spending has come in the same week that the state government sold the retail activities of EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy to private enterprise. The energy infrastructure, or network, remains in public hands. The Australian Energy Regulator rubber-stamped the Keneally government's decision to give $17.9 billion to the three energy companies and transmission company Trans Grid to fix ailing infrastructure in September.

On Thursday, federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson published a report stating that up to $129 billion in investment was needed over the next 20 years to update the national power grid. But Mr Kaye said private power retailers would not be as willing to urge customers to engage in energy management activities such as using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, off-peak power and installing solar panels.

"The ability to manage the demand for electricity more sensibly is one of the alternatives to building all this new infrastructure", Mr Kaye said. "The problem is that when you privatise these corporations, they become less likely to be interested in energy efficiency. They want to sell more, they don't want to sell less. These companies will simply pass the power distribution costs to the householder".

Mr Kaye said EnergyAustralia was already planning a $50 million substation at Empire Bay on the central coast that threatened a sensitive wildlife area. He said Integral Energy wanted to install high-voltage transformers and cables, which emit harmful electromagnetic fields, next to houses, a TAFE college and a childcare centre at Granville. There were also substation plans for residential streets in Bondi and Ryde.

A spokesman for NSW Energy Minister Paul Lynch said the government had no say on when projects were completed or how the grid operated. Households are already coping with electricity price rises after the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal set future rises of 20 to 42% in the three years to June 2013 an additional $240 to $600 on the average bill.

Why your electricity bill will go up:

  • Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said increases were "unavoidable" to guarantee supply after low infrastructure spending by the states.
  • Over the next 20 years, $130 billion is needed to update power grid to meet increasing demand and comply with climate change policies.
  • NSW electricity retailers are to spend $17.9 billion on infrastructure such as substations and power lines, adding up to 35% to bills
  • The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is allowing 20 to 42% price rises over three years, adding $240 to $600 to bills.
  • Funding needed for "green energy" initiatives: solar and wind power
  • Carbon tax could lift prices 46 to 64% over three years.

US warns of rare earths risk

Australian
Friday 17/12/2010 Page: 23

Supplies of rare earth materials, mined mostly in China and used in a handful of clean-energy products, could be cut off or disrupted in future years, according to the US Energy Department.

Five rare earth materials that are used to build electric vehicles, energy efficient lighting, solar panels and wind turbines "are at risk of supply disruptions", David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the US Energy Department, said yesterday at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Concern over the supply of these materials is surfacing at the same time the US is encouraging the development of clean energy technologies as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels. China currently produces more than 95% of these rare-earth materials, presenting a scenario in which much of the world's clean technology makers rely on the country for valuable resources. "China has said it intends to be a reliable supplier", Mr Sandalow said.

However, the US should try to diversify global supply chains and develop substitutes "so that we are not reliant on any particular input", Mr Sandalow cautioned. Non-government analysts believe China could reduce exports of rare-earth materials to countries that rely on them.

China's willingness to supply these materials constitutes a "fragile relationship", said Jim Hedrick of Hedrick Consultants. China intends to raise tariffs on some rare-earth exports starting next year, the Associated Press reported the state media as saying yesterday. China's Ministry of Finance did not say which rare earths would be affected, the AP reported.

A material known as dysprosium, used in magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicles, is particularly important to the clean technology sector. According to the Energy Department, supplies of dysprosium are also among the most threatened. In addition to being the largest producer of rare earth materials, China was currently the largest consumer, said Clint Cox, founder of Anchor House, a firm that specialises in rare earth elements.

Companies operating in China are the largest consumers of the materials. Colorado-based Molycorp announced earlier this week that it had received environmental permits to begin construction of a new rare earth manufacturing facility in Mountain Pass, California.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Macquarie solar field set for record size

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 16/12/2010 Page: 6

STATE-OWNED Macquarie Generation will double the size of the solar array alongside its Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley, making it the largest solar thermal power project in the southern hemisphere. An 18,000 square-metre field of mirrors with generating capacity of 9MW - enough to power 1000 homes - will concentrate the sun's energy to generate steam, acting as a "solar boiler" and saving fuel at the coal-fired power station.

The solar field will save about 5000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses a year - a tiny fraction of Liddell power station's emissions of about 9 million tonnes a year. (Macquarie is the country's largest emitter, at about 25 million tonnes in 2008-09.) The solar project will cost approximately $10 million, largely funded by a $9.25 million grant from the NSW government, which means greenhouse gas savings could cost as much as $2000 a tonne.

The contractor Novatec BioSol, a subsidiary of Transfield Services Holdings, will begin construction next year and hopes to finish construction by 2012. Components will be made in the Hunter Valley, creating up to 35 jobs.

Transfield Services is proposing to use Novatec's technology to improve efficiency at the Collinsville coal-fired power station in Queensland as part of its shortlisted bid for funding under the federal government's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships process. This aims to part-fund development of two solar power stations of about 150MW capacity each - one solar thermal and one solar photovoltaic. Final round bids closed yesterday and the winners will be announced in the middle of next year.

$100,000 for SA solar tracker

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 16/12/2010 Page: 52

Solar Shop Australia and Hydragate will use a $100,000 grant to install a locally manufactured solar tracking system by the end of next year. The companies recently won the State Government grant to develop the system. Hydragate will manufacture the system and Solar Shop will provide photovoltaic research and development expertise.

Solar Shop corporate development chief Chris Stewart said the local product would be cheaper than other tracking systems in the market and would have fewer moving parts. "It's all being made here with the tracker itself offering 40% more efficiency than roof solar panels", Mr Stewart said. The technology is targeted at the commercial market.

Competitor ZEN recently installed a $450,000-plus, 30kW solar tracking farm at Monarto Zoo with the help of a State Government grant. Its system is jointly developed and manufactured with European based company Mecasolar. "As a private company that's installed Australia's largest solar tracking system only months ago, launched by Premier Mike Rann, we are disappointed to have not had a chance to tender on this grant", a spokesperson for ZEN said.

The grant was among measures Mr Rann announced at the Cancun climate change conference, including opening up 400,000sq km of crown land for solar and wind farms.

Everyone will pay for better grid

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 15/12/2010 Page: 9

UP TO $130 billion of investment in the national power grid is needed to cope with an expected surge in electricity demand, placing further pressure on household electricity bills.

In a network development plan to be made public today by the Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, the Australian Energy Market Operator the independent operator of the national electricity market says demand is likely to rise between 30 and 70% over the next two decades, depending on economic and population growth. The investment is needed to cope with increasing demand, ageing infrastructure and the transition to a low carbon environment.

But the market operator's chief executive, Matt Zema, said only "a very small amount", about $4 billion, of capital investment had been committed nationwide so far, though he added that electricity generators had never previously failed to deliver the required investment to meet demand. "It's the uncertainty associated with a carbon price. The industry is not willing to make any great decisions about investment and generation".

The high investment cost is likely to fuel higher wholesale electricity prices, which typically make up 30 to 40% of what the consumer pays. The introduction of a carbon price is already expected to at least double wholesale prices. If economic growth is strong and the carbon price is high, the market operator said wholesale prices could increase four-fold over the next 20 years.

The operator modelled a number of scenarios, factoring in economic and population growth and the impact of a carbon price. Even in the scenario of lowest economic growth, it said $40 billion of investment was required. The prevailing low-carbon environment means gas and renewables will provide most of the new electricity generation in the next decade.

The market operator said this would increase demand for gas five-fold by 2030, but that there would be sufficient gas reserves to meet both domestic and export demand, even though production in Victoria and South Australia was expected to decline.

Monday, 27 December 2010

RedFlow debuts on market

Courier Mail
Tuesday 14/12/2010 Page: 27

ENERGY storage company RedFlow, which is ploughing funds into raising its production of zinc-bromine battery systems by more than 10 times, makes its sharemarket debut today. The Brisbane-based company is commercialising electricity storage systems and last month raised $17.5 million through a fully underwritten initial public offering of shares priced at $1.00 each.

Its systems range from small to large scale, enabling customers to supplement their electricity supply, including storing power from renewable energy generators such as wind turbines and solar panels. RedFlow says the global energy storage market for grid-connected applications by electricity utilities and for off-grid applications for use in rural locations is expected to grow rapidly in the next 10 years.

RedFlow chief executive Phil Hutchings said the company also has just shipped a 5-kW zinc-bromine battery system to the UK which will be installed this month.

Meridian in power play for Australia

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 13/12/2010 Page: 20

New Zealand renewable electricity company Meridian Energy is looking to expand its portfolio of assets in Australia, where it already has a presence through Meridian Energy EnergyAustralia. The subsidiary has a 50% stake in the Victorian Macarthur wind farm joint venture with AGL Energy, and owns the Mount Millar wind farm, bought from Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund for $191 million. Ben Burge, the new chief executive of Meridian Energy EnergyAustralia who comes from a previous role at IBM, says the business is looking for opportunities to buy and build renewable energy projects, and 'may not be restricted to wind only.'

Focus on renewable energy integration

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 11/12/2010 Page: 91

A CREATIVE combination of government regulations and more advanced technology will be needed to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar and wind into electricity grids worldwide on a more significant scale, says a panel of international experts. Hundreds of engineers, researchers and policymakers from abroad are gathering this week in New Mexico to talk about the future of renewable and distributed energy systems.

The mission of those at the conference is to find more affordable and efficient ways to mesh large-scale solar and wind farms and smaller distributed generation systems, which include the sea of solar panels popping up on residential rooftops around the world, into grids dependent on consistent sources of power.

They're also focusing on ways policymakers can develop regulatory roadmaps for encouraging more renewable energy. "It's all got to come together", says Charles Hanley, the manager of Sandia's Photovoltaics and Grid Integration Department. Mr Hanley referred to an idea he heard earlier in the week, that researchers aren't looking for a silver bullet, but rather "silver buckshot".

"We want to address everything that is necessary to make up a solid portfolio - that's on the regulation side, the R&D side and the technology and market acceptance side", he says. "There's got to be a number of pieces that add up to an overall solution to come away with an optimised smart grid that has a high penetration of renewable and distributed sources".

Nearly 30 states have developed renewable energy portfolio standards that require electric utilities to get as much as 25% of their power from renewable sources within the next decade, but experts at the conference say Europe leads the way when it comes to its goal of making renewables a majority source of power.

While the European Union has set targets of 20% by 2020, New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks notes the United States is far from adopting a national renewable portfolio standard. "What's unfortunate is in our country energy policy has been politicised in a very destructive way", he said. "It's mostly been focused on climate change". Mr Marks says large systems for harnessing solar and wind power were only talked about in laboratories a couple of decades ago; now it is being done around the world every day.

Cracks in carbon capture schemes

Courier Mail
Friday 10/12/2010 Page: 80

There is growing opposition in Australia and overseas to projects proposing to store carbon underground

FOR years it has been billed as a way for the world to keep generating electricity from fossil fuels without burning up the planet. But in contrast to solar power, which has been fondly embraced even in people's own homes, plans to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to slash greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations have proven controversial. So much so that some projects have now been ditched.

Scientists say developed nations' emissions need to start falling by 2015 and be almost zero in about 30 years to have a strong chance of holding global warming to 2C the target most countries, including Australia, have adopted. Emissions from coal-fired power stations are the major contributor to climate change and gas-fired generators are also large emitters. CCS is intended to catch 65% to 90% of plant emissions, turn the CO₂ into liquid and pump it underground to be stored forever, with no leakage.

Its complexity and cost mean it has been in experimental mode for years and no power station with capture and storage at major scale exists anywhere. CCS needs to get a move on given the deadline looming for emission cuts and because it faces a challenge from emission-free solar and wind power stations that are now arriving in force in the global energy market. A 1000-MW solar power station starts construction this month in the US and an 845-MW wind farm has also been approved there.

By contrast, in Germany, which is home to the world's most advanced carbon-capture pilot plants, utilities RWE and Vattenfall had to shelve plans to store carbon from two leading projects due to community concerns, including fears over water pollution. And protests by residents and the local council last month caused the Dutch Government to cancel a plan by Shell to store carbon underground at Barendrecht. "They're saying what if the CO₂ has heavy metals and gets into groundwater, even in a thousand year's time.

And saying, we know it's going to be stored a kilometre underground, but what if the strata has a crack and the stuff can leak (upward) until its into our groundwater", said Robin Batterham, Australia's former chief scientist who was recently in Germany to advise on CCS. Similar concerns are surfacing here, where developers are now working to pin down sites for CCS plants and storage.

The Queensland Government has released 13 land areas for industry to explore for storage in the Blackall-Tambo area near Emerald, the Roma-Wandoan area and the Chin area, covering the Surat, Bowen, Galilee and Adavale basins. Queensland farmers' organisation AgForce says there are concerns that planned underground carbon storage in Queensland's Surat Basin and other basins may harm the Great Artesian Basin or the Murray-Darling Basin.

"The Surat Basin is over the GAB and is interrelated with the Murray-Darling Basin, and if we start having significant GAB impacts, then will the last one on the Darling Downs please turn the lights off. It's as simple as that", AgForce spokesman Drew Wagner said. "The reality is we do not know what impacts (CCS) may have on underground water. We don't know what impacts it may have on inter-aquifer relationships and we also may find it's going to have impacts in terms of tying up prime agricultural land".

NSW Farmers' Association president Charles Armstrong last week said CCS could leave the public with a dangerous, expensive legacy. Swiss miner Xstrata's unit CTSCo has been shortlisted as a preferred tenderer for carbon storage in Queensland. CTSCo would look to transport and pump into the Surat Basin up to 2.5 million metric tons of liquid CO₂ a year from a Wandoan coal-fired power plant that would be built by Stanwell Corporation and General Electric, with government funding.

CTSCo will start its community engagement process, or detailed talks with local communities, once it receives permit conditions likely next month or in February and has decided on its specific preferred sites. A 2009 study for the Queensland Government said the Surat Basin was a potentially prime target for high volume carbon storage but said more study was needed into links between water bodies and that well field location "is critical to mitigation of detrimental contamination effects".

"The cost of remediation strategies for damage to existing infrastructure resulting from CO₂ contamination could be prohibitive. Environmental impacts could be severe but remain speculative and cannot be quantified with currently available information", the study said. But it said several factors "contribute to a high level of confidence in an adequate safety margin".

CTSCo project director Alan du Mee said the Wandoan project would store CO₂ up to 2km underground in sites that are generally isolated from potable water. "The first stage is drilling holes to test rock properties and water quality. Later comes CO₂ testing, pumping it down and seeing what happens.

In each of those stages you're monitoring if there is any interaction with water supplies", Mr du Mee said. "(It's a) development project so that we all understand what does this take, what does it do, is it going to work, can we do something with CO₂. It's all 'gently, gently'. In the end, it's the communities and public at large that are going to decide whether this thing's going anywhere."

Investment jolt for electricity network

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 8/12/2010 Page: 63

UP to $6 billion could be spent on South Australia's electricity transmission network by 2020 as demand for power increases, ElectraNet chief executive Ian Stirling said. Mr Stirling expected at least a $2 billion capital injection over the next 10 years with the potential investment increasing to $6 billion "if all the planets aligned".

"There could potentially be $6 billion of transmission development in South Australia in the next 10 years. That's probably the high side", Mr Stirling said at the SA Infrastructure Summit 2010 in Adelaide yesterday. "This would be driven by the mining sector and the need to be able to deliver new generation".

He said the need for a new electricity interconnector between SA and New South Wales, more demand for green power and a "decent carbon price" would also drive investment higher. Meanwhile, SA had enough electricity generation capacity for the next few years with the new Cherokee gas fired electricity power station to be built near Mannum to help meet the peak demand. The power station is expected to reach maximum capacity of 1000MWs by 2021, capable of meeting up to 25% of the state's peak demand.

Wind farm power generation capacity coming on stream also would meet demands for at least five years. But it would be at least 15 years before renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, became key to the state's electricity baseload with more gas-fired power stations to till the gap until then.

ElectraNet owns 6000 circuit kilometres of wires and 79 substations in the state and has invested $800 million in transmission in SA since 2000. It generated revenue of $3 billion last financial year and represents about 10% of the price of power paid by South Australians.

Meanwhile, Mr Stirling said expected electricity price rises may be partly offset over the next few years as "ramp gas" or gas from coal seam gas producers in New South Wales and Queensland was dumped on to the market. "This may affect the profitability of generators in Queensland", he said.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Green light for wind farm

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 7/12/2010 Page: 31

IN A landmark judgment that could set the precedent for community litigation against wind farm developments, the environmental court in Adelaide has ruled in favour of AGL Energy's Hallett 3 project at Mount Bryan in the Mid North. Handing down its judgment on the state's first case of this kind, the Environment, Resources and Development Court cleared the way for the $180 million wind farm. "The decision of the Council to grant development plan consent will be confirmed, subject to some minor variations to the conditions imposed", the judgment by Judge Susanne Cole, Commissioner Terry Mosel and Commissioner John Agnew said.

Some Mount Bryan residents had appealed against the 33-wind turbine project, citing visual amenity and noise concerns. The court accepted evidence that the wind farm will "comply sufficiently" with relevant noise standards and said it was up to regulatory bodies generating the policies and standards to look at raising them. "Views of the landscape will not be obstructed by the turbines, but they will form a new element in the landscape", the court said. Dairy farmer Richard Paltridge's appeal in the ERD court against Acciona Energy's $175 million Allendale East wind farm has been adjourned to the New Year.

A source close to the Mount Bryan case, who did not want to be named, commented that the judgment changed the dynamics and set a precedent for other cases that were sure to follow. "As a consequence of this decision, opponents to such projects around South Australia can now see that the demand for renewable energy outweighs any community concerns", he said.

An AGL Energy spokesperson said: "The appeal has caused some delay to the progress of the development of the wind farm, but we are pleased that we can now continue to move forward". AGL Energy has Hallett 1 and Hallett 2 wind farms already operational in the region, and is currently also constructing Hallett 4 and Hallett 5. The appellants are considering the merits of taking their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation, which is studying the health effects of wind turbines on rural communities, was disappointed with the decision. "There is growing evidence of rural Australians living near wind farms becoming very ill due to chronic sleep deprivation. "I am concerned that the current process is greatly biased towards the developers, who have significant financial resources."

Ill wind for anti-turbine push: more to come

Sunday Age
Sunday 5/12/2010 Page: 5

THE Baillieu government has conceded its controversial wind farm policy is powerless to control the biggest expansion of wind power in Victoria's history, with 1322 new turbines planned across 28 approved developments.

Before the Brumby government lost office, embattled planning minister Justin Madden approved about $5 billion of wind power projects. If all farms go ahead, Victoria will have eight times its current wind generation capacity, from 427MWs to 3619MWs, equivalent to two Latrobe Valley brown coal power stations.

Under the Coalition's wind farm election policy, welcomed by anti-wind farm campaigners, residents can veto a development if turbines are less than two kilometres from their home. Planning authority was also given back to local councils. When the policy was released in June, the wind industry said it would kill off investment.

But in a concession likely to disappoint local anti-wind farm groups, new Planning Minister Matthew Guy told The Sunday Age that although several of the approved farms were contentious, the Coalition would not retrospectively apply its policies to the 28 wind farms already holding planning approvals. Such a move, he said, would create serious risks for business in Victoria. "We made it very clear to everyone we couldn't touch permits that were already granted".

The new minister encouraged energy companies to be "mindful" of the government's guidelines when building their projects. Coastal Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy, who welcomed the election of Mr Baillieu, acknowledged the government had a problem applying its policy retrospectively but urged the industry to embrace the guidelines on a voluntary basis.

The Coalition hoped its wind farm policy would play well in the regional marginals of Ballarat East and Ripon, where the developments have been numerous and controversial. In a post election analysis of booths in these areas, the industry claimed wind farms had made no material difference to the way people voted. Labor held on to both Ballarat East and Ripon. According to the Department of Primary Industries web site, Mr Madden left his job with a clear in tray for wind farm approvals. There are now no projects waiting for Mr Guy's signature.

Under Labor government changes, the planning minister is responsible for assessing wind farm proposals of 30MWs or greater. Last week the industry was reeling from the Baillieu government's election, saying it was unlikely any more wind farm proposals would be developed in Victoria for some time. "We are not going to look at any projects in Victoria at this stage", said Andrew Richards, spokesman for wind power company Pacific Hydro. "It's just too difficult. The industry is in a holding pattern, a wait-and-see pattern". AGL Energy, another big wind investor, had similar sentiments.

Industry figures say the economics now are not quite right for Victoria's 3192MWs of approved wind farms. To be profitable, wind farms need a higher wholesale price of electricity. Two things push up this price: pro-renewable energy targets and market schemes, and a carbon price. The industry says a carbon price, which will make wind power more competitive with cheap brown coal electricity, means it is more likely the farms will go ahead. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has set 2011 as the year to set a price on carbon.

Mr Richards said that despite its tough wind farms policy, the Baillieu government could oversee Victoria's biggest expansion in wind-powered energy. "I'd imagine that over the next four or five years a large percentage of those projects will get built", he said.

(It's about time Conservative parties stopped sitting on the fence and kowtowing to climate change denialists and anti-windfarm opponents who are driven more by self-interest than good science - Blair)

Push for legislation Ban on growth of coal power

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 6/12/2010 Page: 3

SOUTH Australia is planning to introduce tough new carbon emissions standards that will ban construction of new coalfired power stations. Legislation to apply the new limits will go to Parliament next year after talks with the electricity industry and the release of a discussion paper. Premier Mike Rann outlined details of the move at the UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, which is being attended by about 15,000 delegates from more than 190 countries and states.

Mr Rann said SA wanted to set a carbon emissions limit for new electricity production that would be by far the toughest in Australia. SA currently has two coalfired power stations, Flinders and Playford at Port Augusta, which provide nearly 35% of the state's power load. Both use low-quality brown coal from Leigh Creek and the Carbon Monitoring for Action group has estimated that, between them, the two stations use 4.97 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

The new rules will not apply to the Flinders and Playford power stations but government sources said both were facing major operational changes - possibly conversion to natural gas, because the coal supply at Leigh Creek is expected to eventually run out. Mr Rann said the Commonwealth had initiated a consultation process on its policy to require all new power stations to meet best-practice emissions standards. "I support that approach as it offers an effective mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the stationary energy sector on a national basis", he told The Advertiser.

Gas accounts for almost half of SA's electricity generation, while 18% comes from wind power generation. By 2020, 33% of the state's power will come from renewable energy. Mr Rann said the announcement signalled a clear intention to drive the advantage home of having the toughest and most comprehensive regime for the carbon intensity of electricity generation in Australia.

He said the Government had been guided in its deliberations on the carbon intensity ceiling by expert advice received from the engineering services company, WorleyParsons. "The Government recognises that its approach may have implications for specific projects such as off-grid diesel projects as well as syngas and coal-to-liquids projects where power generation can form part of a larger process", Mr Rann said. "As a starting point, the Government intends to provide sufficient flexibility in its legislation to be able to recognise and respond to unintended outcomes. This will also take into account innovative approaches for managing carbon emissions that are being planned by project developers."

Climate fund claims win on greenhouse gases

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 4/12/2010 Page: 4

THE Climate Advocacy Fund has claimed victory in its campaign to get Aquila Resources and Paladin Energy to start reporting greenhouse gas emissions to shareholders. However, the founder and managing director of Paladin Energy, John Borshoff, has declared that his company "won't be held captive to eco-terrorists" and has not yet put the proposal to its board. The Climate Advocacy Fund, a joint initiative between The Climate Institute Australia and Australian Ethical Investor, said Aquila Resources had given an undertaking that it would report its emissions and reduction strategies next year as part of the Carbon Disclosure Project. It said Paladin Energy had also agreed to report emissions with the Global Reporting Initiative with two years.

The climate fund announced in September plans to target Paladin Energy and Aquila Resources, along with Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search, for failing to provide adequate information to shareholders about their carbon footprints. Julian Poulter, business director of The Climate Institute Australia, said Paladin Energy and Aquila Resources had taken important steps forward. "This sends a signal to other high emitting companies that disclosure and the management of carbon liabilities is core business and essential to providing shareholders, and the market, with the necessary information about this key material risk to their long term financial health", he said.

But Mr Borshoff said his company had agreed to nothing and attacked the Climate Advocacy Fund, calling on companies to "stand up against this and make their own minds up on (climate related) risks". "This whole movement has taken a track of religious fervour", he told BusinessDay. "We are not going to be held captive to eco-terrorists. It is like the nonsense around the Y2K bug. Who talks about the complete waste of time that that turned out to be?" Mr Borshoff said. "We will take a very pragmatic approach and if we see that this has some relevance then we will do it."

Monday, 13 December 2010

Looking past coal to mine dumps and sewers

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 3/12/2010 Page: 4

THE bright tights of Sydney's central business district will be powered by rotting agricultural waste and sewage harvested from a 250-kilometre radius around the city, under a new plan to move away from coalfired energy.

The city's master plan relies on 27 existing or proposed trigeneration plants, mainly concealed in the basements of public buildings and city offices, to free the city of its dependence on the Hunter Valley coal that accounts for 80% of central Sydney's greenhouse gas emissions. The gas-driven trigeneration plants would convert plant matter to biogas, helping to cut the city's carbon emissions by 70% by the middle of the century. Meeting the target would put Sydney at the forefront of global cities converting from high to low carbon energy.

The plan comes as the World Meteorological Organisation prepares to release its annual review this morning, showing that 2010 has been one of the three hottest years on record, in line with the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The City of Sydney's plan could reduce household electricity bills across the state, which have risen sharply recently to pay for new infrastructure to support the existing coal-based network. The council believes it can reduce the need for spending on new transmission infrastructure by generating energy locally and improving efficiency.

"We set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030", said the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. "We made that commitment not because we thought it would be easy but because the best available research said it is needed to play our part in diverting catastrophic climate change".

The council estimated the cost of the project - which it expects will include public-private partnerships would be $950 million over 20 years, and would show a 10 to 20% return on investment for trigeneration operators.

"It sounds a lot but in comparison the NSW energy companies are set to spend $17.4 billion over the five years to 2014 on upgrading the electricity network of wires, poles and substations", Cr Moore said. And the NSW government has given consent and concept approval to two new coal-fired power stations at the cost of $7 billion".

Allan Jones, the city's chief development officer for energy and climate change, said trigeneration plants would be cheaper than many sources of renewable energy. They would also costless than coal-fired power with carbon sequestration, in which emissions are pumped underground so they do not enter the atmosphere.

"There is no single silver bullet here we do need decentralised energy, we do need renewable energy, we do need measures to be undertaken around transport", Mr Jones said. " [Trigeneration] is more economic than large-scale wind, solar PV [photovoltaic] and way, way more economic than coal-fired carbon capture and sequestration".

The speed at which the plan can be implemented will depend upon the introduction of a national carbon price, which will add some of the costs of greenhouse emissions to heavy polluting sources of power, and therefore make low-carbon power more competitive. A tender period for companies hoping to build and operate the trigeneration plants will close in January, and construction is expected to begin on several of them at once in 2013.

Wind turbines

Australian
Friday 3/12/2010 Page: 15

PERSONALLY, I find wind turbines quite pleasing to see in certain types of landscape. Unlike Graham Lloyd ("The great wind rush", Inquirer, 27-28/11), I think of daisies, not triffids. They are far more attractive than chimneys belching smoke.

Obviously there are sites to avoid, such as landscapes valued for their wild beauty and bird migration routes, and turbines should not be built close to houses. If there are problems, such as bird kills and health issues, these need to be investigated, but greenhouse warming is likely to be far more devastating to birds and humans than wind turbines, even if such impacts are proven.

We need to develop a mix of renewable energy technologies in Australia, having regard to cost and unforeseen environmental impacts, and to use energy more efficiently.

Margaret Dingle, Norwood, SA

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Solar subsidies to end sooner - Energy programs to be reassessed

Age
Thursday 2/12/2010 Page: 3

ROOFTOP solar has suffered another hit with the federal government announcing that subsidies for households that install panels will end sooner than first planned. And Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet says he is looking at all programs in his portfolio to assess their role and effect when an economy-wide carbon price is established. In a move that had been expected, Mr Combet yesterday sped up the phase-out of a subsidy program giving households up to five times more renewable energy credits for the electricity generated by their solar systems.

The extra credits, which are cashed in on a market, will now end a year earlier in mid-2014, with the credit "multiplier" reducing every year until then. The government says the move will save average households $12 in power bills next year because energy retailers will be forced to buy less renewable energy credits. Mr Combet said he acted because the cost of rooftop solar panels has fallen dramatically in recent years, and in combination with generous state subsidies, households had very little out-of-pocket costs. The government has always emphasised the importance of households bearing some of the cost of installing solar systems", Mr Combet said.

Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt said the solar backtrack was another embarrassment for the government following failings in other environment programs, such as insulation and green loans. Chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society John Grimes said he was not too concerned about the decision, adding there was recognition in the industry it had to be sustainable by mid-decade without government help. In an interview yesterday Mr Combet told The Age that while it is important to support emerging technologies such as solar, there had to be "balance" in government programs.

Mr Combet said he was looking at the role all programs in his portfolio would play once a carbon price is in place. Mr Combet said a program's effect on increasing electricity prices, social equity and whether it is economically rational in light of carbon pricing, will factor, but no further decisions on programs are imminent. Mr Combet also voiced opposition to a national feed-in tariff for renewables, which the Greens have long campaigned for, but maintained strong support for the 20% renewable energy target. A report by energy expert and government adviser Rod Sims recently stated renewable energy programs such as targets and tariffs will drive future increases in electricity prices, but a carbon price will have little effect.

Greens Senator Christine Milne yesterday told participants at a solar industry conference they should fight to protect and expand programs supporting solar, because "old industry sectors" will push for their removal when a carbon price is established. Senator Milne later told The Age complementary measures will be discussed between Labor and the Greens in their negotiations around carbon price, saying a higher carbon price means fewer extra programs will be needed to "decarbonise" the economy, though both will ultimately be part of the policy mix.

Upgrades to improve energy efficiency

Age
Wednesday 1/12/2010 Page: 16

SEVERAL deals are set to boost the flow of finance for energy-efficiency retrofits in commercial buildings in Australia.

Australian Carbon Trust intends to invest up to $23.7 million over the next three years through energy-efficiency financing programs with National Australia Bank and Eureka Funds Management, Alleasing, Origin Energy, Australia Post and Melbourne City Council. Trust chairman Robert Hill said that, fully implemented, these programs would lead to private-sector funding of more than $300 million for Australian businesses, large and small, to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

These investment projects are the first to be announced under Australian Carbon Trust's energy-efficiency program. Australian Carbon Trust is an independent company set up this year by the Australian government with $100 million to help accelerate Australia's move to a low-carbon economy.

The trust's partners and projects are:

  • With NAB and Eureka Funds Management, an environmental upgrade loan program, expected to grow to more than $200 million over the next two years, for the energy-efficiency retrofit of non-residential buildings, initially starting in Melbourne as part of the $2 billion City of Melbourne plan to retrofit 1200 buildings.
  • With Alleasing, a new equipment lease financing product, the Energy Efficiency Equipment Lease, that will provide up to $100 million for energy-efficient equipment.
  • With Origin Energy, up to $12.7 million for the uptake of energy-efficiency equipment.
  • With Australia Post, a plan to communicate the benefits of energy efficiency through the Australia Post network, and energy-efficiency demonstration projects in Australia Post facilities.
  • A total of $200,000 for an online toolkit for the City of Melbourne's 1200 buildings program.

Each of these initial projects involving Australian Carbon Trust will start from next year.

Improving energy efficiency in nonresidential buildings involves upgrading lighting, heating and cooling systems, enhancing chiller controls, making escalators and lifts more efficient, replacing electric hot water systems, implementing cogeneration and tri-generation technologies and monitoring real-time energy in buildings.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research Economics estimates energy efficiency could account for 55% of Australia's cuts in greenhouse gases over the next 40 years. A recent report from the Energy Efficiency Council found a major retrofit of Australia's commercial buildings over the next decade could save $1.4 billion a year and cut building emissions by 30%.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

System sheds light on renewable forecasts

Australian
Tuesday 30/11/2010 Page: 39

A hybrid forecasting system that integrates solar and wind power sources could make predictions for renewable energy schemes more accurate. Being developed at Central Queensland University, the system could overcome the unpredictable nature and dependence on weather changes of solar and wind power systems.

By integrating and forecasting the two power sources in a hybrid forecasting system, many of the problems could be resolved, according to CQU researcher Rahat Hossain. Mr Hossain has been working to develop a more robust hybrid forecasting system, which can provide accurate renewable energy predictions. "If you use these two things (wind and solar) in an integrated way, then it is a consistent and more correct prediction", he said.

Australia and, in particular, the subtropical regions are considered to be in one of the best positions to use a hybrid forecasting system, which would be unique in predicting energy from wind and solar sources combined. It is hoped the system could lead to a more sustainable future with less reliance on coal-fired energy.

Mr Hossain, a PhD student at CQU's Power Engineering Research Group within the Institute for Resource Industries and Sustainability (IRIS), is using historical solar and wind data from the CSIRO collected over the past 10 years. The initial stages had involved smaller-scale tests to predict wind speed and solar radiation individually, and these tests had almost 95% accuracy.

"The next target will be energy conversion from the wind speed and also energy conversion from the solar radiation", he said. "Then we will merge those things in a single system". The model would be developed in such a way that, with minor modifications in the coding, it would be able to perform the hybrid forecasting, ranging from hourly to daily within the same platform. A trial energy station is being planned in Central Queensland as part of the project.

Australia has committed to sourcing renewable energy for 20% of its energy by 2020. Many other nations, such as Germany and Denmark, are further advanced in renewable energy. Wind energy is one of the lowest priced renewable energy technologies.

The cost of producing energy from solar is also becoming cheaper following advances in solar panel technology. "You find when wind is blowing normally there is no sun and when there is a huge amount of sun, there is no wind", Mr Hossain said. "If you can merge these two things, what will happen is a consistent or continuous supply."

Farmers who lack rain turn to wind

West Australian
Monday 29/11/2010 Page: 18

Spattered across the coffee coloured landscape in a seemingly random pattern, 111 neat piles of blades, engines and 80m-high turbine stands are waiting to be constructed. Across 18,000ha on 14 farms near Merredin, the $750 million Collgar wind farm, which is understood to be WAs biggest wind farm and the second biggest in Australia, is in the final stages of completion. Amid one of the driest years on record, farmers are turning to farming of a different kind, where money is made without starting the harvester.

While grain yields have been low across WA's increasingly drying wheat-belt, wind strength never abates across the flat escarpment. With three turbines already put up this week and another each day for the next 108 days, the wind farm will start generating enough carbon-free electricity to supply milling projects, businesses and homes in Kalgoorlie, Yilgarn and Southern Cross by April.

Each 44m-long blade looks like a giant surf board fin. They were transported one by one by truck to Merredin, 260km east of Perth. Collgar wind farm executive officer Alistair Craib said 12 farmers across 14 properties had signed a 30-year lease receiving an annual rent and compensation for disturbed crop land. He said the carbon emissions expended to create the wind farm would be repaid 40 times during its life.

Farming brothers Glenn and Mark Crees run a 8000ha wheat and sheep farm and are reaping a "substantial" windfall. "It's well worth our effort to do it. The only drawback is loss of land but we don't lose much land, maybe 20-30 hectares, and it's mostly unproductive land", Glenn said. Mr Crees said the town had also benefited, with the employment of at least 100 local men.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sun and wind leave coal power out in the cold

Canberra Times
Saturday 27/11/2010 Page: 7

A combination of solar, thermal and wind energies could power Australia as cheaply as coal-fired power and generate more jobs, says one of the world's top solar researchers. Australian solar technology pioneer Professor David Mills said this new, flexible energy system would also eliminate the need to rely on large power infrastructure to generate baseload power, or daily electricity needs. "Baseload doesn't need to be part of this system, it's out of the equation", he said.

At a three-day national solar conference in Canberra next week. Professor Mills will present the results of a three-year energy study analysing hourly data for energy use across the United States. The breakthrough study shows wind and solar combined could provide 100% of the country's electricity needs, with wind acting as a back-up to solar power shortfalls during winter and at night.

Professor Mills, one of three scientists working on the US study, is keynote speaker at the Australian Solar Energy Society conference dinner at Parliament House next week. "I think what we've found will blow a lot of people away", he said. "Everyone says you need baseload capacity, which they assume somehow makes coal-fired electricity cheaper, and other forms of energy more expensive.

"What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. Baseload does not exist in this new scenario, but it hasn't simply been replaced by a another form of renewable energy-generated baseload. What we're talking about is a completely new model a new system of energy combinations with some storage capacity".

Professor Mills said the technologies required to build and run this system already existed. "They're not future technologies, they're already here, so we can do this", he said. The former Sydney University solar power engineer left Australia four years ago to set up a solar power company in California after failing to attract support from the Howard government for his world-first solar thermal technology.

Professor Mills has since sold his successful US start-up company to French energy conglomerate Areva as its new solar division. He recently returned to live in Sydney, "more or less in retirement mode". Professor Mills has spent more than 30 years developing solar technologies which are now in use throughout the world. He said Australia's governments seemed unable to comprehend the enormous potential of solar technologies to provide thousands of new jobs in installation and maintenance. "These are big enterprises and potentially big employers, providing cleaner and safer jobs than coal", he said.

Following yesterday's first meeting of the Gillard Government's business roundtable on climate change, Climate Change and Energy Efficiency minister Greg Combet said energy security remained "a very important consideration in establishing a carbon price mechanism". He reaffirmed the Government's commitment to provide financial compensation to the electricity generation sector when a carbon tax or trading scheme was adopted.

$750m power station to meet summer demand

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 26/11/2010 Page: 8

A GAS-FIRED electricity power station will be built near Mannum to help meet peak demand over summer months. The State Government today will approve construction of the Cherokee Power Station at Tepko. The $750 million project would create 400 jobs, Industry and Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis said.

"This is a major infrastructure project with enormous benefit not just for the Mid Murray, but for the whole state", he said yesterday. "South Australia's electrical loads are increasing in line with the state's economic growth and prosperity. "Cherokee Power Station will deliver a cleaner source of power to cater for the increased demands this will place on the electricity grid, which is currently reliant on coal".

The power station will be built by the Tungkillo Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of asset management company Investec Bank. Tepko was chosen as the site so power could be fed into the Tungkillo sub-station and the existing Tungkillo-Tailem Bend electricity transmission line. Energy Minister Patrick Conlon said the power station would reach a maximum generating capacity of 1000MWs by 2021.

"Cherokee Power Station will be a peaking station - which means it will kick in at times of peak demand", he said. "On the completion of its final stage, the facility will be capable of meeting up to 25% of the state's peak demand "The first stage of the project will create 250MW of generating capacity at an estimated cost of $200 million and is scheduled to come on line in 2013".

Investec Bank's head of project and infrastructure investment Mark Schneider said the company had found South Australia "an ideal place in which to invest". "We have undertaken extensive consultation and negotiation with landholders surrounding the proposed development site", Mr Schneider said yesterday. "We are confident the local community is right behind the (power) project".

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

ACT lab proves it pays to go in windmill punching

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 21/11/2010 Page: 12

TECHNOLOGY developed in Canberra has made local company Windlab Systems a world expert in wind farming and one of Australia's fastest growing businesses. When CSIRO scientist Keith Ayotte started developing a wind modelling tool with colleague Nathan Steggel, wind farms were still in their infancy in Australia. But in the past four years company turnover has grown by 100% annually almost the same pace as the industry itself in Australia, which has seen the total installed capacity of wind power nearly doubled in the past five years.

The growth helped the global wind power development company overcome uncertainty around a carbon price and the global financial crisis to grow from a small business to a global enterprise, with 33 employees and annual revenue of $9 million Undaunted, the pair raised $10 million at the height of the economic downturn to develop wind maps that could quickly and easily identify potential wind farm sites based on weather data.

Windlab Systems's success also earned Dr Ayotte a spot in the national finals of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Sydney this week. "Being an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist means I get to learn things from lots of other people", he said. "As a scientist you make a habit of learning from anyone you can usually that is a fairly broad spectrum". Dr Ayotte said the company succeeded because it started from a solid base. "We've been successful because we started off with some good technology and then we found some good people", he said.

"I'm proud that we went and built wind farms which are big projects and difficult to do we made something that worked". But the next challenge will be securing the company's global position. "We are absolutely looking at international expansion", Dr Ayotte said. "The financial crisis affected us a little bit, we have had to do some rationalisation in the US but it is generally business as usual. "Recruiting the right people to do the jobs in foreign markets is hard, so that's a challenge for the coming year".

Is baseload power necessary?

Business Spectator
Wednesday 24/11/2010 Page: 1

For years, David Mills, the eminent solar power technology developer, has dreamed of creating a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure. Next week the newly-retired founder of solar thermal technology company Ausra (now owned by French nuclear giant Areva), and a former leading researcher at UNSW, will present that model.

Using hourly data for energy use of the entire United States economy in 2006, Mills will demonstrate how it could have been powered almost exclusively by wind and solar (with storage and the help of biofuels for aircraft and some biomass capacity for certain smelting operations).

The details of his findings, including capacity and costing estimations, will be released when he addresses the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society's annual conference in Canberra next week. But in an exclusive interview with Climate Spectator, Mills gave a broad outline of his conclusions and suggested there was a surprisingly small difference in costs.

"Everyone says that you need flatline baseload capacity - such as coal or nuclear, or in some countries hydro - and build on that platform, and use load-following gas turbines", Mills said. "They assume that being baseload makes it cheaper, and all other things are more expensive.

"What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. The traditional paradigm of flatline baseload does not exist in this scenario, but you need to understand that the replacement for baseload power is not another baseload - it's a system of flexible and inflexible energy mechanisms based around wind and solar and other sources".

The study is an extension of an idea that Mills has held dear for some time. In 2005 he presented a talk in Canberra suggesting that solar plants with a "primitive" storage model could run the electricity grid in eastern Australia. Two years later, he did a similar study for California concluding that, based on hourly data for energy usage in 2006, solar could have carried well over 90% of the electricity load.

The latest study - completed with a former R&D specialist at Ausra, Wei Li Cheng, and a US Department of Energy analyst Phil Larochelle - looks at how solar and wind could handle the entire electricity needs for the US in the same year, and also looks at whether it could handle the entire energy needs for the country, including transport.

Interestingly, wind and solar account for around 50% each of the electricity supplies to handle summer demand and peaks, while more wind was used in winter. Such a system would require a capacity redundancy above peak demand, but would in fact be less than current systems. Mills says the study looked to test a number of different premises. The first premise was that there was enough solar and wind that, in combination, could run the US economy. There was.

The second was that solar and wind would be connected with a new electricity transmission system, using high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines for the spine of the network, which will allow more flows and result in considerably reduced transmission losses. These are the sort of networks being contemplated by the Desertec Foundation consortium founded by a group of large European industrial giants that are looking to source solar power from north Africa to provide some of Europe's energy needs.

Mills says China is installing more HVDC lines than any other country in the world - looking to link coal plants with the Three Gorges dam and wind and solar from the north and west of the country. "It very clear to see what they are doing and that it is a very good thing to do", he said.

Mills says the data used for his study came from 2006, and was based around technology that might be used in 2050, but exists now - even though its lack of scale makes current deployment expensive. "Its not technology that we don't have now. I didn't want people saying that it's future technology".

He says the model would need to be refined to be implemented, but it provides food for thought. He says it could easily apply to the Chinese and Australian economies, which also benefit from a population largely based on the eastern seaboard, western deserts (which can provide power later into the evening to the eastern consumers), and strong wind resources.

The Mills model will add to the considerable debate about the role of renewables - whether they are a "worthy" but annoying addition to the current network systems, or if they can assume a prominent role in powering economies. Mills notes the work of the Beyond Zero Emissions group, which outlined a highly contentious study into how Australia could go 100% renewable by 2020 - not so much to suggest it should be done, but that it could be done.

The German industrial giant Siemens has also produced a report entitled "Picture the Future", which suggested renewable energy could, by 2030, provide 70% of Australia's electricity needs, with half coming from solar - augmented by storage and a suite of installation across different time zones - and the rest made up of an equal share of wind and geothermal.

CBD Energy has a $40m wind at its back

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 24/11/2010 Page: 53

Renewable energy group CBD Energy has announced a solar equipment manufacturing deal with China's Tianwei Group, and would soon form a joint venture to examine the acquisition of around $40 million worth of wind farm development assets. wind farm assets in NSW and Victoria, if fully developed, could generate 1250MWs. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics says Australia had 1703MWs of wind power generation in 2009.

Hot rock tax doubts hurt low-carb plays

West Australian
Tuesday 23/11/2010 Page: 40

WA's fledgling geothermal industry is missing out on investment because of uncertainty about whether explorers are entitled to the same tax deductions that other mining and energy companies receive, an industry lobby group has claimed. Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said investors were being disadvantaged for backing geothermal exploration instead of iron ore, oil or gas.

Under the existing tax regime, a company that spends money on exploration is entitled to a tax deduction for the amount it spends, either offset against a source of revenue or carried forward as a tax loss. But Ms Jeanes said it was unclear whether the relatively new field of geothermal exploration was covered. She has written to the Federal Government's mining tax policy transition group in the hope that new incentives being considered under the tax could resolve the problem.

"(The Income Tax Assessment Act) does not specifically recognise exploration for geothermal resources potentially resulting in a divergent and discriminatory taxation treatment relative to exploration for other resources", she said in the submission. "AGEA believes that this is inconsistent with the Australian Government's policies to encourage a rapid transition to a low carbon intensity energy supply". Geothermal energy better known as "hot rocks" uses water heated by the slow decay of naturally radioactive elements thousands of metres underground.

While it is better known in South Australia than in WA, the Barnett Government has taken some steps to back the emerging industry, including introducing a maiden geothermal acreage program. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was unavailable for comment last night.

The Federal Government's now scrapped resource super profits tax had provided an exploration rebate that specifically included geothermal projects. However, the Federal Government has yet to reveal what if any exploration incentives will be included under the watered down mineral resources rent tax.