Australian news, and some related international items

A Labor win in Queensland will be a win for solar energy

ballot-boxsunQueensland Labor Promises Solar Support January 26, 2015 Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has committed Labor to boosting the state’s renewable energy sector if it wins the election.

“In office Labor will call for proposals to generate 40-megawatts of base-load renewable energy including solar power. This will be used as a trial for more renewable power plants,” said Ms. Palaszczuk.

Labor would also investigate introducing competition in the power sector by enabling remote area councils to generate electricity from renewables to be sold at a lower cost to consumers.

“We will also initiate a renewable energy study to investigate measures to create an export-orientated renewable energy economy here in Queensland,” said Ms. Palaszczuk; who additionally promised an independent review to determine a fair price for a solar feed-in tariff based on all the benefits it provides, “rather than the requirements of large companies.”

Ms. Palaszczuk accused the LNP of being stuck in the past and pointed out after the last election Campbell Newman reneged on promises on renewable energy; cutting $660 million in related programs.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said while Queensland has seen a huge number of households install solar power systems, the state trails behind others when it comes to new large-scale renewable energy developments.

“The Queensland Opposition’s plan to generate 40 megawatts of power from solar and other renewable sources is a welcome move, particularly in light of the ongoing review of the federal Renewable Energy Target – which has caused investment in the sector to collapse,” said Mr Thornton.

The Australian Solar Council also welcomed Labor’s announcement.

“Labor has released a solar plan for the Sunshine State, which is responsible and affordable and will restore confidence in a battered solar industry,” said Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes.

“Labor’s solar policy stands in stark contrast to the contempt shown by the Newman and Abbott Governments towards solar families and workers.”

If the Council’s Save Solar Community Forum in Townsville last week is anything to go by, the LNP should be very worried – it was a standing room only event. The next forum is at Springwood on Thursday, January 29.

Last week the Greens also unveiled their solar policy, which would ensure all Queensland solar households are paid a fair price for their electricity exports. The policy would also provide 100,000 extra households the opportunity to control their power bills by installing solar.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | politics, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Time for Tony Abbott to give up his war against renewable energy

Setting aside the widespread voter support for renewable energy, especially solar, the government’s attack on the industry looks like bad economics.

Abbott says 2015 is looking like another “long, hard slog”. Maintaining his government’s efforts to stall renewable energy’s inevitable advance will only make it worse.

Abbott-destroyerTime for Tony Abbott to join renewable energy’s flow SMH, January 22, 2015 The government is leading a battle against the growth of renewable energy in Australia. For the nation’s sake, it is one fight Tony Abbott should drop. “…….developments in two of Australia’s major energy markets will be watched nervously by our fossil fuel exporters. They also throw into sharp contrast Australia’s alarming retreat on the clean energy front.

Under the Abbott government, the country has dived on international rankings as a favourable destination for low-emissions investments despite its natural bounty of abundant solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

By Bloomberg’s count, spending on large-scale renewable energy sank 88 per cent last year to $240 million while global investment advanced 16 per cent. Tiny Panama and war-torn Sri Lanka were among 38 nations investing more than Australia. Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar to become the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.

falling manufacturing costs are driving this trend, in turn driven by improving manufacturing techniques. By 2019 it’s likely that manufacturing costs for solar panels will reduce by 30-50% again.
recent study has shown that in five years a solar panel will produce enough energy in six months to pay back all the energy used in manufacturing it. That means after six months the panels will be a net source of energy.
current and future developments will leave solar power from rooftops and grount-mounted plants as likely the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.
 There’s a sunny future ahead for rooftop solar power: here’s why  The Conversation, Bernhard Mitchell, 26 January 2015, Research fellow in Photovoltaics at UNSW Australia Over the past five years the world has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of solar energy, particularly rooftop solar panels or solar photovoltaic power. It is now a real alternative and considerable player in the power markets.

In Australia more than 4 gigawatts (peak generation capacity) of solar panels are mounted on more than a million Australian roofs to date, adding up to about 7% of Australia’s electricity generation capacity.


As solar panels do not always produce all the electricity they possibly can, rooftop solar today contributes around 2% of Australia’s total electricity generation. But in some states during the day, solar’s contribution already reaches double digits. You can watch solar generation live here.

But what’s next for rooftop solar? It’s likely that costs will continue to fall, eventually making solar the dominant source of electricity in many parts of the world including Australia. Here’s the evidence. (graphs) ……… Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Clean Energy Finance Corporation boosts commercial Solar Energy with Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Aust-sunCEFC Provides $20 Million For Solar PPA Programs  January 22, 2015 Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has announced it will provide up to $20 million to accelerate the uptake of commercial solar power systems.

The senior debt finance will be provided to ET Solar Australia to go towards a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) program. A solar PPA is a long term contract to purchase electricity generated by a solar power system installed at a company’s facilities.

There is huge scope to expand and deepen the solar PV market in the commercial sector,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates. “We see the PPA finance model as a way to remove the barrier of the upfront capital requirement which should enable many more Australian businesses to benefit from solar, reducing energy costs and lowering emissions.”

The CEFC backed program, already underway with a shopping center solar carport pilot project in Queensland, will see the installation of systems ranging between 30KW and 2MW. The program has an emphasis on major energy users; including shopping centers, mining and manufacturing businesses.

PPA’s provide long-term peace of mind on the price companies pay for the solar component of the power they use – and that electricity is significantly cheaper than the cost of mains grid supplied power. If grid electricity prices increase, overall savings will increase.

The PPA model overcomes the barrier of significant payback periods, enabling customers to achieve immediate savings on their energy bills.

The program isn’t the first time the CEFC has backed a solar leasing type initiative. Last year, the CEFC announced it will provide finance of up to $70 million for SunEdison programs offering long-term leasing and power purchase agreements for commercial and residential solar installations.

The CEFC says the PPA model has proven highly successful elsewhere and more than 75 per cent of new home solar power systems in California are installed under lease financing.

By the end of June last year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation had contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion. Its 40 direct investments and 25 projects co-financed under aggregation programs are expected to achieve a positive net benefit Australian taxpayers.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s wonderful achievements in renewable energy, despite the Abbott government

The federal government’s decision to abolish the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is not only a planned demise of a potentially thriving industry but, to use the words of environmentalist David Suzuki, criminal negligence against future generations.

This is especially so in Australia’s rural communities, where renewable energy has always been a means of providing electricity when connecting to the grid is not viable. It is important now in times of prolonged drought that farmers can use some of their land to invest in solar and wind farms to subsidise their income.

Renewable energy rises to power, January 24, 2015  By Lisa Hinde Despite the brutal cuts to leading renewable energy bodies by the Coalition government last year, incredible benchmarks in the field have been achieved.

Last month, a team operating out of the University of NSW recorded the highest level of efficiency for a photovoltaic solar panel, converting 40% of the light into electricity. The average efficiency of rooftop solar panels is about 15-18% so exciting possibilities exist with this huge leap in conversion. As the technology develops, the industry will experience an influx of more compact units capable of using even more of the sun’s energy with less space and equipment required.


September 30 marked the day that South Australia exceeded 100% of their required power using only wind and rooftop solar. This is bad news for fossil fuels in SA, which are effectively priced out of the market by renewables that are able to go as low as necessary to sell their power as it occurs.

The ACT showcased its entrepreneurial talent by securing the development of Australia’s largest solar farm by reverse auction. Switched on late last year, the solar farm generates 20 megawatts with the capacity to power 4500 homes, helping the ACT to achieve its target of 90% renewables by 2020.

On December 23 it was quietly announced that the second year of the carbon tax’s operation led to a 1.4% drop in total emissions (including a 4% drop in electricity). To somehow justify being the only country to abolish a carbon tax, Environment minister Greg Hunt campaigned relentlessly as to its ineffectiveness. Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s lowest uranium production for 16 years

burial.uranium-industryLowest Australian uranium production for 16 years, World Nuclear Association 23 Jan 15  Due to the shutdown of ERA’s Ranger plant to June, and despite the rich Four-Mile deposit coming on line, Australia’s uranium production in 2014 at 5897 tonnes U3O8 (5000 tU) was the lowest since 1998. Two thirds of it was from Olympic Dam, where uranium is a by-product of copper.  Production from Four Mile is recovered at the Beverley plant, replacing output from that mine at about double the level.

January 24, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, uranium | Leave a comment

Tasmanian government moves to restrict citizen’s power to criticise corporations

justiceThe examples of public campaigners being on the butt end of large-scale legal responses are too numerous to mention, but we should not forget: the Bannockburn Yellow Gum Action Group, the Hindmarsh Bridge campaigners, John Sinclair who campaigned to stop mining on Fraser Island, anti-nuclear campaigner Noel Wauchope and even the author of Forest-Friendly Building Timbers, who ran foul of the National Association of Forest Industries, resulting in some retailers withdrawing the book from sale.
To further restrict the ability of public interest campaigners to press their case, as the Tasmanian government proposes, is to make Australia’s free speech landscape deeply depressing. 
civil-liberty-2smCompanies suing critics. That’s the real enemy of free speech  Richard Ackland, Guardian 23 Jan 15 Tasmania wants to break ranks with uniform defamation laws to allow companies to take action against individuals. ….
….It is an article of faith in the Liberal party that the reputations of corporations and their delicate “feelings” be fully protected by the law. The Business Council of Australia was adamant. Hugh Morgan – the council’s president in 2005 – said the very idea that corporations should not be permitted to sue for defamation was an “outrageous attack on the corporate sector … The proposal remains an abomination.”

The Coalition government fought hard to give the captains and cabin boys of industry what they wanted. Ruddock insisted that companies be able to sue their detractors in the courts, but the Labor state governments wanted the prohibition against corporate libel actions to be the rule across the nation. It was one of the sticking points during the negotiations and, in the end, to get agreement Ruddock relented.

There was a weird sort of compromise, whereby only very small corporations, of less than 10 employees, could sue in their own name. This was a crumb tossed off the table so the commonwealth attorney general could save face.

Such has been the case since the uniform Defamation Act came into being in 2006. Now, nine years later, the Hodgman Liberal government in Tasmania is proposing to break ranks, amend its act and let corporations of all stripes off the leash so they can sink their fangs into citizens critical of “job creating” proposals……… Continue reading

January 24, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney dismissed climate change as “a semi-religious belief”

ballot-boxSmJeff Seeney said climate change ‘semi-religious belief': Queensland mayor signs statutory declaration stating Deputy Premier made comment ABC News, By the National Reporting Team’s Mark Willacy and Mark Solomons  24 Jan 15 The mayor of a major Queensland council has signed a statutory declaration stating Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney dismissed climate change as “a semi-religious belief” during a tense meeting in his office.

On Thursday, Mr Seeney publicly denied he made the remark.

Allan Sutherland, of the Moreton Bay Regional Council north of Brisbane, stated Mr Seeney made the comment during a discussion about the council’s regional plan in October. The meeting was also attended by four council officials.

A participant in the meeting confirmed the mayor’s version of events to the ABC.

As revealed by the ABC in December, Mr Seeney intervened to have all references to a predicted 0.8-metre sea rise removed from Moreton Bay’s regional plan, a move that upset the council and Councillor Sutherland……..

January 24, 2015 Posted by | politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Australian government snubs International Renewable Energy Agency congress

logo-IRENAAustralia thumbs its nose at global renewable energy market REneweconomy, By  on 23 January 2015  Australia has again courted controversy on the international stage, refusing to send its energy minister to a key meeting of the world’s peak renewable energy body, and sending instead a mere embassy staffer to the annual congress of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

IRENA met in Abu Dhabi last weekend, ahead of the World Energy Future Conference in the same venue. Some 150 members sent delegates and 65 of those countries sent their energy ministers. The heads of numerous energy companies, and financing chiefs also attended.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, perhaps, given the Coalition government’s antipathy to renewables, and its attempts to wind back or even cancel its current renewable energy target. The Abbott government has ensured that the large scale renewable energy industry in Australia has come to a virtual standstill, just as global investment in renewables increases.

The decision to snub IRENA’s annual conference is being seen in the same vein as its decision not to send a minister to the climate change talks in Warsaw in late 2013. It has angered and surprised some here, although the truth is that Australia – as in the climate space where it has also reversed course – is now seen as something of a no-hoper and an outlier in terms of large scale renewable energy.

Having become the first country to dump a carbon price in 2014, Australia has toyed with the idea of becoming the first to dump its renewable energy target. It appointed a pro-nuclear climate denier to head a review of the renewable energy target, and the result has been policy gridlock and virtually no investment in large scale renewables in Australia in 2014.

Financiers have declared Australia to be effectively a “dead” market. It is now ranked last in terms of climate and clean energy policies. Many companies and financiers have turned their attention elsewhere, although some project developers remain in the hope that some policy certainty can return, and some of the $20 billion in projects can be unlocked, along with thousands of jobs.

ARENA director general Adnan Amin said it was disappointing that Australia did not send a senior representative to the Abu Dhabi conference………

Amin said preliminary data from IRENA indicated that global investment in renewable energy jumped 15 per cent in 2014 to more than $US260 billion, despite the austerity of some budgets.

But there was a bigger change taking place.

Amin said it was clear that renewable energy technologies were now competing with fossil fuels in many parts of the world, and seismic shifts were taking place in the structure of the industry, from a centralized to a distributed model……

“The old model is stagnating. Change is coming and it is going to be dramatic,” Amin says.

January 24, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Queensland: McKinlay Shire plans solar panels for business and Council buildings

sunMcKinlay Shire solar levy to help businesses cut power bills ABC News, By Kate Stephens 22 Jan 2015,  A north-west Queensland council says it is moving ahead with an innovate plan to help local businesses reduce their power bills.

The McKinlay Shire has put out an expression of interest for a renewable energy company to install solar panels on 14 local businesses and some council building…..

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Precedent-setting Aboriginal native title grant over large area of SA Eyre Peninsula

Hear-This-wayAUDIO: Barngarla people granted partial native title over large area of SA Eyre Peninsula

ABC News By Nicola Gage and Natalie Whiting 23 Jan 15 A two-decade native title claim which covers about two thirds of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula has been granted in the Federal Court.

The Barngarla people filed a native title claim for the area in April 1996.

Justice John Mansfield delivered his judgment on their right to the land on Thursday.

     The group’s claim covered 44,500 square kilometres, an area almost triangular in shape and encompassing the coast between Port Augusta and Port Lincoln and the surrounding land and sea……..

Judgment could set precedent for claims in SA, interstate

Solicitor Philip Teitzel said the case was one of the first in the nation to go over densely settled areas and could have broad implications…….

January 23, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia | Leave a comment

Investors are wary, as Australian miner Paladin sells uranium at way below cost of producing it

graph-down-uraniumPaladin Energy Ltd revenues soar 79% but shares sink Motley Fool By Mike King – January 19, 2015 Uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) has announced sales of US$69.9 million in the December quarter, a rise of 79% over the previous quarter.

But despite the news, shares are down 2.8% at 35 cents at lunchtime.

So why are investors selling out of a stock reporting such strong growth?

The problem is that Paladin sold 1.9 million pounds of uranium in the quarter, at an average price of US$36.58 per pound. That last figure is the issue – that price is well below what it costs Paladin to produce the uranium, and there are no signs that the price is…[members only]

January 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

For the convenience of uranium mining, Aborigines are moved off remote homelands

handsoffWaging a war over land rights MEENA MENON , THE HINDU,January 19, 2015  ‘Protests are continuing in various parts of Australia over mining’

In her book of poems, Love Dreaming, aboriginal writer Ali Cobby Eckermann from Australia writes, “Every grain of sand in this big red country is a pore on the skin of my family.” Her writing and her new book, Too Afraid to Cry reflect the alienation of the ‘Stolen generation’ of children who were selectively taken away from their families and raised by white people and also the plight of her people who are waging a war over land rights.

Thousands of people from indigenous communities plan to hold massive protests over land issues on Australia Day on January 26, she says. Protests are continuing in various parts of Australia over mining uranium and minerals and even Kakadu National Park, on the UNESCO World Heritage Site is under threat.

In New Delhi to deliver the annual Navayana lecture, she told The Hindu in an interview that a serious lack of understanding between cultures persists in Australia at a political level and with mining it has expanded. “We worry for our children. Now the Western Australian government wants to use bulldozers and close 150 or 180 small aboriginal communities — they say it is not sustainable to keep these communities going. Where do these people go? They can wander to the city to become a makeshift community under tarpaulin as they are not going to rehouse them,” she says.

The sudden move, she suspects, is to do with mining and removing people from the area so that even that little bit of resistance is gone. That’s the scary part but the aboriginal people will survive. It’s all about land, the war is over land, she says and no one really articulates it like that. “Why would they want these remote areas which are mineral rich to be emptied of people. Western Australia is among the richest mining areas but why is not the government saying some percentage of that mining rights should go to the community. That doesn’t happen, the miners don’t pay tax and we watch the money fly away,” she points out. Continue reading

January 20, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Liberal Party kids at Uni dutifully toe the Party line on fossil fuels

Liberal-policy-1Liberal student movement hits back at fossil fuel divestment campaign by ‘vocal minority’ ABC Rural  By Babs McHugh  20 Jan 15 The Australian Liberal Students Federation (ALSF) has hit back at the fossil fuel divestment movement which wants universities to sell shares they have in mining businesses.

The divestment lobby is also calling for educational bodies to end sponsorship and partnership deals with resource companies……

we’ve come out to provide the alternate viewpoint of what we feel students are really concerned about, which is jobs and opportunities.”

In October 2014, the Australian National University announced it was selling the shares it held in seven mining companies.

Student activist group Fossil Free ANU had several meetings with the ANU Council before Vice Chancellor Ian Young made the announcement.

Despite opposing the policy, Mr Lesh said the ALSF fully supported renewable energy development.

“It’s not that we don’t support renewable energy at all, we support all forms of energy,” he said.

“But the practical side is we need fossil fuels like coal and gas to provide baseload energy.

“And the mining industry employs thousands of people and contributes billions to our economy.

“And the fossil fuel divestment campaign is an ideological attack on that economy, and comes at a time of increasing difficulty for many students finding jobs.”…….

January 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Wherever did Epuron get the idea that the Abbott government is against wind energy?

Abbott-destroys-renewablesEpuron claims Abbott Government against wind energy, ABC News By Melinda Hayter 20 Jan 15  Renewable energy company, Epuron, claims federal government inaction on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has Australians paying more for electricity than they should be.

An independent review into the target, which attracted more than 24,000 submissions, was released in August but the government is yet to release its response.

The New South Wales Greens recently cited a report which showed an 88 per cent reduction in investment in the renewable energy sector nationally last year.

Project Manager with Epuron, Donna Bolton, says banks remain wary of lending money to industry players, despite the review’s findings. “The review found that while there was a marginal increase in the cost of household electricity initially, the RET in its current state would actually bring electricity prices down,” she said.

“Despite this there’s been no action.

Epuron has windfarm interests in a number of areas of New South Wales, including the South West Slopes.

Ms Bolton says the government’s inaction has caused the industry to stall.

“It’s very difficult because it’s all about investment confidence,” she said.


“A bank looking to lend $400m, you need to know that that investment is rock solid, that the mechanisms behind it will stay in place and that your return on investment is reasonably secure.

“That’s not the case apparently, so investment has pretty much stopped.”………Epuron has accused the Newman-Moaurice-climateAbbott Government of being against wind energy.

“For some reason there is a lot of resistance, for particularly wind energy, in the current federal government, Ms Bolton said……“I believe the Abbott Government is firm in its belief that it wants to develop the coal industry to the maximum before that gate closes,” she said…..

January 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wind | Leave a comment


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