Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia’s pro nuclear lobby upset about the State’s embrace of rooftop solar

Agua-Caliente-solar-projectDennis Matthews, 26 June 15, There is little doubt that South Australians have embraced rooftop solar electricity, with gusto. This is undoubtedly a worry to the pro-nuclear lobby ( a long time opponent of renewable energy) and to companies who stand to lose income from such independent electricity producers.

Thanks to the breakup and privatisation of the former publicly owned ETSA, what one part of the electricity industry gives, another part can just as easily take away. Or as the monopoly electricity network company SAPN has so coyly put (The Advertiser, 25/6/15) “it was ultimately up to the energy retailers as to how much of the reduction in SAPN charges were passed on to householders.”

Given that SAPN and the retailers do not compete for the electricity dollar, what’s the bet that prices will continue to go up, maybe not this year but almost certainly by the end of 2016, and that each segment of the privatised electricity industry will blame the other.

June 25, 2015 Posted by | business, South Australia | Leave a comment

The game is up for uranium miners ERA and Paladin

After 10 years of no profit, and millions in shareholder value destroyed, very few have profited from Paladin’s ongoing existence. ERA, on the other hand, was profitable up until 2010, but has gone backwards since. Neither trend is unlikely to change in the future.

thumbs-downWhat’s next for Australia’s uranium miners?  Motley Fool, 24 June 15 Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX: ERA) and Paladin Energy Limited (ASX: PDN)are two of Australia’s largest independent uranium producers, but have they lived out their useful half-lives?

Some might suggest yes, following the recent news stories surrounding ERA, which is majority owned (68%) by Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO).

You may have already seen some of the news surrounding one of Australia’s largest uranium miners, ERA, when its shares plunged 47% in early trading two weeks ago. That reaction was due to the company’s decision to cancel its Ranger 3 Deeps project thanks to continued low uranium prices, and ongoing uncertainty over the uranium market’s direction in the immediate future.

ERA owned and operated the Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. But the decision to not proceed with the Ranger 3 Deeps project means the mine holds very little value for ERA, Rio or anyone else wanting to mine uranium. Without Ranger 3 Deeps, ERA is processing stockpiled ore. What the company will do when that runs out is anybody’s guess. Continue reading

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

The end of big uranium mining projects in Australia

burial.uranium-industryMining exploration slump makes a new Olympic Dam unlikely, The Age, June 24, 2015  Reporter One of the key geologists involved in the discovery of BHP Billiton’s highly-regarded Olympic Dam mine says the industry’s search for another deposit of a similar scale has all but ceased as major miners reject greenfield exploration and juniors struggle to secure financing.

Douglas Haynes was one of a small fleet of young geologists working in the 1970s for Western Mining Corporation, whose innovative approach to copper exploration aided in the discovery of one of the world’s largest economic mineral deposits.

Mr Haynes told The Australian Financial Review on the sidelines of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Convention the sustained lull in exploration activity suggested “there is no more exploration for Olympic Dams in Australia”.

“There are two things happening,” he said. “The idea of finding an ore body at 300 metres depth puts a lot of small companies off because of the starvation of capital for entrepreneurial types doing this kind of thing.” He added major miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were unlikely to “indulge” in large exploration programs……….

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

Energy Resources of Australia – half of uranium company’s Board quits

Half of Australian uranium miner’s board quits after Rio shelves project SYDNEY, JUNE 22 Half of the board at uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia resigned on Monday, saying majority owner Rio Tinto’s decision to abandon work on a major mine expansion made it difficult for the company to pursue its goals.

ERA’s stock has plunged more than 70 percent since it said on June 12 that it would not proceed with the final development study for its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in northern Australia due to low uranium prices.

Uranium prices have tumbled since the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan has idled its entire industry in response, exacerbating a worldwide supply glut.

Three ERA directors, including Chairman Peter McMahon, resigned, leaving the board with just three members, the company said in statement. ERA, a separately listed division in which Rio Tinto holds a 68.4 percent stake, said a search for replacement directors had been approved.

Rio has said it may have to book a $300 million charge relating to its stake in ERA after the Ranger 3 project was shelved. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

June 24, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Minerals Council of Australia seem to be ignorant of basic economics

dollar 2Dennis Matthews, 19 June 15 Support by the Minerals Council of Australia for fossil fuels comes as no surprise, nor does their apparent ignorance of the difference between the Conservation Council of SA (CCSA) and the (Australian) Conservation Foundation (ACF) but it is of concern that they seem to be ignorant of basic economics (The Advertiser, 18/6/15).

Rooftop solar electricity has gone from strength to strength in a classic case of increased demand leading to decreased price. All solar electricity needed was the ability to compete with entrenched fossil fuels. This was done through the Renewable Energy Target , which was an acknowledgement that fossil fuels had pollution derived hidden costs.

The worldwide acknowledgement of these hidden costs is now putting fossil fueled power stations on the endangered list, especially in countries that have “developed” by ignoring the cost of pollution.

Similar advances can be made by addressing other aspects of electricity demand, such as solar hot water or more energy efficient buildings.

June 19, 2015 Posted by | business, South Australia | Leave a comment

Investors flee Energy Resources of Australia as its uranium mining plans stop

graph-down-uraniumERA shares in death spiral as prospects slashed, SMH, June 15, 20 Peter Ker The uranium miner operating beside Kakadu National Park may have zero chance of restarting mining at the site, according to UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock.

Speaking after shares in Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) lost more than 48 per cent of their value on Friday, Mr Lawcock said the decision to abandon plans for an expansion of the Ranger mine warranted a downgrading of the stock to a “sell” rating.

Many ERA shareholders were doing just that on Monday, with the stock falling a further 25.4 per cent or 17¢ to close at 50¢.

ERA shares were worth $1.29 at market close on Thursday, prior to ERA announcing that it would not go ahead with an underground expansion at the Ranger mine. That expansion, called “Ranger 3 Deeps”, was the only chance of future mining at Ranger, where mining of the third pit ceased in 2011……

Rio Tinto has offered to cover the shortage of funds to complete the rehabilitation, but it is believed that offer is conditional on ERA ruling out any further development at Ranger, something ERA is not yet willing to do……

The funding shortfall for the rehabilitation is believed to be close to $200 million, although Mr Drew speculated it could be as high as $500 million.

Uranium prices have been depressed since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011, and that weakness was one of the major reasons why the underground expansion was abandoned….

June 17, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Rockefeller Brothers Fund warns Australia on diseconomics of investing in coal

Australian Government ‘stuck in the past’ defending fossil fuels, descendant of John D Rockefeller says, ABC News   Four Corners  By Geoff Thompson  15 June 15 A descendant of America’s first billionaire John D Rockefeller, whose fortune was built on oil, has accused the Australian Government of being “stuck in the past” for continuing to defend fossil fuels like coal.

Valerie Rockefeller Wayne is the chair of the $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a charity committed to social change. The fund last year joined a growing “divestment” movement by abandoning its investments in coal companies.

“The value of coal stock in the United States has gone down 60 to 90 per cent,” Ms Rockefeller told the ABC’s Four Corners program. “This is a global phenomenon and we want to get out of those because we see the fossil fuel investments as risky.”

Ms Rockefeller said the numbers for coal no longer added up in Australia either.

“If you look just at the financial data in Australia … over the past five years, the SNP500 has gone up by 76 per cent,” she said. “The value of coal stocks has gone down by 71 per cent, so you’ve lost a lot of money if you’ve been in coal.”…………..

“In my mind Australia’s an extremely progressive country that has been an international player on so many issues. “It is baffling to me why the current Australian Government is stuck in the past rather than looking towards the future and becoming part of the solution.”

Ten days ago Norway decided one of the world’s richest government pension funds, the $1.1 trillion Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund, would divest from companies that derive more than 30 per cent of their income from coal.

Last week the G7 group of industrial nations agreed to give up fossil fuels by the end of the century.

June 15, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Uranium glut, Ranger shutdown, leave Rio Tinto with $300M writedown

scrutiny-on-costsRio Tinto mulls $300M writedown as uranium mine expansion cancelled,  Cecilia Jamasmie | June 12, 2015 Mining giant Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO) is contemplating to take a writedown of about $300 million after its subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA) decided to cancel plans to expand a uranium mine.

ERA, in which Rio has a 68.4% stake, said on Thursday that it would not proceed with the final feasibility study of its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in Australia’s Northern Territory, citing weak market conditions.

The decision underscores the ongoing strains in the nuclear industry following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, which prompted Japan to mothball its 43 operable reactors, causing uranium prices to drop as a result of a worldwide supply glut……..

June 12, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia(ERA) announces it is not proceeding with Ranger uranium min eexpansion

Ranger-3Uranium miner Energy Resources Australia pulls plug on 3 Deeps expansion, ABC News 11 June 15   Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) will not proceed with its proposed 3 Deeps expansion project at the present time, the company has announced to the stock exchange.

In a statement, the company said the uranium market has not improved like ERA had previously expected and there is uncertainty as to what prices would do in the future.

The company also said the mine only had the authority to operate until 2021, and the economics of the project required certainty beyond that point. Those conditions meant ERA would not proceed to a final feasibility study at this time, the statement said. ERA will continue to “process stockpiles and meet obligations to its customers”, the statement said.

The 3 Deeps expansion would have seen the Ranger Uranium Mine commence underground operations for the first time. Its current operations are open-cut.

ERA said it had engaged its major shareholder, Rio Tinto, about funding to rehabilitate the mine site, which is completely ensconced by Kakadu National Park.

The company previously said rehabilitation was funded under its current business plan, but if the 3 Deeps expansion did not go ahead it would require another source of funding to pay for all of the rehabilitation works……

June 12, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Cut price loans by NAB for solar and energy efficiency program s

piggy-ban-renewablesNAB to offer discounted energy efficiency, solar loans, Climate Spectator JOHN CONROY  9 JUN, The National Australia Bank will offer cut-price equipment loans to small and medium-sized businesses investing in energy efficiency and renewable power equipment as part of a $120m funding program backed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The agreement to fund energy-saving equipment or renewables generation will see NAB offer a rate 70 basis points below its standard equipment finance rate.

Finance will be offered through NAB, and will be across a diverse range of pre-approved assets including cars, irrigation systems, solar PV, building upgrades, lighting upgrades, processing line improvements and refrigeration……..

June 10, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, efficiency, solar | Leave a comment

Paladin (apparently not Australian owned) signs Western Australian uranium deal

uranium-orePaladin signs uranium land deal MICHAEL RODDAN BUSINESS SPECTATOR JUNE 01, 2015 Uranium miner Paladin Energy will pay $16 million for land containing a uranium deposit as the group looks to enhance the value of its neighbouring project.

Paladin (PDN) will take over Energia Minerals’ Carley Bore uranium project in north west Western Australia for $15.8 million in cash and shares.

The Carley Bore project in the Carnarvon Basin consists of three connected exploration licenses, located 100km south of Paladin’s Manyingee uranium project, and will increase the miner’s mineral resources in the area by more than 30 per cent……….But the miner has said it will not develop any new projects before it is confident of a sustainable uranium price of at least $US70 a pound. The material has traded between $US34 and $US40 a pound this year.

“The current low uranium price and sustained sector weakness have created an opportunity to consolidate our portfolio in strategically important regions,” Paladin chief executive John Borshoff said.

The takeover is subject to regulatory approval by the Foreign Investment review Board, as Paladin is deemed to be a foreign corporation under Australian law.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | business, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

The ANZ Bank’s first green bond issuance a resounding success

piggy-ban-renewablesAustralian investors lap up ANZ green bonds THE AUSTRALIAN JOHN CONROY MAY 28, 2015 The ANZ Bank’s first green bond issuance – and Australia’s largest – has been a “resounding success”, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation said, with the CEFC not needing to provide the $75m it had committed to back the issuance.

The $600m ANZ green bond issuance – which has been certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative  – was fully subscribed by private sector investors and will back investment in utility-scale wind and solar as well as green buildings.

About 40% of the green bond funds will go into green building projects in Australian and New Zealand, as well as some parts of Asia, with the remaining 60% to be invested in renewable energy, largely wind and solar, The Fifth Estate reports, with Australian institutional investors making up the majority of subscribers.

The five-year fixed rate bond had a coupon of 3.25% and was rated AA-, the website said. The Fifth Estate also quotes CBI as saying the issuance was actually oversubscribed, at $725m. CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said the “high quality” bonds would expand and diversify the investor base for clean energy.

“Green bonds provide investors with a unique opportunity to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency through a low-risk, high quality fixed-income product. At the same time, green bonds support long term investment in important low carbon infrastructure projects which can benefit the broader economy,” he said.

He said investors were increasingly seeking additional benefits, such as an environmental or social return……..


May 30, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

Funding method to help off-grid renewable energy take off in rural Australia

renewable-energy-pictureCLOSING THE GAP

Renewable energy sources (in particular, solar and wind) have a significant relevance in the off-grid setting of Australia’s remote rural and indigenous communities.

At present these communities are serviced almost exclusively by off-grid diesel and gas. While these traditional fuels haven’t yet become prohibitively expensive, they are subject to price fluctuations and, in the case of diesel, affordable only as a result of government subsidies.

Fuel subsidies are also regularly under threat of repeal; and yet renewable energy has made enormous progress in providing an environmentally-friendly alternative which is competitive in terms of price and efficiency.

Taking diesel and solar powered energy as examples: while the cost of diesel generation has remained stable at around the $220-$300/MWh mark, the cost of solar energy is now about $200-$240/MWh; drastically down from $600/MWh in 2008 and likely to get cheaper with evolving technology and economies of scale.

Combine the comparative cost with the obvious environmental benefits of solar or wind and the case for their adoption looks compelling.

Renewable energy for remote Australia – can our rural and indigenous communities go off-grid? Corrs Chambers Westgarth Australia May 21 2015


The renewable energy industry in Australia has taken more hits in recent years than a punch-drunk boxer. It may be uncharitable to say that Australia’s politicians were the only ones throwing the upper-cuts, but there’s little doubt they’ve played a significant role.

The current state of the renewable energy industry in Australia can be traced back to the repeal of the carbon price mechanism and has been further compounded by the prolonged political impasse surrounding the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).[1].

Running parallel to the renewable energy sector’s struggles, is the pressure on governments to reduce spending in the face of an undiminished social imperative to service the energy (and wider infrastructure) needs of remote rural and indigenous communities across the country.

In light of technological advances, off-grid renewable energy should be a key part of the solution to energy security.

In funding such a solution, debt-funded models could be a more practical way for industry to raise the capital it needs than waiting for government funding.

For government, private capital investment has long been an attractive funding solution for infrastructure projects as it allows for the deferral of upfront capital costs.

Equally, financiers benefit from the certainty that comes with government-sourced revenue streams – in this way circumventing the uncertainty that has so severely hamstrung renewable energy investment in recent years.

If a debt-funded model is to be pursued, the real question then becomes: how to structure that funding to make it attractive for all parties concerned? Continue reading

May 23, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

$6 billion cut to investment as result of new renewable energy target will mean

New renewable energy target will mean $6 billion cut to investment: analysts, SMH, May 18, 2015  National political reporter Six billion dollars in investment in wind and solar power will be lost as a result of a compromise deal on the renewable energy target, energy market analysts say.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance says investment in Australian projects will fall from an expected $20.6 billion by 2020 to $14.7 billion after the Abbott government and Labor reached a deal to reduce the target.

Monday’s agreement, which came after more than 12 months of political gridlock, will slash the original large-scale target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of annual renewable energy production by 2020 to 33,000 gigawatt hours.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the expected drop in projects is “what we’ve had to accept in order to resolve this situation”.

“The industry was entirely frozen. There was no new investment if the situation continued,” he said. Continue reading

May 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

Uranium market down the gurgler again, and AREVA nuclear giant in trouble

graph-down-uraniumUranium’s Glow Still Smothered by Safety Concerns Wall Street Daily,  Fri, May 15, 2015  |  , Commodity Strategist Just when it looked like it was time to jump back into the uranium market, prices have faltered yet again.

Uranium prices have taken a turn for the worse due to a combination of factors that pulled the floor from underneath the commodity.

Back in November 2014, prices spiked from $28 per pound to $44 per pound. This was largely due to the sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea, thus portending a supply shortage.

But the price is currently close to $35 per pound. And technical indicators are pointing south once again……..

France was so confident in its atomic energy capabilities that, about 10 years ago, the French nuclear establishment made a bet on a new generation of reactors using European pressurize reactor (EPR) technology. These reactors were touted as the safest and most powerful ever made.

antnuke-relevantBut, France isn’t living up to its promises. New plants that would ostensibly showcase the most cutting edge of nuclear energy prowess are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget. Some are as much as three times more expensive than the original cost projections! At this point, many are questioning if they’ll ever be completed.

Plus, The New York Times reported on April 7 that one reactor, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, had discovered imperfections in the steel used by Areva (AREVA.PA) to make the caps of the main reactor vessel.

The caps contain the extreme heat, pressure, and radiation produced by nuclear fission. These same parts were used for a plant under construction in Taishan, China, which is being built in partnership with France……


May 16, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment


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