Australian news, and some related international items

Renewable energy projects funded by community action

text-community-energyCitizen funded renewable energy projects   EcoGeneration — April 2014

Margaret Hender from the Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia explains the citizen owned renewables funding mechanism and highlights what is needed to encourage uptake of the concept.

The Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) brings together people in the community who are keen to contribute to action on climate change and that technology by enabling people to help collectively fund practical renewable energy projects.

Passing on the benefits of renewables

At first glance there is nothing particularly unusual about the 7 kilowatt high quality solar photovoltaic (PV) system that was installed in November 2013 on the roof of Tulgeen Disability Services in Bega, New South Wales. It will provide 58 per cent of the electricity used by the Tulgeen cheese packaging facility, which employs people with disabilities, and 21 per cent of the usage at the Training and Education Services day programs centre.

The novel element is the mechanism used to fund the project. CORENA gave Tulgeen an interest free loan of $12,000, funded entirely by voluntary contributions from citizens across Australia. Tulgeen CEO Pete Gordon plans to repay the zero interest loan in three years from the savings in power bills, however, the system will be generating electricity for 25 years. This translates into reduced costs for Tulgeen’s clients and a greater range of services able to be offered by the centre.

This represents a win-win scenario. Tulgeen chose to cover part of the cost themselves, but typical solar PV installations funded by CORENA don’t cost community organisations a cent, and their loan repayments help to fund installations for other organisations.

How CORENA began………..

Quick Small Projects

CORENA’s donated seed funds allow us to pursue what is needed, rather than being bound by conventional financial constraints.

CORENA’s Quick Small Projects take the capital expense out of energy efficiency and solar installations for community serving organisations by using donated funds to give interest free loans. As the loans are repaid out of savings from power bills, the funds then revolve into the next project, and then the next. When approximately 120 projects are funded, there will be enough revolving seed money to fund one new project per month on an ongoing basis. Our Quick Small Projects will then essentially cost nothing. To reach this point, we will need around $2.4 million in seed funds, or $24 from each of 100,000 people.

Solar thermal: the Big Win Project

Similarly, all income generated by CORENA’s solar thermal Big Win Project will be paid forward to help build additional utility-scale projects…….

October 31, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Some more community renewables organisations

text-community-energyCitizen funded renewable energy projects  EcoGeneration — April 2014

Embark (Aus)

Embark works to shift the community energy sector into the mainstream, as a proven and financially viable model capable of attracting large-scale investment and growing to meet its full potential.

Hepburn Wind (Aus)

Hepburn Wind is the owner and operator of Australia’s first community owned wind farm, at Leonards Hill, just south of Daylesford, Victoria. The 4.1 MW wind farm comprises two turbines and is approximately 100 km north-west of Melbourne.

The Community Power Agency (Aus)

The Community Power Agency was set up to support community groups in navigating the complex process of setting up a community owned renewable energy project.

Ranges Energy (Aus)

Ranges Energy is a community co-operative managed by a volunteer board of directors elected by shareholders. Ranges Energy grew out of a joint initiative of engineer Antony Howard of Sustainability Engineering and the Dandenong Ranges Renewable Energy Association. The project was inspired by similar community energy projects around the world.

Denmark Community Wind Farm (WA, Aus)

Denmark Community Wind Farm Incorporated is a non-profit community group, incorporated in September 2003 to progress legal and financial structures for an organisation to own and operate Denmark’s community wind farm project in Denmark, Western Australia, as a local response to the global challenge of climate change.

Burger Windpark Gehlenberg GmbH and Co KG (Germany)

The Burger Windpark, located in Lower Saxony, Germany, includes 19 turbines each of 1.5 MW capacity and is a successful community owned wind farm. The project was initiated by the local farmers’ association and the manager of the local farmers’ bank, Raiffeisenbank.

RE-volv (US)

RE-volv is building a citizens movement for solar energy by helping people to invest in solar, building solar projects in communities, and educating people about the benefits of solar in the US.

October 31, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

AGL electricity utility wants complete scrapping of Renewable Energy Target!

Parkinson-Report-AGL Energy calls for renewables target to be scrapped completely   Echo Net Daily 28 Oct 14, RenewEconomy, by Giles Parkinson 

AGL Energy – once the ‘greenest’ retailer in the country and now the largest producer of coal-fired energy – has called for the renewable energy target to be scrapped altogether.

As speculation increased in Canberra and media circles that the Abbott government and Labor would agree on a compromise that would result in a significant hair-cut to the current 41,000GWh target, AGL intervened in the debate by saying that was not good enough – the RET should be dumped completely.

Chief executive Michael Fraser, who has overseen the change in AGL Energy’s business model fromgreen to black, says the RET policy is broken. He endorses the controversial Warburton Review’s more extreme finding that the target should be dumped altogether.……..

There are a couple of issues with what Fraser has said. For a start, as all the inquiries to date have found, the RET has actually worked very well. It spurred billions of dollars of investment, thousands of jobs, and in states such as South Australia has caused dramatic falls in emissions.

What has caused the hiatus in the last two years is the uncertainty caused by the Abbott government’s review, and the inability of developers to get power purchase agreements from the likes of AGL Energy and others, and therefore to get finance. Still, the government likes to use the ‘target is impossible’ argument – despite its own modelling rejecting the idea. ……

AGL Energy has an interest in not having a carbon price, or a renewable energy target, particularly since its purchase of the 2.2GW Loy Yang A brown coal generator, and the 4.6GW Bayswater and Liddell coal-fired generators in NSW. That changed the colour of its revenues to $12 black for every $1 of green energy.

As it made clear in July, its long-term business interests now lie firmly in removing environmental policies such as the carbon price and renewables:

‘While the removal of the carbon tax and associated transitional assistance has a negative impact on the short-term earnings of the Loy Yang A power station, it has a materially positive impact on its long-term value. Any reduction in the Renewable Energy Target would also have a positive impact on the value of Loy Yang A.’ Ditto for Macquarie Generation.

AGL Energy, therefore, has an interest in ensuring that carbon and renewables do not trouble its business plan. ………

October 29, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

Esperance ideal area for localised, distributed renewable energy generation

renewable-energy-pictureReport finds renewable energy supply critical to Esperance future  By JESSE McCARTHY-PRICE Oct. 23, 2014  ESPERANCE’S economic future would be bolstered by investment in renewable energy, according to a report Esperance Region Economic Development Strategy.

It identifies Esperance as a viable place for renewable energy generation opportunities due to an abundance of natural assets, available land and being close to infrastructure. “Esperance has a strong history of embracing renewable technology with the Ten Mile Lagoon wind farm one of the state’s first commercial-scale renewable projects,” the report said.

“Energy cost and access is currently a critical barrier to economic development for a significant proportion of the Esperance region. “Enabling reliable access to cost-effective energy will greatly enhance the viability of new and existing operations and make the region more competitive with alternative residential and investment destinations.”

Not being connected to the South West Interconnected System power grid prevented large scale energy generation and export for the region.

“However, the isolation of the region may make it attractive as a trial area for new renewable technologies given appropriate marketing, incentive and inducement,” it said.

“The isolation also makes the region ideal for localised, distributed generation.” Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Grant Shipp said lowering energy costs would benefit local business.

 “There’s a significant discrepancy in the cost of doing business between the city and the country, and the price of power is an issue local businesses have identified,” he said.  “Any reduction in the cost of doing business is welcome.”

October 29, 2014 Posted by | energy, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Progressive Party bats for renewable energy, puts coal-fired power generation industry on notice

ballot-boxSmNew Renewable Energy Policy seeks Industry Certainty October 27th, 2014 – Australian Progressive Party

The Australian Progressive Party has released a confident renewable energy policy that seeks to provide certainty for an industry that is currently suffering from the inconsistency and short-sightedness of successive Australian governments.

The policy commits to maintaining the current 41,000GWh National Renewable Energy Target currently at risk due to the Abbott government. At the same time, the party proposes Australia’s emissions reductions targets will increase to a 15% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020, compared with the current 5% commitment, and a cap and trade emissions trading system will be reintroduced. Continue reading

October 27, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government sticking to its guns, on shooting down renewable energy

Macfarlane forked tongueIan Macfarlane: Coalition is sticking to reduction in renewable energy target, Sunday 26 October 2014  Industry minister says that because electricity consumption has fallen 15%, the RET must be reduced by the same amount The government is sticking to its proposed reduction in the renewable energy target (RET), saying that “nothing has changed” in terms of its climate policy.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has told the ABC that cutting the renewable energy target from 41,000 gigawatt hour to 27,000 gigawatt hours is reflective of a fall in household energy consumption………

Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, said that the opposition wouldn’t accept a “real 20% target, which equates to a 40% cut” to the original target……

The Greens leader, Christine Milne, told Sky News that keeping the original 41,000 gigawatt target would drive down energy costs.

“Renewable energy is undermining the business case for the old fossil fuel generators,” she said………

The government can bypass negotiations with Palmer United on the RET if Labor agrees to the changes.

Negotiations on the policy are underway.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | energy, politics | Leave a comment

Abbott’s costly mistake in gutting the popular Renewable Energy Target

Abbott-destroys-renewables the government doesn’t need to change the laws to damage the renewables industry. The ongoing uncertainty of the policy environment, and the sheer hostility of the Abbott government to renewables of any kind, are already having an effect.

Undermining the Renewable Energy Target Is A Costly Mistake New Matilda, By Ben Eltham 26 Oct 14  Too popular to be dismantled entirely, the RET is being carefully undermined by the government. Aside from the environmental damage we’ll also take a hit to the hip pocket, writes Ben Eltham.

If there was any doubt that the Abbott government wants to destroy the renewable energy industry in Australia, this week’s announcement of its plans for the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has cleared things up. Continue reading

October 27, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

General Electric a “massive investor” in renewable energy worried about changes to Renewable Energy Target

General Electric boss calls for certainty over renewable energy target, SMH, October 23, 2014 Anne Hyland Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, one of the world’s largest investors in clean energy, has demanded the federal government provide certainty around its renewable energy target.

Mr Immelt in an interview with The Australian Financial Review said a “certainty of rules” was crucial for investment.

“These debates are all natural that are taking place in Australia and people can understand those,” he said. “But it’s important to know what the rules will be so people can invest around it.”

He said the sooner the uncertainty was resolved around the RET, the “better for everybody”………

General Electric has about $US10 billion ($12.6 billion) in cumulative investments in renewable energy assets globally, which are predominantly in wind and solar.

On its Australian website, GE had noted Australia was leading the world in its renewable energy policy and, as a result, wind energy in Australia was projected to the most commercially viable form of renewable energy over the next five to 10 years.

However, this could change under the government’s plans to alter the RET.

Mr Immelt said GE “began to invest massively” in clean energy after 2004 when it concluded that climate change was real…..

.The federal government’s proposal to almost halve the amount of renewable energy legislated to be to be produced by 2020 has been rejected by the Labor Party after it dismissed it as “completely unacceptable”…..

October 25, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Queensland’s solar industry, jobs, on North Coast threatened by changes to Renewable Energy Target

map-solar-QueenslandNorth Coast solar industry worried by changes to Renewable Energy Target ABC News 23 Oct 2014, The North Coast solar industry says it will be impacted by changes to the Federal Government’s changes to the renewable energy target (RET).

The target is currently set at 41,000 kilowatts of renewable energy by 2020, but the Government wants to reduce that to 26,000 to reflect falling demand for power.

The changes would only impact large-scale RET projects directly, with the small-scale scheme excluded………

Geoff Tosio from Bellingen Solar Depot said the even with the small-scale target excluded, his business will still suffer if the target is lowered.

“In regards to the renewable energy target being chopped down to a “real” 20 percent, if that’s going to happen, then how is that going to happen?” he asked.

“To say that’s not going to affect household solar is quite disingenuous.”

Mr Tosio said a particular concern is that large-scale contracts will be impacted.

“We would see a dramatic reduction in the medium size, commercial size, systems that we sell,” he said.

“So while I think it’s better than the previous position, we’ll probably still see a quarter of the industry go very, very quiet.

“And that will definitely have an impact on employment.”

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Hydro Tasmania soon to release its King Island wind energy feasibility study

wind-energy-globeKing Island’s wind farm fate closes in HELEN KEMPTON MERCURY OCTOBER 20, 2014

THE King Island community should know by early next year if their remote Bass Strait home will also become home to the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere.

Hydro Tasmania has almost completed a feasibility study into its $2 billion, 200-turbine proposal and is expected to announce early next year if the project will go ahead.

The decision also hinges on the Federal Government not scrapping the Renewable Energy Target. Hydro Tasmania is one of 16 major renewable energy companies who have argued for the retention of the present RET.

The TasWind project is forecast to pump more than $7 million a year into the island economy and provide an estimated $220 million annual revenue boost to the state’s coffers.

Debate over the pros and cons of the proposal has divided the small community and Hydro Tasmania started its feasibility study after 58 per cent of residents indicated they wanted to move on to the assessment stage.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Tasmania, wind | Leave a comment

South Australia’s leading renewable energy system

Parkinson-Report-Graph of the Day: Australia’s renewable energy generation, REneweconomy, By  on 20 October 2014 “…………As RenewEconomy has noted on many occasions, South Australia has the highest level of variable renewable energy in Australia – quite possibly the world (in major economies), with an average 43 per cent wind generation in July, and days in September when wind and solar provided all of the state’s electricity demand, and more.

The AEMO study says that the SA power system can operate securely and reliably with a high percentage of wind and PV generation, including in situations where wind generation comprises more than 100 per cent of SA demand, as long as one of the following two key factors apply:

a) The Heywood Interconnector linking SA and Victoria is operational.

b)  Sufficient synchronous generation is connected and operating on the SA power system.

The AEMO study notes that South Australia already has the highest wind and PV generator penetration of any NEM region. As the graph shows, it has 1,470 MW of installed wind generation and 540 MW of PV generation. This represents about 50 per cent and 17 per cent of total installed wind and PV capacity in the NEM respectively.

In terms of residential rooftop PV installations, SA leads the NEM with a penetration rate of almost one in four of all rooftops. And the rate of penetration is likely to grow: the AEMO says that under favourable market and policy scenarios, it is projected that at least 1,000 MW of wind and 500 MW of PV capacity will be added in SA by 2020 – doubling the amount of rooftop solar, and lifting the amount of wind by two-thirds.

The AEMO notes that these developments are a “benefit” to both SA and the NEM. But it also underlines the importance of a strong interconnector with the rest of the NEM – for obvious reasons. Without it, the state would have issues with the required controls to ensure system security. (The report does not address this issue, but Germany is rolling out battery technologies that assume the role of “synchronous” generators and could usurp the primacy of fossil fuel generation. AEMO says the chance of a disconnection is so low is it rated as a “non-credible” event – but just in case ….

October 21, 2014 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding online grid maps to boost renewables

logo-ARENAGrid maps to ‘boost renewables': ARENA  JOHN CONROY    ARENA yesterday announced $425,000 funding to create online maps of electricity network constraints to help better inform network investments and increase the use of renewable energy.   (EDIS on renewable energy’s crucial new tool, October 17)

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) would develop annually updated maps and make them freely available online.

“Currently there is a lack of clear, accessible and timely network information across the National Electricity Market,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“A consistent, standardised approach will be developed with Australia’s poles and wires businesses to make data more accessible and easier to understand and use.

“The maps will help renewable energy and demand management project developers to anticipate network constraints, reduce the need for new grid infrastructure and lower electricity bills. “The new maps may also enable faster development of renewable energy by showing where renewables and demand management can be more cost effective than network upgrades.” ISF Research Director Chris Dunstan said the energy sector is changing quickly and new tools are needed to manage this transition.

“The rapid rise of rooftop solar, local generation, energy efficient equipment and battery storage means managing networks is becoming both more challenging and more collaborative,” Mr Dunstan said.

“The three year project will provide a key resource for developing this collaboration between networks, customer and renewable energy providers.

“It has the potential to lower electricity costs, improve energy services and develop new markets for networks and renewable energy.”

Energy manager of demand management at state-owned Queensland network company, Glenn Dahlenburg, said the network is providing full support to the project to complement its existing efforts to engage broad market participation for developing alternatives to network upgrades.

“Ergon Energy sees these maps as a valuable tool to provide customers and stakeholders with information on the location and value of network improvement opportunities,” Mr Dahlenburg said.

The project has strong support from the network industry through partnerships with Ergon Energy, ElectraNet and TransGrid. Other project partners include ARENA, ISF, NSW Department of Trade and Investment

October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Biofuels conference October 31 – impportance of biofuels for Australia

Biofuels: the forgotten element in Australia’s renewable energy sector, Transport & Logistics News,  October 16, 2014 On 31 October, the Biofuels Association of Australia will hold its annual conference ‘A New Energy for Biofuels’, which will serve as a timely platform for discussion regarding the fragile state of Australia’s developing biofuels industry.

With the future of the biofuels industry under threat as a result of the Australian Government’s about face on the excise tax on biofuels and the dumping of unsustainably-sourced Australian government subsidised foreign biofuels, this conference is set against the backdrop of ever-increasing costs of energy and fuel in Australia.

Australia is the world’s leading per capita contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions from electricity production currently on the rise for the first time after six years of consistent reductions. The necessity of adopting policies mandating the development and implementation of renewable energy schemes was discussed at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York.

“While countries across the globe have embraced biofuels, Australia is reducing support for our own fledgling biofuels industry, backing away from an energy option which not only guarantees significant economic, environmental and public health benefits but which limits our dependence on foreign imported fuels and creates employment in rural areas,” said Gavin Hughes, CEO of the Biofuels Association of Australia.

In 2001 the then Howard coalition government laid down a world leading vision for growing the renewable sector, putting in place a target for Australian biofuel consumption and setting a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (now RET) for clean power generation. Both the RET and the Biofuels target were designed to diversify Australia’s energy production mix to include greater investment in clean energy sources. Recommendations such as those contained in the RET review- if implemented – and the changes to biofuels excise support – will have a devastating effect on existing investments in Australia’s renewable energy sector, including the loss of thousands of jobs in the solar, wind and biofuels industries.

Today, a staggering 90% of Australia’s liquid fuel requirement is imported- a dramatic leap from 60% in 2000- and continues to increase despite advances in the potential to use domestically-produced renewable options such as biofuels. This near-total dependence poses a threat to national security as Australia would only be able to independently sustain its energy needs for three weeks without imported fuels.

While many of Australia’s leading trade partners such as China and India have enacted mandates to grow investment in biofuel utilisation, Australia is falling behind global trends as there are no government mandates in place to support the biofuels industry………….

Benefits of biofuels

The advantages of biofuels are extensive and well-known; they encompass benefits impacting the economy, the environment and public health. These include:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions; lessened reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Economic development opportunities.
  • Energy independence and enhanced energy security.
  • Improved air quality and associated public health benefits. (According to the OECD, deaths associated with ambient air pollution in Australia have risen from 882 to 1483 over the period of 2005-2010.)
  • Job creation, especially in rural areas.

Speaking at the event will be:………

October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

New South Wales town Uralla in the running for getting 100% renewable energy

renewable-energy-pictureUralla competes for more renewable energy  By LYDIA ROBERTS   15 Oct 14 URALLA is vying with five other towns to become the first in Australia to rely solely on renewable energy.Mayor Michael Pearce says the move will cut power bills for the town’s ratepayers and businesses. It could also mean wind turbines become a fixture on the Uralla landscape.

“We already have solar panels powering our aged-care facilities and heating our swimming pool; our community is telling us they want more renewable initiatives and this could fit the bill,” Cr Pearce said yesterday.

Non-for-profit company Starfish Enterprises has secured a $105,000 state  government grant to develop a blueprint for a  zero net energy town, ideally located in the Northern Tablelands.

While more than 100 businesses have tendered to draw up the blueprint, the next step in the process is to find a suitable town willing to become the first to switch to 100 per cent green power.

Uralla, Walcha, Glen Innes, Inverell, Bingara and Manilla have all expressed an interest in becoming the model town. Cr Pearce said Uralla stood a good chance of becoming the selected town because there was substantial community support for the idea.

The move would follow several towns in the United States and Germany, all of which have shifted to zero net energy. This means the towns are powered by LED lighting, bio-gas plants, daytime solar panels and energy efficient pumping systems.

Starfish executive director Adam Blakester said expressions of interests from towns closed next Friday.

“An average town of 5000 people would spend up to $20 million a year on energy,” he said. “If we can produce that energy locally and competitively, we create a new industry.”


October 15, 2014 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment

South Australia’s remarkably high renewable energy production

Map-South-Australia-windParkinson-Report-South Australia Achieves 100% Renewable Energy For A Whole Working Day Clean Technica October 13th, 2014 by Giles Parkinson (good graphs)_ RenewEconomy. There have been several instances in recent months when wind energy has accounted for all, or nearly all, electricity demand in South Australia. Last Tuesday, however, set a new benchmark – the combination of wind energy and rooftop solar provided more than 100 per cent of the state’s electricity needs, for a whole working day between 9.30am and 6pm.

The data comes from Hugh Saddler, at consultants Pitt & Sherry, and is part of his monthly overview of electricity market, emissions and pricing trends in Australia.

Saddler notes there were several periods in South Australia from Saturday September 27, and over the following days, when wind generation was greater than total state NEM demand. (South Australia has nearly half the country’s wind capacity with around 1.5GW of wind energy).

It occurred briefly on Saturday afternoon, for much of Sunday, and again, most strikingly, between about 9.30am and 6.00pm on Tuesday, September 30, a normal working day.

In reality, renewables contributed well over 100 per cent because they were generating and consuming their own electricity from rooftop solar – the state has 550MW of rooftop solar, with nearly one in four houses with rooftop modules.

That meant that “true” demand by consumers on that day, i.e. the amount of electricity being used by consumers, including rooftop solar, was in fact considerably higher than NEM demand — up to 20 per cent according to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute — because of the contribution of rooftop PV to total electricity supply…….

Interestingly, the South Australia government has already exceeded its target of generating 33 per cent of the state’s electricity needs from renewables (over a full year), and has now set a 50 per cent target by 2025. In reality, it will likely reach that mark well before that, particularly if the Ceres wind farm and the Hornsdale wind farm are built. It could even be the first mainland state towards 100 per cent renewables over the whole year.

Considerable volumes of electricity were exported to Victoria. “In simple arithmetic terms, though not of course in how the grid actually operated, the state’s electricity supply was 100 per cent renewable while coal and gas-fired electricity was exported,” he says…..

October 15, 2014 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment


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