Australian news, and some related international items

Tony Abbott has effectively stopped Australian large scale renewable energy

Abbott-destroyerAustralian large-scale renewable energy projects at standstill By  on 16 April 2014

It appears that the Abbott government – and its hard right sympathisers that want to bring a halt to large-scale renewable energy deployment in Australia – have achieved their policy goals, without even having to release a policy. New data shows that no new large-scale renewable energy projects – be they wind farms, solar farms or some other – have been committed in the first quarter of 2014. This follows a bleak calendar 2013 when just four large-scale projects were committed; none of them directly financed by the renewable energy target.

This is despite the fact that existing policy calls for 41,000GWh of renewable energy to be provided across Australia by 2020. However, the renewable energy industry, along with the utilities that must acquit their obligations, and the banks that would finance these projects, are convinced that the target will be severely reduced, if not dismantled.

This pessimism is reflected in the market for large-scale renewable energy certificates, which have slumped to $28.55, down 15 per cent from late December, and down nearly half from before the election of the Abbott government last September.

The pessimism has infected the industry since early 2013, when, despite the findings by the Climate Change Authority that the LRET should stay as is, the equivocation of the Coalition, and its presumed success in the September poll, brought the market to a halt.

According to data from Green Energy Trading – a major player in the market for renewable energy certificates, only four new projects have been “committed”  since the start of 2013. Of these, the 53MW Broken Hill and 102MW Nyngan solar power stations are mostly financed from the now defunct Solar Flagships project, with large grants from the federal and state governments; and the 20MW  Royalla solar plant in Canberra is getting a fixed tariff as part of the local government’s reverse auction program.

The only new wind farm approved in the last year – a 47MW extension to Pacific Hydro’s Portland projects – seems to have been committed because it received financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the $10 billion green bank that the Coalition wants to dismantle, despite it making a profitfor the government.

The only other new projects that are likely to be committed in the short-term are the other solar projects in the ACT, and the wind projects that will be awarded in its forthcoming auction. (It should be noted that committed projects are different to “approved” projects, which merely means they have approval to be built, but not necessarily the finance).

Those solar and wind projects, part of the ACT government’s commitment to a 90 per cent renewable energy target, do not rely on the LRET. However, the proposal for new wind farms is being vigorously opposed by conservative politicians, both state and federal, as well as the Murdoch press.

Green Energy Trading estimates that if the market for LRECS is to maintain an acceptable level of market liquidity, around 4,450 MW of new projects need to be committed in the three-year period from 2014 to 2016. That is unlikely to happen until the RET review is completed mid year, and then considered by the Abbott government.

However, if the incumbent electricity industry has its way, there will be no new projects built before 2017 at the least. This is its estimate of the impact of the LRET target being reduced to a “real” 20 per cent target, which might equate to a new fixed target of around 26,000GWh.

Numerous studies have shows that not only will this result in a sharp fall in the deployment of wind and solar, it will also mean more coal-fired generation. And a new study from French energy products giantSchneider Electric says cutting the renewables target will also mean higher prices for consumers. This came as a surprise to the large energy users that commissioned the Schneider analysis. They had anticipated the opposite finding.

Still, the renewable energy industry is finding doors closed in Canberra, with ministers and advisors promising only that projects already built will not be impacted by any changes to the RET, which will be recommended by a review headed by climate science sceptic and nuclear advocate Dick Warburton.

International groups such as First Solar and Acciona have already signalled their intention to re-assess their commitment to projects in Australia, in a likely repeat of the exodus that was caused when the current energy minister Ian Macfarlane ended the then MRET (mandatory renewable energy target) when he was last in the same job a decade ago – and that decision was taken despite an independent review recommending the MRET be expanded.


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

Small scale solar energy triumphing globally, and especially in Australia

Australia-solar-plugSmall Scale Solar A Stand-Out Performer  Global investment in renewable energy jumped in the first quarter – and in Australia, it’s still citizens leading the revolution through rooftop solar power.

   According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), investment in clean energy around the world reached USD $47.7bn during the first 3 months of this year.
The stand-out sector was small scale solar power (less than 1MW systems); which skyrocketed by as much as 42%. Overall investment in solar (large and small) was up 23% at $27.5bn.
RenewEconomy, drawing on data from BNEF and Pew Charitable Trusts, states Australian households accounted for nearly two thirds of total investment in renewables in the nation in 2013 ($2.8 billion), and practically all of it so far this year.
RenewEconomy states more than 4,000 applications to install small systems are being a lodged a month in the south-east Queensland region managed by Energex. In South Australia and Western Australia, small scale system uptake is more than 2,500 a month, and in Victoria just below that level.
That uptake is so strong isn’t surprising. In addition to the lure of households being able to slash or even wipe out their power bills; there is an added sense of urgency given fears with regard to the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET). The RET provides support for the purchase of small-scale solar power systems; which can amount to thousands of dollars.
Another factor helping to drive uptake is the availability of innovative financing arrangements – such as zero dollar deposit payment plans. National provider Energy Matters’ Save As You Go initiative is structured in a way that in addition to the zero deposit; repayments are structured so many households will repay less per week than what they would spend on equivalent mains electricity supply.
According to Energy Matters, solar is still one the highest returning investmentsin Australia – outperforming shares, property, gold, global fixed interest or even fine art.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

International Renewable Energy Agency ‘s new report will show up Australia’s blindness to renewable energy investment future

logo-IRENAHunt commits to ‘cleaner’ coal, as renewables despair deepens, REneweconomy,  on 16 April 2014“……While Australia seems destined to go backwards on renewables, the rest of the world is looking to accelerate. The IPCC report, released on Sunday, said the world needed to increase the amount of renewable energy generation three of four fold, and pointed out that this, plus other measures, would come at little additional cost. The International Renewable Energy Agency overnight said renewable energy and energy efficiency provided the most affordable and technologically mature path to bring about the necessary change. Itforeshadowed last year that renewables could provide this abatement at little or no additional cost. “The accelerated deployment of renewable energy significantly reduces energy-related carbon dioxide emissions at a reasonable cost, and also provides other benefits, including enhanced energy security, more local jobs and value-creation, and a cleaner and healthier environment,” Adnan Amin, IRENA’s Director-General, said in a statement. IRENA’s forthcoming report, Remap 2030, says a quadrupling of the share of renewable energy sources by 2030, will cut annual global energy related emissions by 8.6 gigatonnes, while energy efficiency could save an additional 7.3GT – lowering the forecast level of 41GT on business as usual down to 25.5GT. “Renewable energy has entered into a virtuous circle of falling costs, increased deployment and accelerated technological progress,” Amin said. solar-panels-and-moneyThis is a view shared now by most of the world’s investment banks. Citigroup recently pointed to the“age of renewables” and Sanford Bernstein pointed out that solar will beat oil and gas, and ultimately coal, because it is “cheap, clean, convenient, and reliable” … and “will get cheaper.” The IPCC report was also welcomed by the US, which said it offered a huge opportunity to invest in clean technologies and accelerate emissions reductions program, and in Europe, where renewable deployment continues and the EU is considering higher emissions targets……..

April 17, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Small scale solar thermal energy initiative unveiled today in New South Wales

sunSolar plant to be unveiled at Wallsend swimming pool    A revolutionary solar thermal project invented by researchers at the University of Newcastle will be unveiled today at Wallsend swimming pool. The demonstration plant will collect heat from the sun in curved mirrored troughs, producing electricity and heat for on-site use, using the new heat engine technology.

The GRANEX project has been funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Researcher Professor Behdad Moghtaderi says the technology will have significant benefits for remote mining and industrial sites in rural communities.

“It can be used in remote communities, aboriginal communities, because all we need is a set of solar arrays,” he said. “You really don’t need diesel fuel, or anything like that.

“The problem is not really the infrastructure as such. “It’s more of a cost and logistical problems associated with transporting diesel fuel.”

The Wallsend swimming centre could save hundreds of dollars on its its annual power bills because of the project.

Professor Moghtaderi says the technology means electricity can be produced with zero carbon emissions from a range of different sources.”Any type of low-grade heat source and also renewable energy sources, in the example that you have for a swimming pool today, essentially we are using solar energy as heat input,” he said. “But, with the same token, you can use geothermal energy, biomass energy or waste heat going out of the stack of power plants and things like that.” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht today joined Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Paterson MP Bob Baldwin at the official launch.

“The $1.7 million project integrates solar thermal and GRANEX heat engine technology and is supported by $812,000 funding from ARENA,” he said.”The 200 kilowatt solar field, located at the Wallsend swimming complex, will generate 30 kilowatts of electrical output and 150 kilowatts of heat for the swimming pool.

Mr Frischknecht says the demonstration project is the first of its kind and will produce thousands of hours of valuable operating data.”It demonstrates the potential of small-scale solar thermal systems in providing cost effective energy options, particularly for off-grid areas,” he said.

“ARENA recognises the importance of supporting renewable energy projects that are innovative, economically geared and increasingly market-driven – such as those that could deliver low cost power to remote mining communities.

“It is vital that Australia continues to deliver world-leading and cost-effective renewable technology solutions that keep up with economic growth.”

April 16, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

French analysts surprised to find that Renewable Energy Target REDUCES Australia’s energy costs

Parkinson-Report-Schneider study finds boosting renewables will cut energy costs (Excellent graphs) REneweconomy, By  on 14 April 2014 Analysts at French based energy components company Schneider Electric have concluded that extending or expanding Australia’s renewable energy target would lead to lower electricity prices, lower carbon emissions and increased competition.

Reducing, or removing the renewable energy target – as many incumbent generators, industry lobby groups, state governments and some of its own members are urging the Abbott conservative government to do – will have the opposite impact, pushing prices higher and creating a greater reliance on expensive gas-fired generation.

The conclusions in the white paper have apparently surprised even the four-man team from Schneider that conducted the analysis, and the unnamed large energy users who commissioned it. Large energy users have normally been against the renewable energy target, and this study – along with others that have reached similar conclusions – is causing a rethink.

The Schneider Electric analysis says Australia will benefit from maintaining, extending or expanding its large scale renewable energy target (LRET) because renewable generation has lower emissions and lower marginal costs than do fossil fuels- fired generation.

“As a result of the influence of the LRET on the generation mix, electricity generation emissions in Australia are forecast to be lower under the LRET than would be otherwise,” it says.

“Again, the LRET becomes a hedge against rising carbon prices, and may help to keep carbon prices lower as a result of the lower emissions.

“Finally, and most strikingly, is the impact of the LRET on long-term energy prices. The LRET is forecast to result in a generation mix with lower marginal cost, lower carbon emissions, and increased competition in the electricity market, all which serve to reduce prices.

“Even after taking into account the cost of Large-scale Generation Certificates, the LRET in its current form is forecast to result in prices lower in the long run than those under decreased targets or outright removal of the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.”

The analysis is important in the light of claims made by incumbent generators about the cost of the renewable energy target on consumers, and some even wilder claims in conservative commentators that renewables could add 50 per cent to consumer bills by 2020.

Pacific Hydro general manager Lane Crockett said the analysis by Schneider and others clearly demonstrated that zero fuel cost renewable energy can act as a hedge against future price rises in coal and gas.

“This report by Schneider is one of a number of recent reports that clearly demonstrate that deployment of renewable energy technologies via the renewable energy target has played a major role in keeping wholesale electricity prices down and is likely to continue to do so provided it is largely left alone,” he said.

“This report is no real surprise and clearly shows that that promise of a cleaner, cheaper energy market is now closer than ever to becoming a reality.” …..

April 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

IPCC report shows that Australia must do more to develop renewable energy

logo-Climate-CouncilIPCC report points to ‘renewables solution’ STAFF REPORTER APRIL 14, 2014 
The Climate Council says a new international report released yesterday and signed off by governments from around the world, including Australia, has found a need to lift investment in renewable energy to combat climate change.
“Renewable energy is critical to tackling climate change,” says Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council CEO.

“Australians have already taken steps to increase renewable energy and this report shows we need to do more.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report focuses on mitigation strategies for climate change and indicates that globally the world needs to at least triple the use of zero and low carbon energy sources by 2050.The think-tank says key players, like the United States and China, are quickly moving ahead. For example, the United States doubled renewable capacity between 2008 and 2012, and China increased its capacity in wind energy by 36% in 2012.

Australia currently has a national renewable energy target to generate 20% of the power mix from renewables by 2020. Over 130 other countries have similar targets to bolster renewable energy.

“It’s clear that the renewables race has begun,” says McKenzie.

“Shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a key part of tackling climate change and has other benefits, for instance growing new jobs, industries and investment,” says McKenzie.

“Australians know that solar power is just common sense here, so there is a lot of community support for greater investment in renewables.

“On the other side of the ledger, Australia is also home to some very inefficient and aging coal fired power plants. That means our current electricity supply is one of the most emissions intensive and least efficient in the world.”

April 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy | Leave a comment

Greens want Victoria to have a Clean Energy fund to help businesses and homes

Milne,-Christine-1Greens call for state clean energy fund, 13 April 14,  The Greens want the Victorian government to establish a state-based clean energy fund to make solar panels more affordable.

Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne call for the creation of a Victorian Solar Fund to help homes and businesses deal with the upfront costs of solar panels.

Senator Milne said the fund would make money for the state and reduce power bills. “Australia is a leader in solar science but is underinvested in solar power, depriving us of jobs that the community is calling out for,” she said on Sunday.

“We can create the financial incentives to put solar panels on roofs, for no money down, delivering immediate savings on electricity bills.”

April 14, 2014 Posted by | energy, Victoria | 1 Comment

Dick Warburton, nuclear power enthusiast, is heading Renewable Energy Review Panel

Warburton,-Dick-CzarTony Abbott’s renewable czar: Nuclear only alternative to coal REneweconomy, By  on Parkinson-Report-9 April 2014 Tony Abbott’s handpicked head of the panel reviewing Australia’s renewable energy target, the self-avowed climate “sceptic” Dick Warburton, is no fan of renewable energy. In an article co-authored for Quadrant in 2011, Warburton insisted that nuclear energy was the only alternative to fossil fuel generation.

The two-part series for the conservative magazine – co-authored by Warburton along with poet and accountant Geoffrey Lehmann and Resmed founder Peter Farrell – is an eye-opening compendium of the major arguments that climate science deniers and fossil fuel lobbyists have ever thrown at climate science, against carbon pricing and against renewable energy.

The title of the two-part series was “An intelligent voter’s guide to global warming” (you can find Part 1 here and Part II here), and the authors pretended to “provide basic information often missing from the debate.” In fact, it is a collection of scientific howlers normally only found in right-wing blogs.

This, though, is the paragraph that might interest those likely to feel the impact of the decisions made by the RET review panel that Warburton now heads:

“Except for nuclear power, there are no straightforward strategies for reducing dependence on fossil fuels without large economic costs. Wind and solar generators often cannot function when needed. Wind machines operate at only about 25 per cent capacity in the UK. Even when the wind is blowing, “back-up capacity, usually gas-fired … had to be kept running, using fuel, generating steam, emitting CO2, ready to ramp up its turbines the moment sufficient supply from the wind machines stopped coming”. Two main obstacles with renewables are the difficulty of establishing transmission lines from sunny or windy places to where the power is needed and the absence of utility-scale storage technology for intermittent renewable energies. A US comparison estimated the following electricity generation costs per kilowatt hour: hydroelectric $0.03; nuclear and coal $0.04; wind power $0.08; natural gas $0.10 (other estimates for gas suggest about $0.04); solar power (construction costs only, ignoring production costs for which reliable data were unavailable) $0.22.”

And, a little later….

“The only current viable alternative to burning fossil fuels is to go nuclear. Although current known reserves of uranium are limited, it is likely that by developing new nuclear technologies and with new sources of uranium, humanity’s electricity needs could be satisfied by nuclear power for many hundreds of years or more.”

Fantastic. In the true sense of the word. One hopes that Warburton has caught up a little on the various technology costs. In the US, where his electricity generation costs are cited, nuclear is four times the price that he quotes. In fact, you would have to go back many, many years to find a time when it was just 4c/kWh.

Ditto with solar. Solar PV, including production costs (for which there is plenty of reliable data), costs around half that quoted by Warburton in the US. Some recent solar PV power purchase contracts, aided by a tax credit, have been at one-quarter of the price he quoted. Wind, according to General Electric, the largest provider of power equipment, is also around half of that quoted by Warburton, and new coal – according to investment bank Citigroup – is also four times the price quoted by Warburton. Even fracked gas is being priced out of the market by utility-scale solar. As Citigroup noted, quite bluntly: Nuclear and coal are not competitive with renewables on cost.

One also assumes that Warburton is aware that the cost of energy storage is falling, and likely to follow the pathway of solar, as Morgan Stanley has pointed out. This is one reason why grid operators in WA and Queensland are looking to reduce their poles and wires delivering centralised fossil fuels, because they cannot compete economically with solar and storage any more.

Warburton can catch up with Australian technology cost estimates at the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics, which recently doubled its estimated costs of nuclear and dramatically reduced its estimates on the cost of solar.

One also hopes that Warburton is disabused of his idea that “fossil fuel” generation is left running, and polluting, waiting for the sun to stop shining and the wind to stop blowing. Such nonsense is only propagated by the most infamous of blogs haunted by climate science deniers, nuclear boosters and the anti-wind brigade. (Who are often the very same people).

A report by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory puts this myth to rest. Those grids that have high renewables are actually using less fast-response peaking power than those relying almost exclusively on inflexible coal or nuclear generators………

The question that the renewables industry will be asking is this: Given that Warburton says he has investigated the climate science and declares that climate scientists do not know what they are talking about, what are the chances that he will accept the evidence from the renewable energy industry? Ideology, as we have seen with the media and the government since the September poll, is a mighty powerful editor.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Community solar energy project underway in Illawarra, New South Wales

sunResidents back renewable energy plan April 9, 2014, WOLLONGONG ADVERTISER A group of Illawarra residents aims to set up a small-scale renewable energy project, such as solar panels on a community building roof.
The plan came out of a community energy forum held at the Illawarra Aboriginal Centre, in Wollongong, on March 27.

More than 30 residents turned up to hear a range of speakers talk about community renewable energy projects in Australia and overseas. The event was organised by the Wollongong Climate Action Network to generate interest and share ideas about how the Illawarra could set up its own  project.
Tathra resident and Bega Clean Energy for Eternity member Matthew Nott spoke about the significant efforts his community had made.
Reading about climate change in 2006, Mr Nott said he felt this was one of the greatest challenges we faced. He organised a ‘‘Clean energy for eternity’’ human sign on Tathra Beach, which attracted 3000 people.

With the help of others, Mr Nott ran a fund-raising campaign to place solar panels on community buildings – so far they have provided solar panels to six surf clubs, 12 Rural Fire Service sheds, five churches, 15 community halls and four preschools.
The group’s most ambitious project  is to build Australia’s largest community solar farm, providing half the power needs of Tathra Sewage Treatment Plant.

Graeme Jessop and John Davis from not-for-profit Clear Sky Solutions presented their investment model of renewable energy development. Last year they installed solar panels onto a Boggabri pub using investor funds.

Community Power Agency’s Nicky Ison spoke about community projects overseas. Forum participants agreed to work on a small-scale Illawarra renewable energy project, such as solar panels on a community building.
Organiser Rowan Huxtable said the network was very pleased at the community’s response and urged anyone wanting to help the project to contact them.Information: 0408 372 792 or email

April 10, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Broken Hill’s solar farm, part funded by ARENA will keep going

solar array GerladtonBusiness as usual’ for Government agency part-funding Broken Hill and Nyngan Solar Farms, ABC News 10 April 14 Gavin Coote A solar farm at Broken Hill in far-western New South Wales will still go ahead, despite the contractor’s uncertainty about future renewable energy investment in Australia.

First Solar is building the Nyngan and Broken Hill Solar Farms, but is reconsidering its future investments because of uncertainty surrounding the Federal Government’s Renewable Energy Target.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, is an independent government agency and is helping fund the solar farm, along with the NSW Government.

The Agency says it won’t comment on any future projects in western New South Wales until they are signed off financially, but says it’s business as usual for the ARENA’s current programs, including those at Nygnan and Broken Hill…… “It is business as usual for ARENA, we are continuing to manage our existing projects and to assess and progress proposals we receive in accordance with our procedures and decision making processes.”….

April 10, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

First operating wave energy array scheme in the world, in Western Australia

waveWestern Australia wave energy project on the brink of commercialisation   A major sustainable energy plan has come closer to fruition with the launch of three giant buoys in Perth Australia could be set for a breakthrough in energy derived from waves, following the launch a major new project in Western Australia.

Carnegie Wave Energy unveiled three large buoys in Perth on Wednesday as part of a new $70 million technology which will feed energy into the Australian grid later this year.

The enormous buoys, called buoyant actuators, will be towed out into the ocean near Garden Island, off the coast of Perth.
The buoys will then be submerged and attached to underwater pumps. The movement of the ocean’s waves will cause the buoys to shoot high-pressure water through pipes which, in turn, will drive turbines and generators onshore, creating electricity.

The high-pressure water will also be fed into an onshore desalination plant, creating fresh water without the need for pumps.

Electricity and water provided by the project will be used by the department of defence for HMAS Stirling, Australia’s largest naval base, which is on Garden Island. The government, which has provided $13.1 million in funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), said the project will be the first operating wave energy array scheme in the world……

Ivor Frischknecht, chief executive of ARENA, said Carnegie should be congratulated for helping push forward the viability of wave energy in Australia.Australia’s wave energy resources along our south and south-west coasts are among the best in the world and, importantly, can be reliably predicted days ahead,” he said.

“There is great long-term potential for wave energy in Australia, with a range of competitive Australian technologies being developed towards commercialisation.”

April 10, 2014 Posted by | energy, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Abbott government policies cloud the future for solar energy projects

Abbott-destroys-renewablesPolicy cloud puts up to $110m in solar energy projects on hold SMH, April 8, 2014   Jared Lynch Business reporter Solar projects totaling tens of millions of dollars are at risk after the Abbott government launched a review into its renewable energy targets.

First Solar, the company building the southern hemisphere’s biggest solar plant, said it was reconsidering its future investment plans for Australia, citing increased policy uncertainty.

About $90 million to $110 million worth of projects have been put on hold, First Solar vice president for business development Jack Curtis said. ”We don’t have a great line of sight as to where the next round of projects is coming from, largely as a function of the uncertainty in the policy backdrop,” Mr Curtis said.

The government had planned to source 41,000 gigawatt hours from renewable sources by 2020, or 20 per cent of total supply in that year. But that is being questioned after the government appointed former Reserve Bank board member and global warming sceptic Dick Warburton to head the review.

Mr Curtis said many solar projects only needed short-term incentives. He believed the solar industry had a ”credible path” to become self sustainable, citing its ability to ”dramatically” reduce costs.

For example, in the past five years, the US solar industry had cut costs by 60-70 per cent, Mr Curtis said.

”We are not saying ‘support solar … and we’ll keep saying thanks’. What we are saying that there is a very credible path given the cost reduction demonstrated by the solar industry that it can get to a point where it is a sustainable industry.” First Solar is building two solar plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW with energy company AGL………

The projects that are on hold are mainly in the mining sector, helping companies with the off-grid operations, Mr Curtis said.
He said those projects had an economic multiplier effect of 1.5x, so for every $1 the government spent, $1.50 was injected into the broader economy. ”[The federal government] obviously has a tight fiscal outlook that they have to manage and we are sympathetic of that.

”But if their other industries that are on the up and up that can generate a 1.5 multiplier for every $1 the government invested, I’d like to hear about them because I think that’s a pretty good positive return on the allocation of government funds.”

April 9, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Climate denialists and opponents of renewable energy in power in Australia

Liberal-policy-1Australia’s renewable future in hands of policy fringe dwellers By Giles Parkinson on 7 April 2014 So, it’s come down to this. The defence of Australia’s renewable energy industry has been entrusted to the hands of a man who thinks carbon pollution is caused by nature, not people, and another who is openly hostile to wind farms.

The re-run of the Senate election in Western Australia this weekend provides some interesting fodder for the psephologists: Labor’s continued electoral implosion, the Scott Ludlum-inspired revival of the Greens, and the outstanding success of Clive Palmer’s expensive electioneering.

But for the key policies that will affect Australia’s renewable energy industry – and the decarbonisation of the Australian economy – the equation is essentially unchanged. The numbers in the new Senate, to site from July 1 means that the carbon price – despite whatever hoops that Palmer may try and get the Abbott conservative government to jump through – is effectively dead and buried.

Any changes to the renewable energy target – or even its ditching – will likely go unimpeded through parliament. At best, Labor and the Greens would need support for the RET from Nick Xenophon, not a fan of wind farms, and the DLP’s John Madigan, who has been celebrating what he is sure is the impending demise of the RET.

“The wind industry is panicking in Australia with the likely death of the Renewable Energy Target and this is another example of its peddling influence and money to manipulate the truth,” Senator Madigan told The Australian last week.

At worst, Labor and the Greens would need support from the Palmer United Party to support the renewables target. Good luck with that; Palmer, who now has three of his own Senators and a fourth from the Motoring Party tied up in an unspecified “alliance,” says renewable energy targets should not be compulsory.

“We don’t intend to legislate to make people do something they may not want to do,” Palmer told ABC’s Lateline program last week. This, as economist Ross Garnaut pointed out on the same program, would be about as effective as making taxes voluntary.

What’s not clear is the future of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or likely budget cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, both of which would require legislative approval.

The CEFC was actually supported by Xenophon and Madigan in a repeal vote earlier this year because, while they are not supporters of wind energy, they see the upside of bringing in new renewable technologies. Xenophon, in particular is a fan of what he calls “baseload” renewables, meaning geothermal and ocean energy – even those these are years away from commercial deployment. The CEFC has been largely focused on energy efficiency, waste-to-energy, and some emerging solar technologies. ARENA is similarly focused on techologies that do not yet match wind energy on cost.

If Labor can somehow grab the sixth seat in the WA Senate, then Xenophon and Madigan could protect the CEFC, and allow it to continue beyond early July. If not, and the sixth seat falls to the Liberals, then the fate of the CEFC lies in the hands of Palmer.

Quite what he makes of the CEFC is anyone’s guess. The fact that it brings in private money at a ratio of nearly $3 for every $1 in loans may be appealing, so might its ability to develop a profit to the government, and abatement at a “net benefit.”

The abatement equation, however, may just fall on deaf ears. Palmer, it seems, appears to believe that any sort of abatement is a waste of time. Quoting material from what must be one of the more extreme climate denier websites, Palmer told Lateline last week:

“Now we know that 97 per cent of the world’s carbon comes from natural sources. Why don’t we have money to look at how we can reduce the overall carbon signature by reducing it from nature, not just from industry. It’s entirely wrong-focused.”

Newman-Moaurice-climateAnd there’s more. Check out the transcript, it gets feisty in part but it is as though Palmer is channeling the thoughts of Tony Abbott’s main business advisor, Maurice Newman, and those of Dick Warburton, the head of the RET review panel. The climate skeptic brigade is now in full control of climate and renewable energy policy in this country.

Of course, it did not need to have come to this. Climate change and renewable energy policies were supposed to be bipartisan, and for a brief moment in time they were, before the relentless and pig-headed push by the Rudd government to make climate change a wedge issue for the conservatives saw Malcolm Turnbull’s reign at the head of the Coalition ended abruptly, the Liberal Party swerve dramatically to the far right with his replacement by Abbott, and the Greens reject the then CPRS after Rudd refused to even talk to them.

The renewable energy target was also supposed to be bipartisan, and Labor had the opportunity to put this issue to rest if it had the conviction to accept the Climate Change Authority’s recommendation to provide certainty for the industry and push the next review out to 2016.

In the end, Labor backed off. It was the only one of the CCA’s key recommendations that Labor refused to implement. Not only did that decision make the rest of the CCA’s recommendations and endorsement of the RET irrelevant (because of lingering uncertainty about the future of the policy), it left the way open for the Abbott government to conduct its own review, and justify it as a legislative requirement.

And so it appointed a special panel comprising a climate change sceptic, a fossil fuel lobbyist and the former head of one of Australia’s most emissions intensive generation companies to consider the merits of wind and solar.

Now, the renewables industry has to rely, possibly beyond hope, on the support of politicians who think that human-caused climate change is a myth, and that renewables should not be mandated, probably cause health problems, are expensive and unreliable.

It should never have come to this. But it has.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Cost of Australia’s decentralised solar energy is plunging, despite opposition from electricity utilities

solar-panels-and-moneyAustralia’s Plunging Cost Of Solar Energy (Stats) (Excellent graphs)  Giles Parkinson…...“People are told that solar is too expensive,” Greene says. “But we have seen a staggering reduction of the cost of solar in the last couple of years, so I hope that these graphs frame what the actual cost of solar is.”…..

All of this is causing some fierce push-back from the utility industry. Greene and other speakers cited numerous ways that distributors are seeking to slow down the uptake of solar – one is by drawing out the application process (taking 65 business days for each amendment or query), requiring systems to be installed to stop exports back into the grid, or simply refusing the installation.

That, of course, leads to users thinking that they might be better off without the grid. How far is that away?…….

April 7, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding towards Wave Energy

waveAustralian wave energy company receives grant funding, Renewable Energy Magazine, Robin Whitlock, 04 April 2014 Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) has announced that its partner company, Victorian Wave Partners, has received A$5 Million Initial Grant Funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Victorian Wave Partners (VWP) is a project-specific entity that is wholly-owned by OPT (Australasia) Pty. Ltd (OPTA), which is in turn 88 percent owned by OPT.  The funding is the first payment under the A$66.5 million grant that was awarded by ARENA to VWP toward the cost of building and deploying its planned wave power station project off the coast of Australia……

April 7, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment


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