Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government about to subsidise shady coal corporation Adani Enterprises

corruption textAdani’s Galilee Basin complex corporate web spreads to tax havens, ABC News 21 Dec 16  Stephen Long It is an intriguing corporate web that spreads from North Queensland, across Asia to the Caribbean.

Giant Indian conglomerate Adani, which plans to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, has set up a complex network of companies and trusts in Australia which are owned in one of the world’s major tax havens, the Cayman Islands.

The Adani Group is also attempting to shift ownership of the existing Abbot Point coal port — which it bought for $1.8 billion — to a Singaporean company ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands.

An exhaustive search of company filings and documents across the globe has cast light on this opaque structure of ownership and control.

It has alarmed environmental activists and legal experts, who fear it could make it harder to gain compensation from Adani in the event of an environmental disaster from Adani’s planned mine and port expansion on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

“I’ve been a businessman for most of my life, as well as an environmental activist, and the risks are great,” said Geoff Cousins, former Optus CEO and chairman of the George Paterson advertising agency, now a board member of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“With these kinds of approvals of big mining operations or port operations, you always get a set of conditions that the Government puts on.

“But those conditions aren’t worth anything if, when something goes wrong, you try to find the company responsible and either it has no money or if it has money it’s in a tax haven and you can’t reach it.”

It is a view echoed by David Chaikin, a professor of business law at the University of Sydney.

“The advantage of having the money in tax havens is that you are able to conceal the source of money, the use of money, and also to minimise tax,” he said.

Coal infrastructure owned through opaque structures

As well as building Australia’s biggest coal mine in north Queensland, Adani is planning a huge expansion of the existing coal terminal at Abbot Point, near Bowen, to ship coal across the Great Barrier Reef to India — turning it into one of the world’s biggest coal ports.

It also wants to build a new railway linking the mine, about 400 kilometres inland, to the port.

All the planned developments are based on corporate structures involving tax havens.

Control of the railway — which the Federal Government is preparing to support with a $1 billion publicly subsidised loan — ultimately resides in the Cayman Islands, one of the world’s most notorious and secretive tax havens………

Transferring ownership of the critical port infrastructure to a Caymans Islands’ company “means it will be unregulated, unaccountable,” Tim Buckley, director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analytics told the ABC.

“It will be non-transparent to the Australian Government as to what is going on, who owns it, who are the directors. To me it is a matter of national security.”

Companies and trusts created by Adani for the proposed Carmichael mine are ultimately owned by Adani Enterprises, a publicly-listed company in India, but the control flows via a company registered in the tax haven of Mauritius, Adani Global Ltd.

A $5 billion fund the Federal Government set up for the development of northern Australia, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility or NAIF, is considering a request from Adani for a $1 billion subsidised loan for its rail development.

The NAIF refused to disclose which Adani entity had applied for the finance when approached by the ABC.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Evidence that Maralinga soldiers were radiation guinea pigs

The press release was drafted ahead of Operation Buffalo at Maralinga, during which secret-agent-Austtroops were ordered to crawl through areas hit by fallout. It was not meant to be made public

text-from-the-archivesTop secret document reveals British troops were knowingly revealed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests –, by Susie Boniface, 2 Jan 2011, British troops WERE knowingly exposed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests, a top-secret document has finally proved.

For five decades, successive governments have denied any harm was caused to the 22,000 servicemen ordered to witness nuclear bomb tests in the Fifties and Sixties – saying the explosions were to test the weapons, not their effects on humans, and the men were at a safe distance.

But a draft Press release written before tests in Australia in 1956, now uncovered in the National Archives, reads: “The possible effects of the ingestion of radioactive fallout (by men and animals) will be among the subjects studied.”

It has the words “by men and animals” crossed out in pencil, and the version that was actually released mentions only sheep and small animals.

The document blows apart official claims that the tests were not harmful to the troops who witnessed test blasts in Australia, the US and the South Pacific.

It also backs the test veterans’ claims that they were used as “guinea pigs” by the MoD in its race to build an atomic bomb.

Since the tests they say they have suffered high rates of cancers and other illnesses. More than 1,000 vets and widows have won the right to sue the MoD.

The top-secret Press release was unearthed by veteran David Wilson, 74, from Shropshire, who served as an RAF clerk at Christmas Island in the South Pacific during two bomb blasts.

Mr Wilson, who is one of the vets suing over illnesses he has suffered, said: “We were ordered there purely and simply to witness those tests, as guinea pigs.”

The press release was drafted ahead of Operation Buffalo at Maralinga, during which troops were ordered to crawl through areas hit by fallout. It was not meant to be made public until..

Top secret document reveals British troops were knowingly revealed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests –

December 21, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, secrets and lies | | Leave a comment

Queensland giant Carmichael coal project in doubt: Adani announces move away from new coal mines

India announces plan to step away from coal, casting doubt on approved Queensland Adani mine’s-plan-to-step-away-from-coal-casts-doubt-on-adani-mine/8131240

Key points:

  • The plan says no need for additional coal fired energy capacity in next decade
  • Six-fold rise in energy from renewable sources key part of national electricity plan
  • Josh Frydenberg said the Adani mine had to go ahead because India desperately needed it for energy

The new national electricity plan says India will not need any additional coal-fired energy capacity in the next decade.

India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal alluded to a renewables pivot when he spoke to Four Corners last year.

“I hope in the years to come we can see an explosion of renewable energy on the back of cheaper storage,” Mr Goyal said.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.


AUDIO: Listen to Stephen Long’s story (AM)

Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analytics told AM the development was bad news for the Australian coal industry.

“They [India] say that they have 50 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants under construction already, so it’s far better to complete those than write them off as stranded assets,” he said.

“But no new coal-fired plants in India in the next decade.”

Mr Buckley said the plan had left the Adani proposal “totally stranded”.

“It is a white elephant, and it is six years past it’s use by date,” he said………

However, Adani rejects Mr Buckley’s argument, saying it needs to coal for itself.

“What happens to the market has no implication for Adani because we are supplying our own power stations with our own coal,” an Adani spokesman told the ABC.

Plans to fund billion-dollar railway to mineDespite these doubts, the Australian Government plans to give a $1 billion subsidised loan to Adani to build a railway to the planned mine.

When the then Minister for Resources Josh Frydenberg approved the Adani mine in north Queensland 14 months ago, he argued it had to go ahead because India desperately needed it for energy.

“I think there is a strong moral case here, it will help lift hundreds and millions of people out of energy poverty, not just in India but right across the world,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Buckley said the International Energy Agency (IEA) had forecast that hundreds of gigawatts of new coal-fired power plants would be built in India in the next few decades.

“The Indian Energy Ministry is saying that is absolutely wrong,” he said.

“He instead articulates a plan that involves building 215 gigawatts of renewable energy, building another 20 gigawatts of hydro, building five gigawatts of nuclear, building a bit more gas, and dramatically elevating the importance of energy efficiency and grid efficiency in order to diversify India rapidly away from coal.”

December 21, 2016 Posted by | energy, Queensland | Leave a comment

Japan formally scraps ‘Monju’ Fast-Breeder Nuclear Reactor after 22 years of its failure

Japan Decides to Scrap ‘Monju’ Fast-Breeder Nuclear Reactor  By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  TOKYO — Dec 21, 2016Japan formally approved a plan Wednesday to scrap an experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor that drained government finances for decades without living up to hopes it would be a savior for the resource-poor country’s energy needs.Government ministers decided to decommission the trouble-plagued “Monju” reactor. It has cost Japan about 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) while operating only 250 days since it started up 22 years ago.

Monju fast-breeder

The so-called “dream reactor” was designed to burn a plutonium-uranium mix, while potentially producing more plutonium in the process that could be converted into more nuclear fuel.

The reactor suffered a leakage of sodium, used as coolant, in 1995, months after it went online, a major accident that caused its initial yearslong suspension before more recent safety problems.

It was estimated that Monju would have required costly upgrades to meet new safety standards introduced after meltdowns at a nuclear plant in Fukushima that was flooded by a tsunami in 2011, with at least 540 billion yen ($4.6 billion) and eight more years of work estimated to restart Monju, officials said, citing their latest estimates.

We have decided to decommission Monju because restarting it would require significant time and cost,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said from Fukui, home to Monju in western Japan. Local officials oppose losing Monju, which rakes in subsidies and provides jobs.

Officials, however, said Japan’s spent fuel recycling plan would not change even without Monju. Opponents say Japan should give up the program and shift to direct burial of spent fuel as waste, but officials are seeking another fast reactor to replace Monju, although details are still extremely sketchy.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Soaring Arctic temperatures ‘strongly linked’ to recent extreme weather events

climate-changeArctic ice melt ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now’ Soaring Arctic temperatures ‘strongly linked’ to recent extreme weather events, say scientists at cutting edge of climate change research, Guardian, , 20 Dec 16 The dramatic melting of Arctic ice is already driving extreme weather that affects hundreds of millions of people across North America, Europe and Asia, leading climate scientists have told the Guardian.

Severe “snowmageddon” winters are now strongly linked to soaring polar temperatures, say researchers, with deadly summer heatwaves and torrential floods also probably linked. The scientists now fear the Arctic meltdown has kickstarted abrupt changes in the planet’s swirling atmosphere, bringing extreme weather in heavily populated areas to the boil.

The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places.

In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s.

“These rapid changes in the Arctic are affecting weather patterns where you live right now,” she said. “In the past you have had natural variations like El Niño, but they have never happened before in combination with this very warm Arctic, so it is a whole new ball game.

“It is inconceivable that this ridiculously warm Arctic would not have an impact on weather patterns in the middle latitudes further south, where so many people live. “It’s safe to say [the hot Arctic] is going to have a big impact, but it’s hard to say exactly how big right now. But we are going to have a lot of very interesting weather – we’re not going to get around that one………

December 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Solar cooling systems in Echuca and Ballarat, Victoria

Victoria-sunny.psdSolar cooling systems take heat out of summer’s hottest days
A few Australian businesses are exploiting the searing heat of summer to create purpose-designed solar cooling systems whose benefits extend far beyond electricity savings,
Guardian, , 20 December 16,  

As Australia settles in for another long hot summer, the demand for air-conditioning is set to surge. In fact, with the World Meteorological Organisation stating that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year on record, it’s no surprise an estimated 1.6bn new air conditioners are likely to be installed globally by 2050.

Powering all these units will be a challenge, especially on summer’s hottest days. In Australia, peak demand days can drive electricity usage to almost double and upgrading infrastructure to meet the increased demand can cost more than four times what each additional air-conditioning unit costs.

Yet an emerging sector of the solar industry is turning the searing heat of summer into cooling by using solar heat or electricity. For those developing the technology, the benefits of solar cooling are obvious: the days when cooling is needed the most are also the days when solar works best.

When combined with a building’s hot water and heating systems – which together with cooling account for around half of the global energy consumption in buildings – solar cooling can drastically reduce reliance on grid energy and improve a building’s sustainability credentials. According to the International Energy Agency, solar could cover almost 17% of global cooling needs by 2050.
Currently, such systems are still the exception. “It hasn’t got into the mainstream yet,” says Ken Guthrie, who chairs the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling Program.

Nevertheless, several solar cooling technologies are making their way to market. While off-the-shelf systems for most are still years away, a handful of businesses have already opted for purpose-designed solar cooling systems, which experts hope will convince others to follow their lead.

Echuca regional hospital in rural Victoria was one of the first to take the leap into solar cooling. In 2010, with support from Sustainability Victoria, the hospital designed and installed a solar heat–driven absorption chiller with engineering firm WSP consultants.

A 300 sq m roof-mounted evacuated tube solar field feeds hot water to a 500 kW chiller that was set to save the hospital $60,000 on energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The system was not designed to run entirely off solar (a gas-fired boiler takes up the slack on hot days), but “we have had days where we run 100% solar” for both cooling and hot water, says Echuca regional health executive project manager Mark Hooper.

The benefits of solar were clear enough that a larger 1,500 kW chiller, connected to a field of trough-shaped solar collectors that track the sun during the day, was installed during the hospital’s recent expansion and redevelopment. This second chiller started operating in November and an analysis of the resulting energy and emissions savings will be assessed in conjunction with CSIRO.

Meanwhile, Stockland Wendouree shopping centre in Ballarat, Victoria, is trialling a CSIRO-designed solar cooling system with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena). Trough-shaped metal collectors on the centre’s rooftop collect solar heat that is used to dry out a desiccant matrix (much like the silica gel sachets in your shoebox) that dehumidifies air brought in from outside. The hot, dry air is then directed to an indirect evaporative cooler, which delivers cool, dry air into the shopping centre.

The yearlong trial is still under way and hasn’t yet seen a full summer to calculate energy savings, but “it’s going very well,” says CSIRO’s Stephen White. The system is 50% more efficient than an earlier iteration of the design – an important improvement given many buildings don’t have the sprawling rooftop spaces of a shopping centre to mount large solar collector arrays.

With photovoltaic cells more affordable than ever, cooling systems that run off solar electricity are already commercially available. But solar thermal systems could still find a place in the market, according to Guthrie, especially for larger commercial buildings. “There’s no single solution,” he says.

Like any solar technology, solar cooling doesn’t work 24/7. Storing the solar energy collected during the day for use overnight is possible. Stockland’s system uses thermal oil storage, for example, and Echuca regional hospital has insulated its firewater tanks to store chilled water. But there are also efforts to store heat or cooling from one season to the next using underground storage tanks.

Whichever systems a building adopts, White says the benefits of solar cooling extend beyond electricity savings. “It’s not just about the cents per kilowatt hour avoided, but it’s also about the value of the asset itself,” he says.

For Hooper, the motivation was even simpler: “We did it to ensure that our children have a future.”

December 21, 2016 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Giles Parkinson exposes misinformation on rooftop solar and battery storage

Parkinson-Report-Some analysts kid themselves about future of solar + storage, REneweconomy, By  on 19 December 2016

We’ve read and reported on some remarkably misinformed analysis in recent weeks, including from the country’s principal energy rule maker and the government’s favourite energy consultant. But this one just about takes the biscuit.

It is an analysis by investment bank CLSA – partly informed by Frontier Economics, the consultancy behind the other notable analyses we reported on last week, here and here – and argues why rooftop solar and battery storage will never take off in Australia and why no one in their right mind would ever leave the grid. Or even install solar modules.

We wouldn’t normally bother with it, but it got some serious air-time in the AFR, and in other Fairfax media, and may just be cited by others.

So it’s worth looking at and pointing out that it is based on some extraordinary assumptions – not just about the cost of solar and storage, but also about the way people would use the technology.

Let’s take its assumptions on going off-grid for instance. It cites as an example an energy hungry, four-bedroom house, the sort of consumer that would likely be the last to choose to go off grid.

No matter. It assumes that such households would want to use all of their appliances at the same time (the oven, the microwave, the dishwasher, the washing machine, the iron, the kettle, the air-con, the drier, the TV, and every light in the house as well as laptops) and would therefore need 19kW of continuous power to supply all that. [good table here on original]

This, concludes analyst Baden Moore, would require 3 Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries or three Redflow ZCells, just to manage two hours of that demand – not to mention the 3-7 days of backup. Just the cost of meeting this peak, he says, would be prohibitive and cost more than $50,000 for the battery storage alone.

There are myriad problems with this calculation. The first is that many houses simply can’t download that amount of power anyway even from the coal-powered grid. In Victoria, for instance, new households have a “capacity” limit of around 10kW.

And then there is something called the “diversity factor,” which, as SolarQuip’s Glen Morris – a leading authority on solar and storage – explains, means it is almost impossible to reach such peak demand at the same time.

One appliance might go for a few seconds at maximum demand then ease off. “I’ve got 10kW (of maximum demand) just in my kitchen but I’ve never been able to turn them on all at the same time and trip the 5kW inverter,” says Morris, who lives off grid.

If a household was going to consider going off grid, would they choose to pay more than $50,000 for batteries that would not be needed most of the time, or would they pay $1,000 or less for smart controls to ensure that most of these appliances are used in off-peak?

The other issue is the sort of thinking that the CLSA report represents. It’s the same dumb attitude – based on visions of soaring peak demand – that was used to over-build and gold plate the country’s electricity network, such that Australian consumers are now paying through the teeth for their grid supply; the very cost that is making rooftop solar and battery storage so attractive to consumers.

But Moore doesn’t seem to see a problem here. He argues that the grid has been built and paid for, and that the energy networks should use any means possible to recover their costs.

“The Australian Energy Markets Commission (AEMC), the key regulator of Australian energy markets, highlights the networks will be allowed to vary the price of grid connection to ensure the cost of capital on the network is recovered,” Moore writes.

“On this basis, the cost of the network will be recovered from all consumers regardless of their usage of battery and solar energy.”

Even the networks know how crazy this attitude is. In the report they prepared with the CSIRO, and in their advice to the Finkel report, they say that millions of households will be driven, economically, to take up solar and storage.

And unless the industry gets its act together and offers them a decent and competitive service, then many will choose to leave the grid, leaving the economics of the industry in a complete mess.

Part of the problem is what Moore and Frontier Economics are comparing the price of solar and storage to. Instead of the full grid price, Moore and Frontier compare solar and storage to the retail and wholesale component of people’s bills. But then they come up with some extraordinary estimates of those prices……

[good charts on original] ….The CLSA report even highlight an analysis on South Australia’s recent blackout by Russell Skelton, a former head of the two biggest coal generators in NSW. Needless to say, Skelton says the high level of wind energy was at fault for the blackout and will cause similar problems elsewhere.

This is in direct contrast to the AEMO report, which said that the nature of wind energy had nothing to do with the outage, and of the Finkel review, which pointed out there are plenty of technology alternatives to coal and gas to ensure grid security and reliability as renewables grow.

It also contradicts the CSIRO and the network owners, who see no problem incorporating more than 90 per cent wind and solar over time, and more than 80 per cent in South Australia in the same time frame that other states are aiming for 50 per cent.

CLSA’s principal point out of all this is to argue that the incumbent utilities are in the box seat when it comes to (slowly) migrating the energy system from black to green.

It is true that these utilities, and the networks, wield enormous influence at political and regulatory level on policies. But simply wishing away the cost competitiveness of new technologies is no strategy to protect the incumbents, or the consumer.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, storage | Leave a comment

There is no reason to ever build another coal plant. #Auspol 


For the second year in a row, wind and solar accounted for roughly two-thirds of new U.S. generating capacity, while natural gas and nuclear made up most of the rest.
That’s because right now, in much of the United States, wind and solar are the cheapest form of power available, according to a new report from investment bank Lazard.

Analysts found that new solar or wind installations are cheaper than a new coal-fired power installation just about everywhere — even without subsidies — while the cost of renewables continues to fall rapidly.

Solar and wind are getting really, really cheap.

Since just last year, the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped 10 percent, and the cost of residential solar dropped a whopping 26 percent — and that is coming after years of price declines. The cost of offshore wind declined by 22 percent since last year, though it still remains more expensive than onshore wind.


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December 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment