Australian news, and some related international items

Solar energy is racing ahead in Australia – large scale projects

text-relevantSolar closing cost gap with wind, conventional power, AFR,  Angela Australia-solar-plugMacdonald-Smith, 16 Jan 17  The latest batch of large-scale solar projects have revealed a “new cost paradigm” for the technology in Australia, although costs remain more than double the lowest-cost projects overseas, experts say.  Construction contracts awarded to Downer EDI for the Clare solar project and to RCR Tomlinson for the Sun Metals Solar project, both in Queensland, demonstrate a further decline in costs per unit of power produced that makes the projects markedly cheaper than the first utility-scale solar projects built here, said Gero Farruggio at Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA).

“The costs are half of what the the capital intensity was of the ones that are on stream and were built over 2015 and 2016,” Mr Farruggio said. “It’s a huge step forward for the industry and for the future of solar in Australia.”

The progress on costs has been more rapid than expected, and large-scale solar projects are now becoming competitive with wind power and getting “very close” to wholesale electricity prices excluding large-scale generation certificates (LGCs), said SERA director Ben Willacy.

 “It really won’t be long before solar projects can compete in Australia without a subsidy and without necessarily relying on LGC revenue,” Mr Willacy said.

Mr Farruggio said that while the cost of solar panels was falling worldwide, increased competition among contractors was also helping improve the economics of local solar projects, with about 15 EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] contractors now fighting it out for work as opposed to just one a few years ago. Work has also slowed in other areas such as mining and energy, helping soften construction costs, while expertise in the area has grown.

Solar developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures late last month awarded a $190 million construction and operations contract for the 100 megawatt Clare project near Ayr to Downer, after striking a deal last May to sell power from the plant to Origin Energy.

RCR Tomlinson said late December it won a contract worth more than $155 million from Korea Zinc’s Sun Metals subsidiary to build a 98.5MW solar project at a zinc operation in Townsville. RCR previously worked on AGL Energy’s Broken Hill solar farm.

A wave of further announcements on construction contracts is expected by the end of the month as the projects that were selected for funding under the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s large-scale solar funding round move towards financial close. Those 12 projects, spread across Queensland, NSW and Western Australia, are expected to unlock almost $1 billion of commercial investment……..

The solar power projects will contribute to rising investment in clean energy in Australia thanks to the 2020 Renewable Energy Target. Investment in the sector surged 49 per cent last year to $US3.44 billion, bouncing back after two weak years thanks to renewed confidence in the large-scale RET, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in a report on Friday.

 Last year’s increase in investment bucked the global trend, which showed a global slowing in the sector, and was driven by a rise in large-scale project financing which rose to $US1.98 billion, BNEF said. Still, investment in large-scale renewables projects will need to double if the 2020 target is to be met, the firm found.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 2 Comments

Tony Abbott calls for ditching Renewable Energy Target: PM Turnbull disagrees

text-relevantTony Abbott slapped down as Malcolm Turnbull opts for ‘minimalist’ Abbott-destroys-renewablesreshuffle, The Age Michael Gordon, 16 Jan 17  The Turnbull government has slapped down Tony Abbott’s call for it to ditch its renewable energy target for 2020, declaring there are “no plans” to change the policy that was settled when Mr Abbott was prime minister.

Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, told Fairfax Media the government’s intention was to stick with its policy and contrast it with Labor’s commitment to a more ambitious target.

In a direct repudiation of Mr Abbott’s assertion that the existing policy would increase prices, reduce reliability and threaten heavy industries, Mr Frydenberg said: “The government has no plans to change the 2020 RET which was settled just 18 months ago providing investor certainty.”

Mr Abbott delivered a scathing critique of the government on Saturday,……… He said the government’s first move this year should be to introduce legislation to protect existing renewable generation “but to remove all further mandatory use requirements”.

Mr Abbott said the existing policy would almost double renewable energy supplies in the next four years, increasing power costs and reducing reliability…….

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Flinders Ranges Community survey – 79% do NOT want the Federal nuclear waste dump.

text-NoRobyn Wood   Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste In The Flinders Ranges, 16 Jan 17    So the government claim their survey says that 59% of locals want the national waste dump to be in the Flinders Ranges (The Advertiser 16/1/17). However, they consulted less than 50% of locals – and did not ask the rest of the Flinders Ranges community (especially the tourism industry) and did not ask the whole of SA whose reputation will be damaged by the stigma of being the Nuclear Dump state.

Members of the local community did their own survey of residents within 50km and found 79% do not want the dump.

The government has set up a consultative committee and one of its tasks is to further evaluate whether local people actually do want the dump – I will watch with interest to see if they come up with a better plan to find the true story

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australian government’s pro nuclear propaganda to South Australia’s Barndioota residents

buyer-beware-1Federal Government woos residents near proposed South Australian radioactive waste dump with trips to nuclear reactor in Sydney PETER JEAN, POLITICAL REPORTER, The Advertiser, 16 Jan 17 

Cabinet is due to make a final decision by the end of the year on whether to build the national low-level radioactive waste management facility at Barndioota, 35km northwest of Hawker.

No other communities have come forward with rival proposals to host the centre since Barndioota was chosen at the preferred location last year.

As part of a community consultation process, a dozen people from the Barndioota area have visited the Lucas Heights Nuclear reactor in Sydney and another nine are due to visit by the end of January.

The Sydney trips were designed to teach community representatives about how the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s OPAL reactor creates medicine and industrial products.


Participants were also provided with information about the storage of radioactive waste at Lucas Heights and how the waste would be packaged for transport to Barndioota.

If regulatory approvals were granted, trucks would begin delivering low and intermediate-level radioactive waste to the new waste dump in 2020.

canavan-matt-puppetFederal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the Government wanted to give the community as much information as possible about the production and use of nuclear material and the storage of radioactive waste.

“The waste comes mainly from medical procedures,’’ Senator Canavan said. [ed. Antinuclear  That’s a lie

“Visiting the ANSTO facility takes away the air of mystery about the production of nuclear materials and the size and storage of the waste.”

Senator Canavan said the Barndioota community was approaching the issue in good faith.

“I visited the region late last year and met with local landholders, business operators and traditional owners to talk with them about the next steps and to further explain the importance of the facility,’’ he said.

“The next steps will be to complete a heritage survey of the site, working with traditional owners. That will begin in the coming…weeks.”

 A survey found 59 per cent of local residents had no serious concerns about the radioactive waste dump proposal. But there was still strong opposition from some locals, including traditional landowners.

Indigenous leader Regina McKenzie said she was pleased the Government had agreed to undertake an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment but remained extremely sceptical about the waste dump proposal.

“We’re very concerned about protecting ecosystems,” she said

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

South Australian Liberal leader stresses that the Royal Commission nuclear waste plan economically risky


scrutiny-on-wastes-sa-bankrupt“ there was nothing in the analysis that we did post the royal commission report being tabled down that gave us any form of comfort that there wasn’t huge economic risk associated with this proposal.”

  Marshall: Nothing’s off the table – except nuclear, INDaily, Adelaide Monday January 16, 2017

Liberal leader Steven Marshall says he has an open mind on policy solutions, today declaring South Australia “can’t afford to take one single solitary thing off the table” – only minutes after launching a strident defence of his unilateral move to take nuclear waste storage off the table.

In an interview on ABC Adelaide, Marshall was asked about the Liberals’ policy agenda, with little more text politicsthan a year before he leads the party to another state election……


The Liberals were put in the spotlight last week when former senator Sean Edwards mused about a push by business supporters to see him installed into state parliament, and possibly to replace Marshall as leader. Edwards refused to rule out either scenario, repeating earlier disenchantment over his party’s decision to withdraw support for a broad discussion over a proposed nuclear waste dump…….


Marshall said of the party room’s decision to withdraw support for further nuclear debate: “A lot of people are out there saying it’s a political decision by Steven Marshall and the Liberal Party; nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We welcomed the royal commission in the first place, in fact we were the only party that was talking about the nuclear opportunity for South Australia before the last election,” he said.

“But there was nothing in the analysis that we did post the royal commission report being tabled down that gave us any form of comfort that there wasn’t huge economic risk associated with this proposal.”……

January 16, 2017 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Deep borehole test project may go ahead in New Mexico

a-cat-CANIt is a good idea to at least test the feasibility of deep boreholes. As one resident said “Something must be done with the wastes”. There is no obligation on that community to agree to actually accept high level nuclear waste – only to host the testing of the deep bore concept.

The whole project would really make sense if it were combined with a definite plan to STOP MAKING TOXIC RADIOACTIVE WASTES, by closing down all nuclear reactors. This could be done, with genuine good will, and planning for compensation and transition to other employment for workers in the nuclear industry.

New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project  LMT Online, , January 15, 2017 “……. The U.S. Energy Department, Quay County and two energy development companies say the nation’s latest nuclear waste experiment could inject as much as $40 million into the county’s economy. Nara Visa residents just have to agree to let the companies drill a three-mile-deep borehole — seven times deeper than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad — into the crystalline, granite crust of the earth a few miles outside of town, on land currently occupied by fat, black cattle.

Right now, the project is pegged as a scientific experiment. The Energy Department says no nuclear waste will be placed in the test borehole.

The ultimate goal is to find a permanent place to dispose of the ever-growing and deadly stockpile of spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste collected at nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons laboratories nationwide.

Until this year, no town in the U.S. had agreed to the proposal. But when the Quay County Commission approved the plan in October, it put Nara Visa on track to become the first.

About seven miles outside Nara Visa, there is a small, gravel roadside park where semi-truck drivers pull off U.S. 54 to sleep. Below the earth, the granite is devoid of oil but just right for deep drilling.

These 10 acres belong to Louis and Elaine James, who’ve agreed to lease it to the government………

As far as the nuclear waste component is concerned, Louis James, 69, said, “I have more of a problem with it sitting over at Pantex 100 miles away than I do with it being under the ground, because you know it will get you if they ever attack those spots.” He was referring to the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons assembly facility outside Amarillo, Texas……

The test hole planned for the James’ property is meant to be just 8 1/2 inches wide but would go deep below ground, first through the water table and a mile through sediment before hitting the top of a crystalline rock layer. From there, the hole would be drilled another two miles into the Earth. This is the layer where nuclear waste would be stored, then sealed off with a steel casing and concrete to protect the environment and water in the mile span separating the waste from the land’s surface.


Utah-based DOSECC Exploration Services LLC and Enercon Federal Services, Inc., based in Atlanta, are developing the Nara Visa proposal and are one of four groups that have been granted the go-ahead from the Energy Department for Phase 1 of the project. This is referred to as “community buy-in,” gaining not only public approval but also support for the project, and securing the land for the borehole site.

If DOSECC and Enercon win this bid, they will get $35 million over a five-year period to drill the first hole. The Energy Department will grant an additional $50 million to drill a second, wider borehole if the first is successful……

State Rep. Dennis Roch said that after meeting with the companies, he felt confident there was “no connection between this viability test and the ultimate decision of where to dispose of nuclear waste way down the road.”…….

The Nara Visa site would only be permitted for drilling, he added. Nuclear waste storage would require an entirely different permitting and regulatory process…….

WIPP, after being closed for nearly three years following the radiation leak, began depositing waste below ground for the first time in December. But the stagnation of waste disposal at these facilities left the Energy Department scrambling for alternatives, and in 2012, deep boreholes resurfaced as a potential alternative, an idea that was first floated in the 1950s.

To store all of the waste sitting at 77 U.S. facilities, the Energy Department needs to drill 950 boreholes at an estimated $20 million per hole, or $71 billion for the entire project, including transportation, environmental reclamation, monitoring and site characterization, according to the 2010 Sandia study. In contrast, Yucca Mountain was estimated to cost $96 billion.

Each hole is expected to contain 400 vertically stacked fuel pods that, unlike the costly steel drums used to pack waste headed to WIPP, would not require specialized containers but instead would be stored in their spent fuel form or glass. Multiple boreholes could be drilled just over 200 meters apart to avoid thermal reactions.

Though the Sandia study said boreholes could be used for nuclear reactor waste, Mast from Enercon said he believes the Energy Department is only looking at boreholes for waste from nuclear weapons development.

To actually begin placing nuclear waste in the boreholes will require an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Before the proposal reaches that stage, Greg Mello, director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, says the government should be more transparent about exactly what type of high-level nuclear waste would go in the holes: spent fuel rods, nuclear weapons waste or down-blended plutonium. …..

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Derek Abbott explodes the Royal Commission proposal for a nuclear waste dump

abbott-derekDerek Abbott No High Level International Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia, 15 Jan 17 

Thought for the day: The Royal Commission proposal for a South Australian dump allowed for 138,000 tonnes of high level waste. But the world produces about 10,000 tonnes every year. Therefore in the time it takes to build the dump, the world has already produced twice the amount waste that the dump can take. Then on top of this there’s the existing 370,000 tonnes of global high level waste to-date with nowhere to go.

So talk of Ben-Hur proportions that a dump will stimulate expansion of the nuclear industry, allowing power for countries in poverty, meeting power needs for growing populations, and that it fills a moral obligation is invalidated by the fact the dump can’t even keep pace with such visions.

So if we peel away all this hollow rhetoric the only real justification for the dump is to make a fast buck, and the ‘noble’ talk of how the dump will save the world is trumped-up sales hype.

And as we know, the goal of making a profit is highly questionable given considerable economic risks and uncertainties involved.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, wastes | Leave a comment

Climate change and ElNino ‘fuelled’ Zika disease outbreak

Zika outbreak ‘fuelled by’ El Niño and climate change, Skeptical Science  13 January 2017 The combination of a strong El Niño event and human-caused climate change created optimal conditions for the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in South America, a new study says. Continue reading

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barack Obama’s 6 Big Climate Accomplishments

Obama solarThanks, Obama: 6 Big Climate Accomplishments From President Obama’s Tenure, Clean Technica, January 12th, 2017 Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

“……….Here are six big climate accomplishments from President Obama’s time in office……..

THE CLEAN POWER PLAN In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The EPA projected the plan would bring many, many benefits for Americans, including creating tens of thousands of jobs, saving US citizens as much as $155 billion in energy costs between 2020—2030, and helping prevent some 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.
Continue reading

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

90% of rural Australians say their lives are already affected by climate change

climate SOSClimate change: 90% of rural Australians say their lives are already affected, Guardian, , 15 Jan 17 
Overwhelming majority believe they are living with the effects of warming and 46% say coal-fired power should be phased out. 
Ninety per cent of people living in rural and regional Australia believe they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and 46% believe coal-fired power stations should be phased out, according to a new study.

A poll of 2,000 people conducted by the Climate Institute found that 82% of respondents in rural and regional Australia and 81% of those in capital cities were concerned about increased droughts, flooding and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change, and 78% of all respondents were concerned there would be more bushfires.

About three quarters of all respondents – 76% in capital cities and 74% in rural or regional areas – said ignoring climate change would make the situation worse and about two-thirds said they believed the federal government should take a leading role……..

The majority of people – 59% in capital cities and 53% in regional areas – said solar was their preferred energy source, followed by wind and hydro.

Only 3% of respondents in the city and 4% in regional areas said coal was their preferred energy source.

Nicky Ison, the director of the Community Power Agency, which represents 80 grassroots groups, said the results showed that concern about climate change was not limited to inner-city suburbs.

“I think there’s a misconception that concern is mainly held in the city and I think there are some strong voices, particularly in rural and regional Australia, that have exaggerated or stoked that misconception,” Ison said.

“A vocal minority gets a lot of traction, probably because they have a greater access to megaphones.”

Matthew Charles-Jones is a co-president of Totally Renewable Yackandandah, a community-run initiative that aims to make the small town, 300km north-east of Melbourne, entirely run on renewable power by 2022.

Charles-Jones said the group was motivated by energy security and rising electricity costs but members were also concerned about the effects of climate change.

“We have been threatened by bushfire roughly every three years for the last decade,” he said.

The last bushfire was in December 2015. “It’s very real for us in Yackandandah,” Charles-Jones said.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Prince Charles has written a book on climate change

Will they ever let a man with a soc ial conscience be king?  I doubt it

Prince Charles, a vocal critic of man-made climate change, has taken on the challenges and possible solutions in the book aimed at adults, according to reports.

He wrote the book with Tony Juniper, a former Friends of the Earth director, and Emily Shuckburgh, a Cambridge University climate scientist.

“His Royal Highness, Emily and I had to work very hard to make sure that each word did its job, while at the same time working with the pictures to deliver the points we needed to make,” Juniper told the Mail on Sunday.

“I hope we’ve managed to paint a vivid picture, and like those iconic titles from the 60s and 70s, created a title that will stand the test of time.”

Ladybird books traditionally targeted children but has recently found success with a range of humorous books for adults. Rowland White, a publishing director with Penguin, which produces Ladybird books, told the Sunday Times that Clarence House approached the publisher with the idea.

“It was a coincidence where we were thinking about a new series for adults after the huge success of the spoof books, but this time wanted some factual books by experts on science, history and arts subjects,” he said.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tasmania’s Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom speaks out for nuclear weapons ban

Talking Point: A chance to create a safer, saner world LINLEY GRANT, Mercury January 16, 2017 

However, with the changeover in the US Presidency to President-elect Donald Trump occurring on 20th January and the United Nations Conferences on the banning of nuclear weapons beginning in March, it seems important to let our Australian leaders know exactly where we stand on this critical issue.

In last year’s vote at the UN, 123 countries voted for a ban, but our Australian representatives voted against. Why? Who gave them this right? If the Government had conducted a survey, it would have found, once again, that a significant majority of thinking Australians clearly want an end to nuclear weapons with a binding and enforceable treaty, like the UN already has for other terrible weapons. But the Government should not need to conduct a survey.

The majority of Australians are well aware that if used, nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet. They have indicated many times previously, that they want an end to nuclear armaments. There is no indication that there has been any change. Those in my networks were amazed and disgusted that the Australian representatives at the UN Conference last year voted against a ban on these weapons.

Perhaps it is time for every one of us who can, to urgently write a letter or send an email to our current Government, or our political representatives, stating that we want a ban and that those who represent us at the coming United Nations Conference should work for a ban, not the reverse.

Some argue that these weapons are needed because other nations have them, will always want them and work to get them. But if these weapons are used, no matter where they are used, millions will lose their lives; and life as we know it in that area of the planet, if not the whole planet will be impossible for centuries. With global warming increasing and with it a significant reduction in arable land for food production, nations cannot afford to keep nuclear weapons. If we consider the continuing problems at and around the Fukushima power station and other places where nuclear ‘accidents’ have occurred, we cannot support the use of nuclear weapons, let alone the upkeep of these weapons which cost billions of dollars which should be available for use in more constructive ways.

Having nuclear weapons does not make any country stronger. That such power should be available to a few men is ridiculous. The sooner the weapons are all got rid of the better.

What would happen if leaflets were dropped over those nations making or storing nuclear weapons towards educating the population on their dangers so that they would demand an end to this stupidity   Linley Grant is state president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

UK Green Party contesting by-election in anti-nuclear campaign

logo-greens-ukGreen Party to contest Copeland seat in anti-nuclear campaign   15 January 2017 THE Green Party has announced it will contest the upcoming Copeland by-election on an anti-nuclear and anti-poverty campaign.

Members of Allerdale and Copeland Green Party decided to stand in the Copeland vote which was brought about by the resignation of the constituency’s current Labour MP Jamie Reed.   A candidate will be selected on January 24.

Clare Brown, chairman of the Allerdale and Copeland Green Party, said: “We feel it’s vitally important to offer a vote to those people who want to see a fair and sustainable future for the area.

“There are clear differences between us and the other parties and we welcome this opportunity to campaign on our priorities, which include sustainable energy and standing against nuclear power, as well as anti-poverty measures and exposing the lie of austerity.”

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “The Greens are the only party in Copeland campaigning against nuclear power, to defend the NHS and for a close relationship with Europe.”…. 


January 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment