Australian news, and some related international items

US Vice President in Australia, – to make sure that we toe the USA line?

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence Is En Route To Australia Malcolm Turnbull says the visit shows the United States’ commitment to Australia is ‘very real’. Huffington Post 21/04/2017 As tensions threaten to boil over between the United States and North Korea, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is en route to Australia in a visit expected to focus on regional security and trade.

Arriving in Sydney on Friday night, Pence will spend two days in Sydney as one of the final legs in his whirlwind tour of Asia which began last Saturday.

 Amid concerns that Trump plans to withdraw focus from the region, the visit is designed to both reassure the United States’ foreign partners and gauge the mood within Asia towards the most unconventional administration in America’s history……..

The growing tensions on the Korean peninsula, America-China relations and the remaining trade barriers between Australia and the world power are expected to feature prominently in talks between Pence and Australian political figures.

Pence’s visit to Australia so early on in Trump’s Presidency was evidence of our importance as an international ally to the US, Malcom Turnbull told ABC’s 7:30 on Thursday night.

“I believe this is the earliest visit by a Vice President to Australia,” Turnbull said……

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop invited Pence to visit Australia when they met in Washington in February. She has been vocal about the need for the US to become more involved in Asia.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

A March on Anzac Day: 6 years of FRONTIER WARS

Sovereign Union 20 Apr 2017  Ghillar, Michael Anderson: 

“We’ve been dying on this soil for many hundreds of years now, since the whiteman came and we’ve been doing that in defense of our land. They’ve had the superior force and mightier weapons, but they’ve never been able to conquer us. They’ve been able to imprison us, jail us and all that sort of stuff but we’ve never acquiesced, never ceded our sovereignty and we are in defense of our land every day of the week.

This is a hidden war. It’s a war of stealth and, unfortunately, when we want to remind people of this, then people take offence and call it a protest.

This is just being totally respectful of the fact that we, our people, have got a message to relay and Australia cannot keep hiding it – like at Hospital Creek nine kilometres north of Brewarrina. We want to excise that land there because the human bones are still visible and that’s my ancestry. They were shot at this place. We had here people who survived this massacre, but that was a private army. They were made up of all the cockies and pastoralists.

It’s reality.

We need to remind people of this – and you go to Germany where mass murders occurred in Germany. You go to Serbia now, where they buried people in mass graves, where they massacred them. They’ve now created a situation there where these things are memorial parks now to the dead who were killed there.

Here in Australia we don’t have that and I think it’s time we did that for every nation. We have to include the elements of Australia’s forgotten wars.”

April 21, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, ACTION, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s political leaders have a disgraceful history of climate inaction. Time to March For Science

March for science? After decades of climate attacks, it’s high time, The Conversation, Marc HudsonPhD Candidate, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester, April 20, 2017. This Saturday, the March for Science will be held in cities around the world – coincidentally enough, ten years to the day since John Howard urged Australians to pray for rain.

While such marches are not the answer to everything, their very existence tells us that science is under attack, not merely from defunding of research bodies, but also via attacks on the inconvenient truths of climate science.

While scientists weep over the Great Barrier Reef, some politicians respond by laughing and joking. Continue reading

April 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, history | Leave a comment

Queensland govt calls for large scale renewables hub near near major coal port

Queensland wants “huge renewables hub” built near major coal port, REneweconomy, By Sophie Vorrath on 20 April 2017 The Queensland government has earmarked one of the state’s major coal centres as a future renewable energy hub, calling for expressions of interest to develop up to 450MW of large-scale solar, wind or biofuels on a 1,248 hectare patch near Gladstone.

In a document published on Thursday, Economic Development Queensland (EDQ) said it was seeking to enter into an agreement with an organisation or consortia that “will act quickly” to develop a large scale solar farm or other renewable energy facility on government-owned land at Aldoga, within the Gladstone State Development area.

Gladstone – which is home to a 1,680MW coal-fired power station, the state’s largest electricity generator – is also known for its shipping port, which is largely used to export Australian coal and, more recently, LNG.

The government’s proposal to build up to 450MW of renewable energy capacity at Aldoga – more than half of the total 719MW currently installed in the state – offers a neat illustration of the shifting momentum in global energy markets, while also supporting the Palaszczuk government’s target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030……..The Aldoga site will be EDQ’s flagship renewable energy project and is part of the government’s Advancing Our Cities and Regions Strategy, which aims to renew and repurpose underutilised state land to generate jobs, and drive economic growth.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | energy, Queensland | Leave a comment

Victoria’s 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm set to be developed

Construction underway on Victoria’s 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm By Sophie Vorrath on 19 April 2017 Acciona Energy has broken ground on its 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm, a $258 million project in Victoria’s western plains that was fast-tracked after winning a state government tender designed to reboot renewables investment in the state, and side-step a capital strike by major utilities.

At a turning of the sod ceremony at the wind farm’s site, 25km east of Colac, Acciona managing director Andrew Thomson said the company expected to see Mt Gellibrand “pouring” clean energy into the grid within about 15 months – at a time when the nation would be seeking to increase its capacity for renewable power generation.

Thomson said the new wind farm would be a “massive economic driver” for the region over the next 25 years, creating 100 local jobs in the construction phase, and up to 10 operations and maintenance roles continuing for decades ahead.

Of course, generating local jobs and investment was a key aim of the Andrews government tender, alongside meeting its legislated target of 25 per cent renewables by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025. Continue reading

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Tasmania, with wind and hydro can be “energy battery” for Australia – says Turnbull

Turnbull says Tasmania wind, hydro can become “energy battery” for Australia, Reneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 20 April 2017 Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended his vision of large-scale pumped hydro and storage to Tasmania, outlining plans to expand the island’s existing hydropower system, and possibly add 2,500MW in pumped hydro, and describing the possibility that the state could become the “renewable energy battery” for Australia. Continue reading

April 21, 2017 Posted by | storage, Tasmania, wind | Leave a comment

Enormous solar farm planned for Gympie area, Queensland

Queensland company lodges plan to build Australia’s biggest solar farm near Gympie, ABC News, By Bruce Atkinson, 19 Apr 17, A company proposing to build Australia’s largest solar farm near Gympie says the $2 billion facility will eventually supply about 15 per cent of south-east Queensland’s power needs.

Queensland company Solar Q has lodged a development application with the Gympie Council to build a solar farm and battery storage facility 30 kilometres north-west of the city.

The project will be built in stages, with initial approval being sought for a 350-megawatt facility, but within four years it is proposed to increase this to 800 megawatts or enough electricity to power about 315,000 homes.

Managing director Scott Armstrong said the finished facility would be the biggest in Australia but “the way the market is going is that there will be bigger projects that will come on”……..

When completed, around 3 million solar panels will provide power to the network on the 17-square-kilometre site. During peak consumption at night, the battery storage facility, which is powered by the grid, will ease the load on power stations……..

The proponents are not expecting any hurdles to approval from the Gympie Council or State Government agencies, Mr Armstrong said.

“Solar and battery storages are a static generation facility so it will produce minimal noise, it doesn’t emit, it doesn’t have particulates from chimney stacks, it doesn’t have ash dams, so we are not expecting any impediments with regards to getting approvals,” he said.

Once the approvals are in place Mr Armstrong expects the connection agreement with the transmission company will be finalised.

He said the project would be funded by private investors, including superannuation management funds.Work is expected to start by the end of the year…….

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Victoria’s Ararat Wind Farm now supplying power to Victoria and ACT

Ararat Wind Farm fully commissioned, supplying power to Victoria and ACT By Sophie Vorrath on 19 April 2017  The recently completed 240MW Ararat Wind Farm in south-western Victoria is now operating at full capacity, feeding enough renewable energy into the grid to power 120,000 homes, 37,000 of them in Canberra.

The wind farm, which is operated and managed by Canberra-based company Windlab, was fully commissioned on Wednesday this week, after several years in the works. It first began sending power to the grid in Victoria in August 2016. This graph below, from the Energy and Climate College, shows how it has expanded production.

The project gained significance as the first wind farm to be contracted after the reinstatement of a bipartisan federal renewable energy target – that is, after the Coalition and Labor agreed to cut the RET to 33,000GWh from 41,000GWh).

In Ararat’s case, the go-ahead was buoyed by the signing of a power purchase agreement with the ACT government, which guaranteed the purchase of approximately 40 per cent of its annual output – a contract it is now delivering on.

“The ACT’s agreement with the Ararat Wind Farm provided certainty for investors and enabled construction to commence in late 2015,” ACT climate minister Shane Rattenbury said on Wednesday.

“This is good news for consumers as well as climate change mitigation, as the ACT government has locked-in a set price for the renewable electricity produced by 10 wind and solar projects, including Ararat, for the next 20 years.”

Rattenbury – whose predecessor, Simon Corbell, is widely regarded as the mastermind of the nation-leading renewables policy – said that the Capital was showing the federal government how to deliver on clean energy.

“If the generators make more money than the set price for the electricity they sell into the national electricity market, they pay the difference back to the ACT,” Rattenbury said.

Ararat Mayor, Paul Hooper, described the wind farm as a “really significant” project for the city, bringing $450 million of investment, 350 jobs at its construction peak, and more than $40 million into the local economy during construction, which lasted about 18 months.

“It was completed on time and to a very high standard,” Hooper said, adding that project developer RES Australia had been “…very, very good corporate citizens” throughout the development.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | ACT, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

The great gas con: There are cheaper, cleaner alternatives

 REnewec onomy, By Giles Parkinson on 20 April 2017 [excellent graphs etc] 

Just how long can the Australian government and the gas industry continue the charade that there might be a solution to the surge in domestic gas prices? And what will it take before big business consumers follow the lead of households and smaller commercial and industrial customers and invest in their own cheaper and cleaner alternatives?

In Canberra on Thursday, as yet another “gas summit” hosted by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull ended without a “fix” to soaring gas prices, the Energy Users Group was complaining that one industrial customer in Queensland was being hit with a new gas supply contract at the usurious price of $23/gigajoule.

Frankly, it beggars belief that Australian industry is even bothering to ask for cheaper gas prices, when there are obviously cheaper alternatives available – for both electricity and for industrial gas users.

An Australian Renewable Energy Agency report last year identified how biogas, geothermal and solar thermal alternatives could provide industrial heat at the equivalent of $5/gigajoule – less than one-quarter of the price being asked for gas now. Why aren’t they embracing these patently cheaper and cleaner alternatives?

Part of the answer is the ingrained fossil fuel mentality in Australia. For so long, the true cost of fossil fuels has been hidden by massive cross-subsidies – to electricity users in remote and regional areas, and to big industrial customers……..

Andrew Richards, from the Energy Users Association, says it is because of the complexity, and the fact that renewable options require up-front investments, rather than paying-as-you-go commodity fuels. But he thinks that business is slowly getting their mind around the alternatives and looking carefully at the technology options.

Some, like the South Australian greenhouse tomato grower Sundrop, are using solar thermal technologies, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has backed other businesses looking to exploit biogas as an alternative to natural gas.

And more technology options will be on their way: Those outlined by the ARENA report include:

  • High temperature solar concentrator driven processes to convert biomass, water, gas or other fossil fuels into chemical feedstocks or new solar fuels.
  • Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen as a feedstock or fuel.
  • High temperature solar thermal approaches to direct driving minerals processing and other thermal processes.
  • New advanced biomass gasification systems.
  • Innovative systems for purifying gas streams from gasifiers or digesters for use in sensitive direct combustion processes (ovens etc) or for injection to existing gas pipeline infrastructure.
  • New advanced biomass production or collection systems.
  • Targeted innovations to improve existing renewable energy technologies.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Carnegie raises $18m for Northam solar farm and micro-grids 

By Giles Parkinson on 20 April 2017  Carnegie Clean Energy plans to accelerate its project pipeline of large scale solar farms and renewable-based micro-grids after  securing $18 million in a new capital raising – three times more than its original target.

The listed Perth-based company says the money will be used to fund its equity share of the soon-to-be-built 10MW solar farm in Northam, in West Australia, as well as accelerating its other solar projects and renewable-focused micro-grids.

The company, which has recently transformed from a single-focused wave energy developer to encompass solar, storage and micro-grid technologies, had planned a $6 million capital raising, but expanded the process in response to “overwhelming” demand from shareholders……

April 21, 2017 Posted by | energy, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Parliamentary Committee considering if Australia should be involved in making Generation IV nuclear reactors

The gift of the ‘GIF’: Generation IV International Forum, Independent Australia,  19 April 2017 The Turnbull Government has quietly signed Australia up to the GIF Framework Agreement for the development of Gen IV nuclear reactors and is currently conducting a Parliamentary Inquiry of which most of us are unaware, writes Noel Wauchope.

YOU HAVE probably never heard of the “GIF”.

I hadn’t, until just this week when by chance, I heard of the Parliament Inquiry into the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

The Committee consists of nine Liberal MPs, six Labor and one Green.

That inquiry is being held now and the Committee calls, or more correctly, whispers, for submissions by 28 April 2017.

It is all about the GIF — Generation IV International Forum. The Australian Government signed up to this, in 2016, without any public discussion.

What is The Generation IV International Forum (GIF)?

An international collection of 14 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the UK and the USA (original charter members, 2005); Switzerland, Euratom, China, Russia and Australia (signed later).

The World Nuclear Association describes the collection as countries for whom:

‘ … nuclear energy is significant now and also seen as vital for the future’.

What is the 2005 Framework Agreement AKA “the charter”?

According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework Agreement:

‘ … formally commits them [signatories] to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.’

Australia signed the charter on 22 June 2016 represented by Dr Adi Patterson, COE of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). — pending this Joint Standing Committee on Treaties review. ANSTO is to be the implementing agent.

When the Australian Government quietly signed up to the GIF, it made no commitment to any particular action towards developing new nuclear reactors.  Other countries – including Japan, Canada, France, South Korea – have committed to working on particular types of Generation IV reactors. Australia might be expected to not only fully sign up as a member of the charter but perhaps also to provide funding and resources to develop one or more types.

Australia’s signing of the GIF

Media reports indicate Australia made a bid, or approach, to join GIF. The active seeking out of such an agreement that is at odds with public opinion, at odds with the current government’s policy position on nuclear power and is inconsistent with Australian laws, which prohibit the use of this technology, is astounding…….

ANSTO makes a number of questionable assumptions about Australia joining in developing new nuclear reactors. For example, ANSTO claims that it would ‘further Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives’, and ‘further strengthen our claim as the most advanced nuclear country in SEAP’ and will position Australia to develop Generation IV reactors.

There are so many questions about — one hardly knows where to start:…….,10215#.WPbL2mlNX7g.twitter

April 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, technology | Leave a comment

Adani coal mine just does not make economic sense

Coal glut, cheaper renewables, Adani makes no sense at all,   As public angst over the prospective A$1 billion subsidy to coal magnate Guatam Adani hits fever pitch, a small company is modestly beavering away on another – more worthy – energy project in Far North Queensland.

Genex Power has turned the abandoned Kidston gold mine into a solar farm and pumped-hydro power storage project. Kidston will deliver 145MWh of renewable energy per year. This is enough to power 26,484 homes. In terms of reducing emissions, this is equivalent to taking 33,000 cars off Australian roads.

Like Adani, the Kidston project also got a leg-up from government. It won a grant of nearly A$9 million from ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and struck a deal with the state of Queensland to sell electricity for 20 years.

Unlike Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, however, the Kidston solar project has bankers and investors. Unlike Adani, whose labyrinthine corporate structure wends its way to the Cayman Islands, Genex is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, has a market value of A$70 million and is owned by small investors. When it delivers its first power in the next three months, it’s likely to pay tax on its profits.

The furore over Adani has so far centred on the putative subsidy for the rail line to cart the coal from the Galilee Basin to the coast. There is no rail line without a mine, however, and so the bigger question is: who is going to tip in the A$10 billion in project finance to build the mine?

Adani’s bankers have long fled the scene – not just for environmental reasons, but because the business case for building this, the world’s biggest new thermal coal mine, is sketchy.

The global seaborne coal market is in structural decline. There is a glut. Thermal coal futures prices are well below the spot price – and even at present spot prices, this is hardly a viable financial proposition…….

April 19, 2017 Posted by | business, Queensland | Leave a comment

Adani’s coal will worsen the lives of India’s poorest   Harita Sridhar, Last week, I told my dad I was going to speak outside the Indian high commission at an anti-Adani rally against the proposed Carmichael mine. Soon after, he called me up and he was not happy.My parents are Indian migrants and I am a young, second-generation, Indian-Australian woman. My father reminded me that there are 300 million people living without electricity in India, and of the times we ourselves were without power in our ancestral village and our home in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam. Energy poverty is an obstacle to inclusive development in India, and difficult to empathise with here in Australia, where we generally have the privilege of energy security.

But the coal from Adani’s Carmichael mine is not the answer for those living without electricity. It will further pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink. It will cause dangerous climate change and extreme weather that always affects the poorest first. Australia’s coal will make their lives harder in the long run.

That’s why I decided to speak out. I believe that, if the Australian government or Adani were genuinely serious about extending our energy security to India, they would be generous with technology transfer, or provide untied funding to help India’s renewables sector grow. Instead, we face the potential construction of what would be Australia’s largest coal mine, and the prospect of irreversible environmental degradation to our climate, groundwater and the Great Barrier Reef.

Adani’s project is a terrible idea. The company has a record of serious environmental and human rights violations in several countries, including India I don’t trust it to keep the Australian environment safe.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is offering Adani $1 billion of public money as a subsidised loan for this project, though India doesn’t even want our coal! Just last week, India’s Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal, said India didn’t want to keep buying foreign coal and wanted instead to transition to a renewable-energy economy. This is the safer, cleaner and more sustainable solution to India’s energy deficit, and the only one that doesn’t harm the global environment.

Closer to home, more than two-thirds of Australians polled say they don’t want the mine to be built either. This year alone, more than 140 “Stop Adani” groups have formed, and the national Stop Adani roadshow sold out at every major city along the east coast, gathering about 4000 passionate people (500 in Canberra!) who are concerned about the mine and don’t want it to go ahead.

The Carmichael mine is bad for Australia, for India and for the global climate. The rest of the world is getting smarter about climate change and stepping away from coal. Australia shouldn’t embarrass itself by taking a huge step backwards.   Harita Sridhar is a Canberra student.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, personal stories | Leave a comment

Racial abuse at BHP mining site in Western Australia? Aboriginal woman takes legal action

Aboriginal woman launches legal action over alleged racial abuse at WA mining site BHP Billiton is facing legal action over alleged racial abuse at one of its mine sites in Western Australia. By  Ryan Emery 18 APR 2017 An Aboriginal woman has launched legal action against BHP Billiton after months of alleged racial abuse on a Western Australian mining site.

Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, Western Australia | Leave a comment

New South Wales becoming a quiet achiever in renewable energy

For a start, the NSW Coalition government now has one thing that the federal government no longer has – a long-term target (2050) to achieve zero net emissions for the state, including its electricity grid.

More than that, while it does not have its own state-based renewable energy target, it has high ambitions of its own that put it on a par with what has been achieved in South Australia, and what is being sought in Victoria, Queensland, and in the territories.

The Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan – unveiled as part of the NSW 2050 zero emissions target last October – openly canvasses a scenario where the state doubles its level of renewable energy to more than 10,000MW.

NSW could be dark horse of Australia’s renewable energy boom, REneweconomy, By  on 18 April 2017 Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg must feel a little friendless when he gets together with his state counterparts at the regular COAG energy meetings and looks around the room.

For a start, there are four Labor and Greens energy ministers – ACT (100 per cent by 2020), Victoria (40 per cent by 2025), and Queensland and Northern Territory (each 50 per cent by 2030) – with specific renewable energy targets far beyond the federal government

Then there is the new Labor energy minister in Western Australia, Ken Wyatt, who is yet to declare his hand, but who is likely to scupper the state subsidy for electricity which disguises the high cost of its fossil fuels. Renewables, and particularly rooftop solar, are likely to be the solution.

The Coalition states are not likely to be much help either. Tasmania wants a new Basslink so it can build more wind farms and export “baseload” renewables into the Victorian grid.

That leaves, NSW, the only mainland state or territory with a Coalition government and energy minister. It should be a strong ally – especially given that a year ago it was branded the worst place in Australia to invest in renewable energy. But appearances can be deceiving. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment