People's rally protests Mudgee conference

Community and environment groups will protest outside Parklands Resort tomorrow as part of a “people’s conference” being held as an alternative to the Mudgee Mining conference.

Organised by a coalition of local environment and community groups, “Mudgee Mining: the wHole Story”, will feature two days of events focusing on mining and coal seam gas issues in the Mid-Western Region.

Bob Irwin takes stand against CSG

Credit: John McCutcheon

Bob Irwin has used his environmental clout to unite the Sunshine Coast's movement against coal seam gas mining.

Speaking in front of hundreds of people at a community forum in Mapleton yesterday, Mr Irwin voiced fears of a potential coal seam gas pipeline running from Ipswich to Nambour.

NSW Solar Decision Could 'Rip Off' All Australians

The contribution rooftop solar power systems make towards Australia's energy supply is not being recognised by the New South Wales government and could consequently 'rip off' all Australians, says renewable think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).
Last week, NSW's Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended a fair and reasonable value for surplus solar electricity exported to the mains grid up until the middle of this year is in the range of 5.2 to 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh). Whether the New South Wales government implements the recommendations - and if other state governments take note - remains to be seen.
While solar households in NSW are currently benefiting from their rooftop solar panel arrays without a mandated feed in tariff through a dramatic reduction in their power bills, BZE says as more solar owners are underpaid for the electricity they produce, "the pockets of the big old coal generator retailers will get fatter and fatter."

ABC Environment: Two-faced climate policy


Credit: Mick Tsikas (Reuters)

It's ironic that Australia is moving toward a 'cap' on carbon emissions because while we've got this paper target for a five per cent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020 we've also got the foot on the accelerator and running in overdrive expanding the coal and gas mining at an unprecedented rate.

Australia is on target to increase CO2 emissions originating from our shores by over 400 per cent. It's a simple trick of accounting: claim a five per cent reduction by ignoring our fossil fuels that are burnt off shore.

This approach of saying one thing while doing another isn't new to politics, but normally doesn't keep currency with the population for so long. Trumpeting supposed carbon action while quadrupling our carbon emissions is a complete farce and has been going on for half a decade.

Amongst a population of 20 million, Australia has a very high level of climate denialism when compared to the political will and actions of 300 million people in Europe.

The difference is that we currently have a "national imperative" to issue as many coal and gas extraction licenses as possible before the world wakes up and will not buy our dirty energy.

Australia's twist in the wind


Denmark's renewable energy achievements and its ambitious targets demonstrate a serious plan to lead the world in tackling global climate and energy security. Wind turbine technology will power half of its plan.

At the end of last year, Denmark announced that it will increase its share of wind power in the electricity supply mix from 25 per cent, its total today, to 50 per cent by 2020. The earlier plan was to do the same, but by 2025.

Denmark's bullish drive towards wind energy comes from the public’s ongoing strong support for the industry and technology. Over one million Danes currently live within one kilometre of an operating wind farm. Many of these wind farms are being, or are scheduled to be, upgraded with newer turbines. This ongoing process of upgrades shows that support for wind energy stays strong in the local vicinity even after communities have lived with a generation of turbines that have served their useful lives.

Solar power as foreign aid - Germany lights the way for the developing world

Germany now has over 30 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic panels on its rooftops. The sheer scale of deployment means that over 4 per cent of the nation's electricity will come from rooftop solar power this year.

This industrial-scale solar rollout, created by Germany's innovative policy support structure, has enabled a significant global research and development environment to thrive, not to mention a massive upscaling and subsequent cost reduction in technology. Not only has Germany gained real emissions reductions from rooftop solar, meaning the country is seriously eating into its carbon liabilities, it has installed enough solar on roofs that doing the same in Australia would be the equivalent of retiring the output of four large coal fired power plants – more than 15 per cent of Australia's total electricity generation.

Entrenching Energy Interests: Ferguson’s Energy White Paper

Arena reports: During the prime ministership of John Howard, the term ‘greenhouse mafia’ was coined to describe the fossil fuel industry representatives who were so influential they were literally writing the Federal Government’s climate and energy policies. With Martin Ferguson as Labor’s Minister for Resources and Energy, it seems very little has changed. The draft Energy White Paper (EWP), released in December 2011, provides as clear an indication as ever of the access and esteem granted to the organisations and individuals whose profits depend on Australia maintaining its fossil fuel-dependent status quo.

The EWP addresses questions central to the supply and use of energy in Australia and points to strategic priorities for the government in the face of expected challenges over the period to 2030. The answers it comes up with are as strikingly beneficial to fossil fuel industry interests as they are disdainful of the growing importance of renewable energy and the reality of responding to global warming.

Not dead yet: Flagship ‘collapse’ only part of Australia’s solar story

The “collapse” of the Solar Flagship Program has recently hit the news. With Minister Ferguson re-opening the bidding for the photovoltaic (PV) component of the program, and extending the deadline for the solar thermal, it is worth exploring some of the issues surrounding the collapse, and the current environment. Much has changed since the inception of the program, particularly the cost of PV.

It’s hard to get your hands on a Power Purchase Agreement

The failure of the projects to secure financing illustrates a key difficulty facing renewable energy project developers, namely obtaining Power Purchase Agreements (PPA). PPAs are contracts with an “off-taker”, generally a retailer, to purchase the electricity generated for a period of time at a certain price. They provide a degree of investor certainty to ensure the project’s “bankability”.

Without a PPA in place it is proving impossible for large-scale solar developers to secure financing from lending institutions.

For renewables, the cause of this difficulty is two-fold. There is a soft market for renewable energy certificates, and retailers are reluctant to enter into PPAs with third parties.

Under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET), retailers are obliged to purchase what are now known as Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) produced by a renewable source. In a previous certificate scheme, a combination of factors resulted in solar PV creating an excess of certificates (ultimately collapsing the scheme). Retailers “banked” these excess certificates, and subsequently there has been little need for retailers to enter into new agreements with renewable energy generators.

ABC: Alcoa - seeing through the carbon tax doomsday predictions

Mattehew Wright

ABC Drum reports: In his own immortal words, it's time for Opposition leader Tony Abbott to "move on" from blaming the proposed carbon price for every manufacturer's decision to cut Australian jobs.

Mr Abbott invoked this ill-informed view again on Wednesday when Alcoa suggested it may have to shut down its aluminium smelter at Point Henry in Geelong, which employs 600 people, because it was uneconomic.

Yet Alcoa itself distanced the review of its Geelong operations from the imminent carbon tax because it understands that the Federal Government is exempting the company from the harshest pain of the tax.

Alan Cransberg, head of Alcoa Australia said in this week's press release:

It was important to note that the review has not been prompted by a future price on carbon. The present situation is a result of low metal prices, a high Australian dollar, and input costs. The future price on carbon would be an additional cost, however Point Henry smelter is already losing money.

Alcoa could have elaborated by explaining that in many countries where there already is a price on carbon that aluminium sectors are thriving.

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