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Australia's biggest solar farm was officially connected this week. The 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia-a joint project of First Solar, Inc., GE Energy Financial Services and Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy-is expected to generate enough solar energy to power 3,000 homes, eliminating 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year.

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All news on renewables in Australia from 26.10.2010 - 26.11.2010

Thursday, 28 October 2010
Solar rebate drastically reduced

- The NSW government has cut the household rebate for its flawed solar energy scheme in a bid to head off a $2.5 billion cost blowout.

- Premier Kristina Keneally said that households that installed solar panels would now be paid a gross feed-in tariff of 20c a kilowatt hour as opposed to 60c under the original scheme. It is hoped to bring down the scheme's costs from $4 billion to $1.5 billion.

- Clean Energy Council said the government's reaction could cost jobs and hurt business confidence in the solar industry. It pledges for a more moderate reduction of 45c a kilowatt hour.

Friday, 29 October 2010
Rebate shift shrivels solar jobs

- Solar panel industry has warned the government that its move to slash the gross feed-in tariff from 60c per kilowatt hour to 20c will force many small operators out of business and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

- Companies believe the government has overreacted and a tariff cut to 40c would have been more appropriate.

- Some of the hardest hit players would be solar panel wholesalers who had ordered containers of panels from overseas and would suffer from the expected drop-off in demand.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010
CBD takes dim view of solar tariff cuts

- CBD Energy has attacked the NSW government's decision to cut the feed-in tariff for solar power as the microcap moved to assure investors that the change will have negligigle impact on its bottom line.

- Management doesn't believe the move will dent profits much because the group earnings are diversified across solar and wind projects in Australia and around the world.

- Also many fund managers have expressed support for CBD after it turned in a better than expected full-year result for the last financial year.

- Fears remain, that it's stocks will only appeal to investors with an appetite for risk and a longer-term perspective, given the souvereign risks involved with unpredictable regulartory changes to renewable energy.

Thursday, 11 November 2010
Geothermal wells

- Geothermal energy company Geodynamics has executed a $7 million federal government grant for the development of its Hunter Valley project.

- The funding is destined for drilling two deep "proof of concept" wells. The funding will be staged over the duration of the exporation activity.

Thursday, 11 November 2010
Emissions plan back in play

- The federal government is still considering the emissions trading scheme it shelved early this year as an option for pricing carbon, even though the Greens have argued it should be skipped.

- The second meeting of the climate change committee discussed and failed to agree on plicy principles to guide deliberations about pricing carbon.

Friday, 12 November 2010
Carbon clouds electricity costs

- Few, if any, new coal-fired power plants will be built because of uncertainty about the introduction of a carbon price.

- According to NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, electricity prices had risen 30 per cent in real terms over the past four years and will rise further, even without a carbon price.

Monday, 22 November 2010
Energy bosses pessimistic on progress

- Several leading energy industry bosses are very sceptical regarding a breakthrough that would led to a price on carbon beeing introduced within the next couple of years.

Monday, 22 November 2010
Carbon price "no peril to economy"

- According to a analysis by Access Economics, the Australian economy is well placed to withstand the introduction of carbon trading and has recently endured a much bigger shock from the rapid appreciation of the Australian dollar.

- Consultants say, that the government's carbon pollution reduction scheme would have reduced gross domestic product by 3 per cent by 2020, but a 20 per cent appreciation in the dollar over that time would lead to a 5 per cent cut.

- The report calculates also that a 20pc appreciation in the dollar would have the same economic impact as an $85 per tonne carbon price.

Monday, 22 November 2010
WA solar power limits mooted

- Large clusters of solar panels could create a power surge at peak times, causing household appliances to fail.

- Having smart meters to let people with solar panels connect to the grid is suggested.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Brown coal proves prickly for green power policy

- The government recently legislated a target, with the support of the opposition, to slash the Australia's carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 against year 2000 levels.

- The centerpiece of Labor's strategy to meet this target is negotiating a partial closure of Hazelwood power station in La Trobe Valley, Victoria's greatest economic asset.

- While the station's owners want to have a phased out closure in return for compensation, the Gillard government has signalled it is not interested in purchasing cuts directly from big emitters.

Thursday, 25 November 2010
Carbon price is all emission, little action

- The hurdles to Labor and theGreens agreeing in this term of parliament on a regime for the introduction of a carbon price are significant, but the reality is that neither party can afford to fail.

- Labor refuses to budge on it target range of 5 to 15 per cent reductions on 2000 levels by 2020, and a 25 per cent reduction if there is convincing global action.

- These targets are unacceptable to the Greens, who support a 40 per cent reduction.

- Cliamte Change Minister Greg Combet has been wary of committing to timelines, but according to political reasons, the government is under pressure to legislate as early as next year to have a scheme in place from July 2012

- Globally, the momentum for international action on climate change appears to be not so pressing, given the deadlock at Copenhagen.

- Opposition Leader Tony Abbot can have little impact on the pricing issue, except to warn of its detriment to the economy.

Middle Class Free Electricity Scheme Over

It was inevitable. The NSW solar gold rush is over with the NSW Government suspending the current gross feed-in tariff scheme after it was sold out five years earlier than originally planned.

What needs to happen now is pressure on the government to come from the other end of the buying spectrum and uncap the feed-in tariff to cover any amount of energy production and not a limit of 10KW as is the current limit.

This will set commercial farm development on fire and drive solar installation off the roof and onto farms across the state.

The NSW Government is very sensitive on this issue, and if the solar industry calls for reform of the wholesale power market whereby the utilities have to buy all green power at the 15-20 cent KWh level - then that would be the best outcome possible.

The other reform is to allow energy co-ops to be formed via pooled investments that would fund the development of solar farms all over the state in sizes from 50KW-1MW and above. With a timeshare style investment over the Internet used to scoop up all that guilt money in the inner cities.

NSW Labor is extremely keen for a Green preference deal and this is the sort of move that could bed that down. As such, the NSW Government has a lot of self interest to be leveraged by the industry.

The NSW Libs will say anything to avoid the issue and will simply spend the next four years selling off the power stations and energy retailers. And the last thing they will do is load them up with low-margin compulsory green power purchasing at the 15-20 cent per KWh level.

The hard truth for the solar industry, the Greens and NSW Unions is that the only argument for having a gross feed in tariff above the retail price is to encourage energy savings in the home by giving the homeowner skin in the game and therefore a financial reason to bother turning off modern low-watt lights.

30 cents a KWh is a compromise level for a feed in tariff that could be sold to the government if there is any real heat generated over the issue. Which I doubt there will be beyond the industry and Greens.

The hard reality of rising electricity prices is too hard for any government to ignore and the cost of this scheme was never sustainable above a certain point, and directly highlights the cost of so called direct action. Take note Mr Abbott.

With that all said, I was only saying to my wife this week we should get some more solar...before the scheme is killed. I guess we'll just have to make do with our current 1.5KW system and the zero bill it generates for us and not actually a credit (profit) on our electricity bill.

But seriously, there is a silver lining in this move if the local industry can articulate to government a bigger vision that goes to the heart of the problem for the renewable energy industry - namely wholesale power purchase agreements that pay real money for the power produced and not the pennies they are currently paying - if you can get an agreement.

A situation that only favours the big power producers and does nothing for fostering a jobs-rich renewable energy industry - based on real numbers and not the tiny amounts home-based systems can supply.

And despite what some would have you believe it does not take a carbon price for this to occur. We can clean up the renewable power purchasing market separately from the carbon price issue - if the industry would look beyond the easy money that comes from home owners feeding at another middle-class welfare bucket.

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