The ACT Australian CleanTech Index has wrapped up a bad month, underperforming both the S&P ASX200 Index and the S&P Small Ordinaries Index in May. The Index fell from 39.8 to 34.7 over the month, recording a 12.8 per cent loss – compared to the S&P ASX200 loss of 8.1 per cent and the S&P ASX Small Ordinaries Index loss of 10.0 per cent. The Australian CleanTech 20 recorded a similar loss of 12.4 per cent. The three and six month figures for the ACT Australian CleanTech Index have now again fallen behind the general market.
The market capitalisation of the Index’s 74 stocks is $A6.8 billion, which is down from its peak of $16.3 billion in July 2007, but just up on its low point of $6.4 billion in September 2011. The past month’s poor performance was driven by losses from 16 companies of more than 25 per cent – the biggest of which was recorded by Sims Metal Management, which lost over $600 million in its value recording a 21.2 per cent loss over the month. Only six companies recorded gains over the month. The best and worst performers on the ACT Australian CleanTech Index can be seen in the table below.
A GAG on renewables?
The International Energy Agency has sounded a warning to governments around the world that the “golden age of gas” (GAG), spurred by a tripling of shale gas from fracking and other unconventional sources by 2035, could pose a huge threat to the development of renewable energy. With gas now relatively abundant in some regions, renewables are starting to look less economically feasible in comparison– not least of all because the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are still not taken into account when pricing energy. “Renewable energy may be the victim of cheap gas prices if governments do not stick to their renewable support schemes,” said Fatih Birol, chief economist for the IEA; while Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA, told a conference in London that “policy measures by governments for renewable energy have to be there for years to come, as it is not always as cost-effective as it could be.”
The Guardian reports that the IEA gas warning has coincided with the paper’s revelation that gas has been rebranded in secret documents as a form of green energy by the EU. Gas produces only about half of the carbon emissions of coal when burnt, but its effect on the climate is less clear-cut. In particular, the release of methane – a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as potent as CO2 in terms of global warming – during shale gas fracking operations is a big concern. A report by Scottish Widows found that these “fugitive emissions” could be enough to offset the global warming benefits of switching from coal to gas-fired power generation. The IEA, in its publication “Golden Rules for the Golden Age of Gas”, said measures to capture leaking gas, to cut water usage and to prevent chemical contamination, must be prerequisites for a further expansion of the exploitation of “unconventional” gas.
NSW carbon crusade
NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, has signed a $54.3 million agreement with Geoscience Australia and the Australian Coal Association to assess potential geological storage opportunities for greenhouse gases in NSW. The NSW Carbon Dioxide Storage Assessment Program, welcomed today by the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, is a result of the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative (NLECI), a funding program established in 2008 to accelerate the development and deployment of technologies to reduce emissions from coal use. Of the $370 million set aside for the NLECI, $50m comes from the National Carbon Mapping and Infrastructure Plan, under which the NSW Program is being carried out.
As for the CO2 Storage Assessment Program, each of the partners has contributed $18.1 million towards it, which will go towards a pre-competitive data acquisition program to assess suitable NSW sites for CO2 storage. “This program builds on the outputs of the Carbon Storage Taskforce Report which in 2009 said that four basins in NSW had been defined as suitable storage sites. It is about collecting more and better data in conjunction with the states, with shared funding to conduct a more robust and accurate assessment of the storage potential of these geological basins in NSW,” Ferguson said. The new program is expected to produce significant additional scientific knowledge of the NSW Basins and will contribute to a national assessment of the geological CO2 storage potential.