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Mixed Greens: Who says wind is unpopular?

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Two of Australia’s biggest energy companies, that’s who. EnergyAustralia (formerly TRUenergy) and Origin Energy have both made statements this week to the effect that wind energy has become a greater cause of angst in the community than coal-seam gas. The Australian reports that EnergyAustralia told the Climate Change Authority that the average of 300 megawatts of wind farms installed each year was “already testing the limits of community acceptance,” and warned that the “social license” was not there to ramp up wind farm construction to around 930MW a year – the estimated amount required meet the mandatory 2020 renewable energy target.

“Why are we aiming towards what is clearly going to be an unsustainable program of forcing in wind that communities are not going to accept in such a short period of time?” EnergyAustralia’s CEO Richard McIndoe asked in his company’s submission to the CCA, made in response to the latter’s recommendation not to alter LRET. Origin, meanwhile, told the CCA that it got “more letters of complaint today from local communities and interest groups about wind farm development than we do about coal-seam gas.” Origin’s executive manager of corporate affairs, Phil Craig, said: “You’ve got on the one side, people saying, ‘do this, do it bigger, build wind’. Then you’ve got a whole lot of people complaining about wind… There are a whole lot of questions around, can you even do this?”

No, is the short answer, according to EnergyAustralia, which says wind generation is close to saturation point in South Australia, and up against the Baillieu government’s 2km exclusion zone laws in Victoria – and potentially in NSW, too –  as well as limited resources in Queensland, and limited demand and constrained export abilities in Tasmania. EnergyAustralia has also warned the CCA that if large-scale renewable generation projects failed to be installed quickly enough to satisfy RET requirements, this could trigger a shortfall charge of $65 per megawatt-hour – greater than the $35 that LRECs are expected to average this year – and that this cost could flow on to consumers.

Meanwhile, the results of a global energy survey have painted a somewhat different picture, with 83 per cent of Australians respondents saying they wanted to see renewable energy play an increasing role in the country’s future energy mix, and indicating a willingness to buy products made with it. The Global Consumer Wind Study (GCWS), part of the Energy Transparency campaign, to be launched in Sydney on Wednesday by Vestas Wind Systems and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, aims to raise awareness of corporations’ efforts to embrace renewable energy and gauge consumer demand for renewables. Conducted in 20 countries, the GCWS examined more than 24,000 consumers’ views on climate change, energy use and products developed with renewable energy.

In other news…

Google has added a $75 million stake in a 50MW wind farm in Iowa in the US to its growing stable of renewable energy investments, most of which are wind and solar projects. “The Mountain View behemoth keeps writing checks, and the latest one is The $75 million dollar investment is for an undisclosed stake in a 50-megawatt wind farm that’s located about an hour from Des Moines,” TreeHugger‘s Michael Graham Richard writes.

The Australian government has announced almost $3.3 million of funding for early and mid career researchers in solar energy. Speaking at the Australian Solar Institute’s ‘The Science of Communication’ workshop in Sydney, federal energy minister Martin Ferguson said Australia was well placed to continue its leadership in solar technology innovation.

All 23.1 million of the carbon allowances offered in the first compliance period of California’s carbon trading system – the largest US carbon reduction system of its kind – sold out last week at $10.09 a metric tonne, lower than the range analysts forecast. Bloomberg reports that the program covers 85 per cent of California’s emissions, with the state giving away about 90 per cent of permits to start, and selling the rest in what will be the second-biggest carbon market, after the European Union program.

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  • Tim

    It’s always useful to keep an eye on The Australian, just to see what one-sided information the politicians are being fed.