Mixed Greens: ACF raises RET flag as CEFC bill introduced

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Tabling of CEFC legislation raises concerns about RET role; UK energy plan to boost nuclear, wind; Windlab’s South Africa win; Dyesol buy-back; SEA CEO shift.

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Legislation for the federal government’s $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation was introduced into Parliament today, as part of the federal government’s Clean Energy Future package. The CEFC, which is due to commence operations in 2013/14, aims to support renewable energy projects through loans, guarantees and equity investments, and is widely considered to be one of the most crucial aspects of the government’s climate change policy platform. The Australian Conservation Foundation has described the legislation as “vital,” and “key” to unlocking an unprecedented boom in clean energy in Australia.

“In a world of increasingly scarce resources and global competition, a vibrant clean energy sector is the job creator of the future and this is how we achieve it,” said ACF economic advisor Simon O’Connor in a statement released by the organisation on Wednesday. “Last year, the world invested $260 billion in renewable energy, outstripping investment in fossil fuels for the first time, ” he said. “The $10 billion invested in the CEFC could lead to $100 billion of private investment in new clean energy sources, like wind, big solar and geothermal. The world is racing to find the best and cleanest energy sources – this is a race Australia can’t afford to lose.”

But O’Connor also expressed concern that the CEFC’s ability to realise its potential would be constrained by the bipartisan 20 per cent renewable energy target. “If the CEFC isn’t leading to new projects that are above and beyond the 20 per cent we will achieve anyway through the renewable energy target, we will simply hamstring ourselves,” her said. “The CEFC is a powerful weapon in the national economic arsenal, but we should not limit its effectiveness by tying it to the 20 per cent renewable energy target.”

The RET is in place to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply comes from renewable sources by 2020. But the ACF says the scheme works perversely to limit large-scale clean energy investment to that 20 per cent level. The organisation wants the federal government to replace RET certificates generated under CEFC projects so they’re essentially not counted towards the overall target. Alternatively, the foundation says Labor should raise the target above 20 per cent to ensure the CEFC is “unfettered”.

UK energy plan tabled

Meanwhile, the British government has introduced a draft law aimed at generating £110 billion ($US174 billion) of energy sector investment, the amount it says will be needed to replace the UK’s aging power plants and grow its renewable energy capacity. The law, published Tuesday, lays out plans to guarantee prices for low-carbon electricity and pay producers for providing back-up supply when wind power falls short, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Bloomberg reports that the measure is aimed at securing commitments from utilities to fund new nuclear reactors and clean energy projects, curbing dependence on gas-fed plants.

The UK gets about 20 per cent of its power from nine atomic plants, five of which are due to shut in the next decade, says Bloomberg. Calls for long-term support for the sector increased after plans for several new atomic plants were withdrawn over the past year. Recently appointed Energy Minister Charles Hendry said last week that his administration had now created “the most attractive environment for new nuclear of anywhere in the world.” But Germany’s RWE, which with EON backtracked on plans to build UK reactors in March, said the new proposals may not be sufficient to secure the required investments. “For Britain to remain an attractive market for investors, energy policy must be given adequate priority and resource,” RWE Npower CEO Volker Beckers said in a statement. “I remain concerned by the amount of change being implemented in the energy sector and the time it is taking.”

Windlab’s South African win

Australian company Windlab Systems, a spin-off from the CSIRO, has emerged as a winner from the South African government’s renewable energy tender, with two of its projects chosen in the wind component, accounting for 40 per cent of the total 560MW of wind energy capacity awarded. Windlab’s technology allows it to identify areas with the best wind resource, sometimes in surprising areas. It partnered with Moyeng Energy (a partnership of Investec Bank and French energy giant GDF Suez) to develop the 91MW West Coast One project in the Western Cape, and partnered with Cennergi (a company that includes Indian industrial giant Tata) in the development of the 138MW Amakhala Emoyeni Phase 1 project in the Eastern Cape.

“This is another demonstration of Windlab’s ability to develop affordable renewable energy projects. Our success in South Africa is under-pinned by our proprietary Windscape technology,” CEO Roger Price said in a statement. “Our scientific approach to wind development allowed us to locate the strongest resource and then work with communities, environmental experts and commercial partners to bring these projects to reality.” Windlab says it has 6,500MW of potential capacity across Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, of wich 270MW is now in construction.

Dyesol buys back

Australian listed cleantech company Dyesol has agreed to buy back the remainder of the convertible notes held by Bergen Global Opportunity Fund, in a move the company says should relieve downwards pressure on its share price and allow it to recover to a level that better reflects its “outstanding” prospects. Dyesol will pay $A326,062 for the balance of the notes, which it says represents their face value plus a 10 per cent premium. “Dyesol’s strategy of commercialising DSC for the global Building Integrated Photovoltaic market remains sound – as does the quality of our Dye Solar Cell technology, especially in relation to its comparative performance against Gen 1 and Gen 2 products in key markets in Europe, North America and Asia,” said the company’s chair, Richard Caldwell.

Still at SEA

The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia is on the hunt for a new chief executive, with current CEO  Professor Ray Wills leaving for a new job on June 1. But he’s not going far, accepting a role as Partner in the SEA Corporate Member business, government relations advisory firm Smith&Duda Consulting. ‘The Board looks forward to Ray’s continuing contribution to support and grow our Association,” said SEA chair Greg Denton. “The Board is delighted that these changes can be effected, with the support of Smith&Duda, in such a way that members will continue to benefit from Ray’s tireless and passionate advocacy, his incredibly strong relationships with decision-makers, and his encyclopaedic understanding of the sector and all the players in it.”

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