Just hours after news broke on Monday that the Victorian government was considering scrapping the state’s mandatory 6-star energy rating for new homes and major renovations, Premier Ted Baillieu declared the minimum energy efficiency levels were staying put. ABC News reported Monday afternoon that Baillieu said “the six star ratings will stay,” answering speculation – and intense criticism – that arose from a report in The Age, which revealed that Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells wrote to Planning Minister Matthew Guy late last month asking him to detail a plan for removal of the 6-star standard in Victoria as part of the Baillieu government’s bid to cut bureaucratic red tape by 25 per cent by July 2014. But Baillieu has ruled out Treasurer’s proposal, explaining that Wells was just “challenging ministers, as he should, to examine all of their areas of legislation and regulation to see how we can reduce regulation.”
The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors has welcomed the Premier’s decision, with the organisation’s acting CEO, Rodger Hills, saying the suggestion Victoria would “slam itself into reverse” on such an important policy “seemed to fly in the face of common sense.” Scrapping 6-star ratings “would not have been any sort of cost or so called ‘green tape’ slashing exercise,” Hills said. “The reality is average homeowners would have paid more in energy bills every year, for the life of the building.” Conversely, the Master Builders Association – the housing industry group quoted in the Treasurer’s proposal as saying that mandatory home energy ratings could cost homeowners more than they deliver in energy savings – is unhappy about the backdown, with representative Brian Welch saying Victoria has gone too far in demanding new homes be built to six-star energy efficiency standard, and that a five-star model is more appropriate.
HRL hits an emissions wall
After handing HRL Limited subsidiary Dual Gas a win against the EPA at the end of last month, it looks like VCAT has now taken away from the developer of the La Trobe Valley brown coal and gas-fired plant, with a new condition imposed by the tribunal effectively putting the project’s future in the hands of the federal government. VCAT last month gave Dual Gas the green light to build its 600-megawatt plant in the Latrobe Valley – overruling the EPA’s (some would argue, overly generous) decision to allow a build of just 300MW capacity – but said works could not begin until an equivalent amount of higher greenhouse-gas-emitting electricity generation is retired. In repsonse, HRL Dual Gas has stopped work on the plant, with Dual Gas general manager Paul Welfare saying that satisfying this condition was beyond the company’s control. “VCAT in granting approval for a new 600MW project has also imposed a new condition that effectively puts the future of the project in the hands of the Australian government and takes the commencement date out of the company’s control,” Welfare said in a statement on Monday. “As a consequence of the imposition of the condition, there is considerable uncertainty as to the date on which construction of the project could commence, if at all, if there is no contracts for closure.”
AAP reports that Dual Gas says the new VCAT condition means the federal government must sign one or more contracts ensuring the closure before 2020 of 600 megawatts of coal-fired power in the Latrobe Valley before the company could begin constructing its new plant. Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu described the company’s decision to stop work on the plant as disappointing, “in the respect that this was an opportunity to demonstrate new technology.” He said the state government, which has committed $50 million in funding to the plant (the federal government has committed twice that amount), would “talk about what the future holds and whether (HRL Dual Gas) wish to pick up in any other direction, but I think coal has a future in this state.”
Vestas jumps on bid report
Shares of Danish wind power giant have risen 13 per cent on the back of a statement from the Danish government that it would not block a possible bid for the company. Bloomberg reports that Denmark’s energy minister, Martin Lidegaard, told a press conference in Copenhagen that the rumoured bid for the world’s largest wind turbine maker from Chinese counterparts Sinovel Wind Group and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co, was considered to be in the realm of the private market. “There’s no question that the Danish government would interfere,” Lidegaard said. “It’s a private business.” News of the potential bid from the Chinese turbine makers was reported Tuesday in Jyllands-Posten, the Copenhagen paper citing unidentified sources close to the process. All three companies are struggling with falling turbine prices, over-production and cuts government support for renewable energy.
“Vestas has a significant order pipeline, brand and product technology, which makes it a company with substantial potential and therefore we believe there would be several interested financial, strategic or sector buyers,” Rupesh Madlani, an analyst with Barclays Capital in London, told Bloomberg. “Despite these advantages, we see an acquisition of any turbine equipment company as carrying significant operating, execution and financial risk,” Madlani said, adding that the purchase of a minority stake or a technology partnership were more likely outcomes.
Canadian Solar quashes CNOOC takeover rumours
In other rumoured takeover news, Reuters reports that Canadian Solar has denied reports in the Chinese media that China National Offshore Oil Co (CNOOC) is negotiating to buy the Ontario-based solar panel maker, thus putting a dampner on the gains that lifted its shares as much as 31 per cent in premarket trading. The rumours first surface last week, with China Business Journal reporting that CNOOC was negotiating the purchase of Nasdaq-listed Canadian Solar, which has most of its operations in China. But Canadian Solar has released a statement denying this, saying by email “Canadian Solar is not currently in discussion with China National Offshore Oil Corp regarding a potential strategic transaction between the two companies.” CNOOC is yet to comment.
Wind powers US renewables capacity
Climate Progress published an interesting chart of the day on Monday, showing each American state’s share of non-hydro renewable power. It paints a picture to support new data that shows the number of states generating more than 10 per cent of electricity from non-hydro renewable energy has increased from two to nine – a shift that has been driven mainly by wind, says Climate Progress. “According to the Energy Information Administration, there are now 20 states generating more than 5 per cent of electricity from non-hydro renewables. The two most dramatic increases in renewable generation were in South Dakota and Iowa, which now have 21 per cent and 17 per cent penetration respectively, up from about 1 per cent a decade ago.” See for yourself below…