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No to Nuclear Power for Australia: Rudd

CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 18 (UPI) — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced he has ruled out nuclear power for his country.

“Australia has multiple other energy sources and we will not be heading in the direction of civil nuclear power,” Rudd told reporters in Canberra.

Rudd’s remarks came after U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement Tuesday of federal loan guarantees to build two nuclear reactors.

Australia, however, apparently plans to stay with coal.

“Roll the clock out to 2020, 2050, in terms of the role of coal in total global energy production — it’s huge,” Rudd said.

Coal-fired power stations, known for high carbon dioxide emissions, generate about 80 percent of Australia’s electricity. Australia surpasses the United States as the world’s biggest per capita carbon emitter.

The Australian government has proposed cutting its emissions by 5 percent by 2020 but that target could rise to 25 percent if a global climate protection agreement can be reached.

Rudd said Australia would explore technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions, including schemes to capture emissions from coal-fired power plants and store them underground. The prime minister noted that Australia is a world leader in carbon capture and storage.

But CCS could create a “time bomb” for future generations, said John Hepburn, a Greenpeace Australia energy campaigner.

“There are concerns over whether it will actually stay underground, basically forever,” Hepburn told Bloomberg News. “You may have to transport the carbon dioxide a long way to a suitable storage site and there are risks associated with that.”

“Australia has probably the most coal-intensive economy on the planet,” Hepburn said to Bloomberg. “The fossil fuel industry, and the coal industry in particular, have a large amount of political influence as a result.”

Hepburn suggests that Australia should aggressively conserve energy and rely more on renewable power to meet the country’s climate goals, rather than depending on either nuclear power or fossil fuels.

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal.

The chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, Ziggy Switkowski, said he expected Australian public opinion would soon favor nuclear power.

“There will come a time, perhaps in the next electoral cycle, when the national mood will be strongly pro-nuclear and the government will feel more comfortable about endorsing discussion of nuclear power as part of a longer-term national strategy,” Switkowski told The Australian.

World Nuclear Association estimates list Australia as the world’s third-largest producer of uranium.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Nuclear0 Comments

FirstEnergy Agrees to Buy Allegheny Energy

AKRON, Ohio, Feb. 11 (UPI) — Energy supplier FirstEnergy of Ohio said Thursday it agreed to buy Allegheny Energy for $4.7 billion, creating an electric company with 6 million customers.

FirstEnergy said it would not change its name as it expands its distribution network to seven states and absorbs Allegheny’s 1.5 million customers.

The deal set the value of Allegheny stock at $27.65 per share, the companies said in a joint statement.

The merger would increase FirstEnergy’s annual revenue to about $16 billion through 10 distribution companies serving Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia.

Combined, the company would control a network of 20,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, the statement said.

FirstEnergy President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Alexander said the deal would “increase generation resources by 70 percent, more than double the amount of super critical coal capacity,” and create better economies of scale for the company.

The firm expects to realize pretax synergies of $180 million in the first year and $350 million in the second year.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity0 Comments

Obama Outlines Biofuel and Clean Coal Steps

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday announced a series of new measures designed to boost biofuels and clean coal development efforts.

Speaking during a meeting with a bipartisan group of state governors at the White House, Obama said he’s taking three steps to develop and commercialize a sustainable U.S. biofuels industry, including a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to implement the long-term renewable fuels production goal of 36 billion gallons by 2022, up from the current 11 billion gallons.

Also, he said, the President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group has released its first report in which U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson lay out a strategy to meet or exceed U.S. biofuels targets.

Obama also announced the creation of an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage to put in place a federal strategy to speed the development of clean coal technologies.

“Now, I happen to believe that we should pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill,” Obama said. “But even if you disagree on the threat posed by climate change, investing in clean energy jobs and businesses is still the right thing to do for our economy.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Coal0 Comments

Sydney's $1.7 Billion Desalination Plant

SYDNEY, Feb. 1 (UPI) — A $1.7 billion desalination plant has opened in Sydney, expected to supply up to 15 percent of the area’s water needs.

The seawater reverse-osmosis facility in the southern suburb of Kurnell has been driven by concerns about climate change, Sydney’s inconsistent rainfall patterns and a rapidly growing metropolitan area that attracts some 50,000 new residents each year.

“This is about preparing for Sydney’s expanding population. In the face of climate change, in the face of increasing drought, it is important we are securing Sydney’s water supply,” Kristina Keneally, premier of New South Wales, said during the plant’s opening ceremony Thursday.

The desalination plant is now producing 55 million liters per day of water, which will gradually increase to full capacity, 250 million liters a day. Water from the Kurnell facility will be distributed to 1.5 million people as part or all of their water supply throughout Sydney.

The plant is 100 percent offset by wind energy, and a new wind farm with 67 turbines is now up and running nearby at Bungendore.

Officials say coastal ecosystems will not be adversely affected by the salty discharge deposited back into the sea.

But John Kaye, a Greens MP in the New South Wales state Parliament, said the construction in Botany Bay had stirred up heavy metals that could harm migrating whales. Other sea life, he said, could also be affected by the dumping of saline waste back into the Tasman Sea.

“Sydney’s desalination plant was a huge mistake,” Kaye told the BBC.

“The historical records show we did not need it. The government says it is all powered by green energy, but that could have been used to offset coal generation elsewhere,” he said.

To achieve desalination at Kurnell, seawater is drawn into the system via a large 2.5-kilometer underwater tunnel. After gravel, sand, silt, seaweed and other debris have been removed, high pressure pushes the water through membranes small enough to capture the salt in a process known as reverse osmosis.

The desalinated reserves are then re-mineralized and slightly carbonated, while chlorine and fluoride are added, before being pumped directly into the city’s main supply.

Keneally said the project would add about $100 a year to the average person’s water bill, which would allow the plant to be fully paid off in four years.

“By 2025, global demand for water is predicted to grow by over 40 percent,” she said. “Along with dams, recycling and water efficiency, desalination is one of four key ways to ensure Sydney has enough water in the future.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Drinking Water, Drought, Recycling, Water Efficiency0 Comments

Seattle to Increase "Garbage Power"

SEATTLE, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Seattle, which gets a small amount of electricity from its own trash, plans to increase its garbage power significantly, city officials say.

The city of 602,000 plans to outfit a second landfill to pump methane gas from refuse by 2012, adding to an existing landfill in Arlington, Ore., where Seattle’s garbage is taken by train, officials said.

The city first began getting electricity from the Arlington plant in October.

“This is part of our strategy,” City Councilman Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “This is part of our vision.”

A network of pipes moves the methane from the tons of garbage in the Arlington landfill into a compression facility, which sends it to internal combustion engines. The engines turn generators that produce 5.7 megawatts of electricity sent up the power grid, enough to supply about 5,600 homes.

Seattle uses about 1,132 megawatts, the Seattle City Light utility averages. About 89 percent of the utility’s power comes from hydroelectric dams, 5.6 percent from nuclear energy, 3.4 percent from wind, 1.3 percent from coal and 0.5 percent from natural gas, the utility says.

The methane-extraction arrangement is part of a 20-year contract between the city and national garbage-management firm Waste Management Inc. of Houston, which built the system and charges the city about $2.5 million annually, Harrell said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Coal, Electricity, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Waste Management0 Comments

"Cape Wind" Project in Nantucket Sound Faces Setback

BOSTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) — A plan to build the United States’ largest offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, Mass., has suffered another setback after nine years of environmental and political arguments.

Energy Management Inc.’s proposed Cape Wind $1 billion wind farm would cover 24 square miles — an area roughly the size of Manhattan — in the sound.

But the National Park Service Monday announced that the 560-square-mile Nantucket Sound is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The decision follows a request from two American Indian tribes, the Mashpee Wampanoag of Cape Cod and the Aquinnah Wampanoag of Martha’s Vineyard, who claim the proposed 130 turbines would stand in the way of their spiritual ritual of greeting the sunrise. They say it would also disturb ancestral burial grounds, now underwater.

The late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., whose family compound overlooks Nantucket Sound, was among Cape Cod residents who argued that the turbines would adversely affect the area’s tourism industry and spoil its natural beauty, the Independent reports. The turbines would be visible from the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, both magnets for summer visitors.

Oil and coal magnate and Cape Cod property owner Bill Koch also opposes Cape Wind.

Cape Cod Today newspaper last month said Koch, founder and president of the Oxbow Group, is best known on the cape as chairman of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization it says was formed to fight the Cape Wind proposal.

The newspaper cited a 2006 Forbes magazine profile on Koch, which described his fight against Cape Wind: “Koch has pumped in $1.5 million to an anti-windmill group of which he is now chairman, commissioned several economic studies undermining the idea and assigned his lobbyists to torpedo the plan in Washington.”

Environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council had high marks for Cape Wind, saying the project is “the largest single source of supply-side reductions in CO2 currently proposed in the United States,” Cape Cod Today reports.

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has called all parties involved in the debate to meet in Washington next week with the aim of settling the issue by March 1, the Independent reports.

“After several years of review, it is now time to move the Cape Wind proposal to a final decision point,” Salazar said in a statement.

“While we found the National Park Service decision disappointing, far more important is that Secretary Salazar has signaled the beginning of his personal involvement in bringing the Cape Wind permitting process to a speedy conclusion,” said Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Wind1 Comment

China's Blast of Cold Weather Prompts Power Rationing

BEIJING, Jan. 7 (UPI) — Some provinces in east and central China have resorted to power rationing amid increased demand due to record cold temperatures.

Coal transport has been hampered by heavy snow.

Beijing recorded its coldest day in 29 years Tuesday, with temperatures dropping to 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heaviest snowfall in 60 years over the weekend.

While power rationing had been limited to industrial users, power company officials Wednesday said residential areas would not be affected.

“Even under extreme circumstances, we will ensure residential electricity supply, which is always the top priority,” said Wang Changxing, spokesperson for the Shanghai grid, a major branch of the East China grid, China Daily reports.

In Hubei, one of the worst hit areas, power cuts have been imposed on “several thousand” energy-intensive companies such as those in the metallurgy and steel sectors, said a spokesperson for Hubei Electric Power Co.

Wuhan, capital of Hubei, experienced brownouts in some districts after the thermal power generating system broke down in a local power plant because of overloading.

Shanghai Grid said that power in Shanghai would not be switched off or rationed within the next couple of days, China Daily said.

Coal-based thermal power plants generate about 90 percent of China’s energy supply.

The country’s overall electricity consumption rose nearly 6 percent in 2009 to 3,643 billion kilowatt-hours, the National Energy Administration said Wednesday.

By year-end 2009, coal stockpiles in the Central China grid network were sufficient for only 10 days, less than the recommended 15 days, according to official data, China Daily reports.

Zhuang Jian, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank in China, said increasing power generation facilities, as result of the country’s $586 billion stimulus package initiated in late 2008, would gradually help make up for the shortage.

Zhuang said part of the reason for the current shortage was power and coal companies haggling over prices. “They must be made more market-oriented to resolve differences over prices,” he said.

In early 2008, 7 percent of China’s coal-fired power generation capacity was shut because severe snowstorms disrupted transportation of the fuel, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Dai Yande, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, urged that a contingency plan be put in place to respond to such weather-triggered power shortages.

Weather forecasters are predicting yet another cold front, with snow likely in Beijing on Friday and on Thursday for the Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan and Hubei provinces.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Transportation0 Comments

Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota Legally Fighting Illinois for Invasive Asian Carp Protection

CHICAGO, Dec. 29 (UPI) — Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota have joined forces to seal Illinois waterways from the Great Lakes in a fight against an invasive carp, officials said.

Minnesota Monday joined Ohio and Michigan in a U.S. Supreme Court petition that asks for closure of the Chicago and O’Brien locks — waterways in downtown Chicago and south suburban Burnham that handle hundreds of millions of dollars in shipping and recreational boating each year.

Closing the locks would have major repercussions for the Chicago area and require rerouting an enormous amount of freight overland, including jet fuel, coal and road salt, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Officials in Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota argue those obstacles are worth protecting the lakes’ $7-billion-a-year fishing industry.

Federal and state officials from Illinois deliberately poisoned the locks several weeks ago, creating a massive fish kill after DNA samples showed the carp had evaded electronic barriers in the locks.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Coal, Ecosystems, Fish0 Comments

Amendment to Chinese Energy Law Adopted

BEIJING, Dec. 26 (UPI) — China’s renewable energy law was amended Saturday to require power companies to buy all power generated from renewable resources.

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported Chinese lawmakers adopted the amendment to China’s renewable energy law during a National People’s Congress Standing Committee meeting.

The amendment also requires the State Council Energy Department and the state power regulatory agency to “determine the proportion of renewable energy power generation to the overall generating capacity for a certain period.”

Under China’s renewable energy law, electricity grid companies will face sizable fines if they fail to purchase power generated from renewable resources such as non-fossil fuels or wind and solar power.

The law and its adopted amendment come about as China remains reliant on coal as a power supply. Two-thirds of the country’s power supply comes from coal, Xinhua said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Solar, Wind0 Comments

AGL Energy Doubts Wind Farm Project in Austrailia Due to Renewable Energy Certificates

SYDNEY, Dec. 24 (UPI) — AGL Energy expressed doubt about the future of its proposed $800 million wind farm in Victoria because of a collapse in the price of Australia’s renewable energy certificates.

The value of the certificates, aimed at encouraging investment in renewable energy, has almost halved since the Australian government began issuing them to consumers who install solar hot water systems and other products that do not generate power.

The 350-megawatt wind farm, with a planned 150 turbines nearly 300 feet tall, powering 150,000 homes, was expected to be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

AGL Managing Director Michael Fraser said Tuesday the government’s approach was a fraud that threatened the industry’s ability to meet the target of obtaining 20 percent of power from renewable sources, the Herald reports. More than $30 billion of expected investment is needed to reach the target.

The oversupply of certificates had caused investment in renewable energy to stop, he said.

The only new wind farms AGL would definitely build were those required under contracts to supply power to desalination plants for the Victorian and South Australian governments, Fraser said.

”Beyond that, you simply won’t see us invest until this issue gets resolved,” he said.

The project was expected to create 500 jobs during construction. Fraser said up to seven of AGL’s other wind farms being considered are also under threat.

”The reality is that you’ve seen virtually no new announcements around large-scale investments in the renewable sector from anybody for months now,” he said.

Victoria state Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said Canberra’s policies have delayed investment in renewable energy projects and undermined job creation.

”We in Victoria want to move away from our overwhelming dependence on brown coal, but to do that we need to encourage investment in new wind farms,” he told The Age.

Coal-fired plants supply about 86 percent of Australia’s electricity.

Batchelor said the value of renewable energy certificates has fallen from more than $50 in May 2009 to less than $35 now.

“We are very concerned about the inability of the national renewable energy scheme to stimulate jobs and investment in Victoria,” he said.

When the legislation was passed in August, it was expected to generate $28 billion of investment in new generation capacity in Australia over the next decade and the creation of 28,000 jobs in industries such as wind and solar power, according to the Clean Energy Council, an alliance of the Australian Wind Energy Industry Association and the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

A spokesman for Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong acknowledged that the fall in price for certificates partly reflected the higher uptake of solar water heaters as a result of state incentives and the federal stimulus package, The Age reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Other, Policies & Solutions, Solar, Wind0 Comments

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