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The Asia Report: Australia Lays Out 2050 Renewable Energy Vision

Renewable energy sources could rapidly expand to provide 40 percent of Australia's energy needs by 2035 and 85 percent by 2050 and virtually eliminate coal-fired power stations, the nation's government said in its long-delayed energy white paper.

The transformation from coal dependency to renewable energy would require more than A$200 billion ($208 billion) of investment in new power plants, including A$100 billion in renewable sources and A$50 billion to A$60 billion in gas,

But Australia remains firmly attached to carbon capture and storage (CCS) and its booming gas sector. Under the 85 percent by 2050 scenario, modeling sees fossil-fuel-fired with CCS contributing 29 percent to the energy mix, large-scale solar 16 percent, wind energy and household solar PV 13 percent each, geothermal energy 9 percent, and hydroelectricity and bioenergy 5 percent.

Launching the paper in Melbourne last week, energy minister Martin Ferguson said he wants Australia to develop one of the “biggest gas markets in the world” and invest hundreds of billions into export terminals.

Australia’s renewable energy industry welcomed the white paper, but the Green party objected to the government’s plans to develop the gas market.

Pacific Hydro general manager for Australia Lane Crockett said that the white paper was critical in shaping Australia's energy future and provided an important vision for the nation. “Renewable energy provides a significant opportunity for Australia and it’s great to see this visioning document outline the opportunity for 85 percent clean energy by 2050,” he said. “Ensuring certainty is central to attracting investment and in transforming our energy market to one that is much cleaner,” he added.

Australian Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, said Ferguson has been “dragged out of his comfort zone here, but his dirty fingerprints are all over the white paper."

“Primarily, the white paper confirms that renewable energy can power all of Australia within decades, a reality being modeled by the Australian Energy Market Operator thanks to the Greens’ carbon price negotiations — but has been shunted aside here with a dash for gas and a vision of fossil-fuels still polluting our atmosphere out to 2050 and beyond,” Milne said in a statement.

IN THE NEWS

US finalizes steep tariffs on China's solar panels: The U.S. has cleared the way for imposing steep tariffs on solar panels imported from China, but analysts say the impact may be marginal because the tariffs were expected and contain a loophole. The International Trade Commission voted unanimously that China's subsidies for its solar manufacturers had harmed or threatened to harm the U.S. solar industry. Its decision allows the final tariffs approved last month by the U.S. Commerce Department to take effect.

China challenges Europe solar power subsidies at WTO: China lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO, challenging the European Union's support for its solar power components industry. The move shows increasing concern by WTO members for local content requirements, normally a breach of WTO rules because it discriminates against foreign firms.

Europe hits back at China in subsidy row: The European Union launched an investigation into alleged state subsidies for Chinese solar panel manufacturers, intensifying a trade war between the two. The EU's executive body is already studying Chinese dumping of solar panels, or deliberately selling products for less abroad than at home or at less than cost.

LDK Solar founder Peng steps aside for new chief executive: LDK Solar chief executive Peng Xiaofeng stepped down, handing the role to LDK’s chief operating officer Tong Xingxue, who is also currently president and a board director at the Chinese PV manufacturer.

India invites investment from ASEAN in renewable energy sector: Aiming to scale-up production of renewable energy in the country, India invited investors from ASEAN countries to invest in the sector. "India is encouraging foreign investors to set up renewable power projects on a "build, own, operate" basis with 100 percent foreign direct investment, and the county invited the investors from the ASEAN member countries to invest in renewable energy sector,"  said new and renewable energy secretary Gireesh Pradhan.

Malaysia to announce new feed-in tariff quotas soon: Malaysia will be releasing the new quota for its feed-in-tariff program in the first quarter of 2013, said energy minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin. “We are now in the final stage of setting the degression rates and rationalisation of quotas,” Chin said at the Asean-India ministerial meeting on co-operation in renewable energy.

Australia’s Alinta eyes A$200 million thermal solar plant in South Australia: Alinta Energy has conducted a feasibility study into building a A$200 million ($208 million) solar thermal project adjacent to its Northern Power Station in Port Augusta, South Australia. The company is currently in discussions with the government.

Remote Pacific island Tokelau achieves 100 percent solar power goalNew Zealand has announced the completion of a third commercial scale solar power system in Tokelau, its remote Pacific island territory. New Zealand's foreign affairs minister Murray McCully said the NZ$8.5 million Tokelau renewable energy project is a world first.

ON THE HORIZON

Indonesia minister says renewable energy seems unlikely in near futureIndonesia would be unlikely to meet the target of conversion to renewable resources as its dominant source of energy, says National Development Planning Minister Armida Alisjahbana. “I have to admit that at this point we have not managed to fully develop an incentive mechanism or the proper pricing policies needed to boost the use of renewable energy,” Armida said during the Third Indonesia Carbon Update.

A DEEPER LOOK

Global business forum warned of "carbon bubble": Peter Hannan of the Sydney Morning Herald writes global business leaders have been warned of a "carbon bubble" that will pop as nations accelerate their move into renewable energy and send the value of coal miners and other fossil fuel industries tumbling. Paul Gilding, an Australian environmental activist and former head of Greenpeace, told the opening of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that Asia was leading a drive into solar and other renewable energy sources that would leave countries dependent on coal exposed.

Asia could ease solar’s woes if companies can go there to engage in some fresh thinking: Dominque Patton of Recharge News writes for companies struggling to make money in markets burdened with overcapacity, and developing new markets is an obvious solution. It is a route that is increasingly being taken by solar companies, several of which see Asia as the answer to their woes. 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I can assure you that the government will fight hard every day to the election to explain and build support for our climate change policies — it is simply too important for our country, and for future generations, to cede a single millimetre of ground to a short-term political opportunist like [leader of the opposition] Tony Abbott, or his media mates like [shock-jock] Alan Jones.” — Australia’s Climate Change Minister Greg Combet on announcing Australia’s signing of the second Kyoto protocol

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Nov. 3-12, 2012 Asia Report: Panasonic Freezesz Investment in Malaysia PV Manufacturing
Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2012 Asia Report: Brightsource and Alstom Target Australia and India with New Funding

Oct. 19-26, 2012 Asia Report: First Solar Enters Nascent Indonesian Market with 100-MW Deal
Aug. 21-28, 2012 Asia Report: US Accused of Killing India's Solar Energy Industry
Aug. 6-20, 2012 Asia Report: South Korean Solar Companies Make Strong Push Into U.S. Market
July 23-Aug. 6, 2012 Asia Report: World Takes Hard Look at India Grid, Promises of Solar

Lead image: Australia map via Shutterstock

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