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Wind energy drops off the perch

NEVER mind the orange-bellied parrot. Wind energy, one of the ethical investment sector's great success stories over the past decade, has passed its peak.

It's not only peaked, it's stopped," says Garry Weaven, Australia's biggest wind farmer. Weaven chairs Industry Funds Management, which last year paid a hefty $788 million for the formerly-listed Pacific Hydro energy company.
Weaven blames the federal Government, "so clearly operating at the behest of the aluminium and coal lobbies".

Wind currently supplies about 2 per cent of our annual electricity generation. That share was growing until late 2004, when the federal Government rejected calls to extend the national mandatory renewable energy (MRET) subsidy scheme beyond 2020.

According to Babcock & Brown wind executive Miles George, it takes two years to build a wind farm and the 12 years left until 2020 simply aren't enough to make a return on investment. The climate change debate has shifted dramatically, with the focus now on nuclear rather than renewable energy.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr commented darkly last year: "You could have a wind farm across all of outback NSW that would kill every kookaburra but it wouldn't provide the base-load power we need."

A fortnight ago federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell sparked a media frenzy when he blocked a proposed $220 million... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
It's not only peaked, it's stopped," says Garry Weaven, Australia's biggest wind farmer. Weaven chairs Industry Funds Management, which last year paid a hefty $788 million for the formerly-listed Pacific Hydro energy company.
Weaven blames the federal Government, "so clearly operating at the behest of the aluminium and coal lobbies".

Wind currently supplies about 2 per cent of our annual electricity generation. That share was growing until late 2004, when the federal Government rejected calls to extend the national mandatory renewable energy (MRET) subsidy scheme beyond 2020.

According to Babcock & Brown wind executive Miles George, it takes two years to build a wind farm and the 12 years left until 2020 simply aren't enough to make a return on investment. The climate change debate has shifted dramatically, with the focus now on nuclear rather than renewable energy.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr commented darkly last year: "You could have a wind farm across all of outback NSW that would kill every kookaburra but it wouldn't provide the base-load power we need."

A fortnight ago federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell sparked a media frenzy when he blocked a proposed $220 million wind farm at Bald Hills in Victoria's Gippsland - ostensibly because it threatened the endangered orange-bellied parrot.

That decision has called into question a $12 billion pipeline of wind projects proposed by companies including ANZ, Alinta, AGL, Pacific Hydro and various state utilities including the Tasmanian Government's Roaring 40s wind business.

You can almost hear John Howard laughing as greenies are forced to choose between climate change and protection of endangered species.

But it's a false opposition. Weaven contrasts the destruction of 25 per cent of all species over the next 50 years under current climate change scenarios, with "killing the odd bird".

He says there have been no endangered birds killed at Pacific Hydro wind farms and there are ways to reduce birdkill, like removing animal carcasses where birds of prey are present.

The Australian Greens environment spokesman, WA Senator Rachel Siewert, cautiously agrees.

"My understanding is it's not as much of an issue as was first thought."

Investors can still do well out of wind energy but all the growth is offshore. Babcock's $830 million Wind Partners vehicle has risen 31.6 per cent since it listed on 27 October 2005, from its $1.40 issue price per cent to $1.68 yesterday. Not a bad return, although the stock is well off its December $1.93 peak.

Weaven says Pacific Hydro is also trading profitably and will deliver a return to its owner, the $1.9 billion IFM Australian Infrastructure Fund - in turn owned by about 2.5 million industry super fund members. He denies it overpaid: "Not one dollar in our valuation was based on new projects in Australia."

But since the sale, according to AMP Capital Investors sustainability research manager Ian Woods, there is "no growth story" for investors looking for an Australian wind play.

State governments - especially Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania - are promising support but that will be irrelevant if the federal Government steps in to block new wind farms, on whatever grounds.


Source: http://www.theaustralian.ne...

APR 21 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2256-wind-energy-drops-off-the-perch
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