GREEN DEALS: Stop and go on energy funds

Government may announce renewables VC mandates soon, but delays feared for emerging renewables fund; Algae.Tec signs algae fuel deal with Holcim; and landfill approved for carbon farming initiative.

There is speculation that the federal government is soon to announce the managers of the $100 million Renewable Energy Venture Capital fund, but there are concerns that allocations made under the $126 million Emerging Renewables fund will be put on the back-burner, and will not be deployed until the newly created Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is up and running by mid next year.

The VC fund, which was announced in May, has taken applications from the small community of VC managers in this country. It is expected that two VC managers will be allocated $50 million, and will then have to seek a further $50 million in private money before making early-stage equity investments to help commercialise emerging renewable energy technologies. Among those funds favoured for the role are Starfish Ventures, Cleantech Ventures, and the Lend Lease clean technology fund, or even a Macquarie Group fund.

The Emerging Renewables fund, which was first announced last year, and has been repackaged on two occasions, opened for applications in August, but is yet to disperse any funds. It will focus on geothermal and wave energy sectors, and other “enabling technologies”. It is to be administered by the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, which is to be absorbed into ARENA.

That organisation is currently searching for a CEO and CFO, and it is feared that funds allocations may be delayed until the new agency is established. That could delay funding decisions by a year. No such delays for established generators however, with the government announced on Thursday that bids are now open for $1 billion in cash handouts to be made to coal fired generators this financial year under the Energy Security Fund.

Cementing carbon business

On the back of the delivery of the first of its photo-bioreactor modules, algae-to-biofuels outfit Algae.Tec has signed a contract to build its first algae biofuelsproduction facility in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with local cement and building materials company Holcim Lanka Ltd. In announcing the deal on Thursday, Algae.Tec said Holcim Lanka were attracted to it as a way to reduce carbon emissions by channelling waste CO2 into Algae.Tec's algae growth technology, and generating valuable biofuel at below market cost. The facility will start with five photo-bioreactor modules, with the technology expeted to be rolled out at other sites.

Algae.Tec executive chairman Roger Stroud said his company was "very pleased" to be collaborating with a global company that understood the value of sustainable development. “Algae.Tec is an advanced biofuels company with an enclosed modular engineered technology designed to grow algae on an industrial scale and produce biofuels that replace predominantly imported fossil fuels for transportation use,” Stroud said. Holcim Lanka CEO Stefan Huber described Algae.Tec's technology as "truly innovative ...backed by an expert international engineering team.”

Waste not, want not

The federal government has announced a new Carbon Farming Initiative it says will allow landfill site operators to increase revenue while cutting emissions. Launching the "Methodology for the capture and combustion of methane in landfill gas from legacy waste" on Thursday, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, said it would allow landfill operators and the clean energy businesses who work with them to create carbon credits by capturing methane emissions – a potent greenhouse gas that is emitted from landfills through waste decomposition – to produce electricity for sale to the grid, or destroy it through flaring. “Landfill operators will now have the capacity to use credits for their own compliance with the carbon price, sell excess credits to other polluters or onto international carbon markets,” Dreyfus said. Federal Member for Chisholm, Anna Burke, said landfill site operators who convert methane to carbon dioxide by generating electricity may also earn revenue from the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates under the Renewable Energy Target.

Energy Developments Limited managing director Greg Pritchard welcomed the announcement, saying that the abatement of greenhouse gases from EDL’s Australian landfill gas power projects was equivalent to removing about 400,000 cars from the road, while also producing enough clean electricity to power about 60,000 homes. “We see this sector as an important contributor to meeting the challenge of reducing Australian greenhouse gas emissions,” Pritchard said. The landfill gas methodology was developed by government in consultation with industry, and assessed by the independent Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee. Landfill site operators can apply to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative when the scheme starts operating in December – credits created are expected to exceed the carbon price liability on the landfill waste sector in the period to 2020.

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