Plenty on of­fer for keen green in­vestors

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Clean Energy - Robin Bromby

LOOK­ING for a car­bon- re­lated com­pany to in­vest in? Take your pick. But the prob­lem is mak­ing the right pick. En­vi­ron­ment­friendly tech­nolo­gies sound all well and good, but many have failed to pro­duce the prof­its that would sat­isfy in­vestors.

So­lar and wind power in­volve tech­nolo­gies that are still com­par­a­tively high­cost. Se­ques­tra­tion is a wor­thy am­bi­tion but not yet a hugely re­mu­ner­a­tive one. Con­sid­er­ing the huge prof­its from such ‘‘ dirty’’ in­dus­tries as min­ing iron ore and coal, car­bon- re­lated in­vest­ment in­volves trust rather than record.

There are the ob­vi­ous ve­hi­cles, such as com­pa­nies that have re­new­able en­ergy projects. Pro­duc­tion of ei­ther wind or so­lar en­ergy does not emit car­bon diox­ide, so in­vestors could look at com­pa­nies such as CBD En­ergy, which is work­ing with Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia to build re­new­able ca­pac­ity on King Is­land.

This will con­sist of pho­to­voltaic so­lar units, an ex­panded wind farm to gen­er­ate be­tween 1.5 megawatts and 2.5MW, and en­ergy stor­age. When fin­ished, King Is­land will be largely self- suf­fi­cient in elec­tric­ity, re­plac­ing 1.25 mil­lion litres of diesel used for gen­er­a­tion.

On a much larger scale there is Bab­cock & Brown Wind Part­ners, which has in­ter­ests in 76 wind farms in Aus­tralia, Ger­many, the US, Spain, France and Por­tu­gal — a to­tal in­stalled ca­pac­ity of ap­prox­i­mately 3187MW.

Even the tra­di­tional- style en­ergy com­pa­nies are get­ting in on the car­bon re­duc­tion busi­ness, of­fer­ing cus­tomers green en­ergy al­ter­na­tives.

Ori­gin En­ergy has taken an op­tion with a wind gen­er­a­tion com­pany to de­velop up to 590MW of wind farms, start­ing with a 300MW plant near Cul­lerin, 30km west of the NSW city of Goul­burn. This farm, when com­pleted, will save about 100,000 tonnes of car­bon emis­sions each year had that power been gen­er­ated from fos­sil fu­els.

The con­cept of a car­bon- friendly com­pany would be widened if the Aus­tralian Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­tion and Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion gets its way. The in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion says greater use of nat­u­ral gas would help Aus­tralia meet its car­bon obli­ga­tions now that we have signed the Ky­oto Pro­to­col.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Belinda Robin­son says some­thing has to be done about poli­cies such as the fed­eral ap­provals pro­cesses for liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas projects, which can take as long as five years. ‘‘ If we are to achieve real, mean­ing­ful and deep cuts as ar­tic­u­lated by the Gov­ern­ment,’’ said Robin­son, ‘‘ gas needs to be un­shack­led to al­low it to reach its full po­ten­tial.’’

So, if greater use of gas is part of the ef­fort to re­duce car­bon emis­sions, then in­vestors have a wide ar­ray of pro­duc­ers and ex­plor­ers from which to choose.

If en­ergy isn’t your thing, you could have sub­scribed to the ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing for LeeDee Hold­ings, a com­pany that makes biode­grable wrap for food pack­ag­ing. The clear wrap is not made from pe­tro­leum prod­ucts as is the norm, but from cot­ton pulp.

Last month, Green In­vest man­aged to get its $ 4 mil­lion IPO away and is now traded on the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties Ex­change. The com­pany has two main arms: Nextgen, which acts as a car­bon bro­ker, and Green Plumbers, founded in 2005 by the Mas­ter Plumbers and Me­chan­i­cal Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia to pro­vide in­stal­la­tion ser­vices for prod­ucts that save wa­ter.

And then there are some 200 com­pa­nies listed on the ASX that have ura­nium ex­plo­ration or de­vel­op­ment in their port­fo­lio.

Geo­ther­mal is a more ob­vi­ous car­bon­friendly way to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, al­though the sec­tor still has to prove it­self as both vi­able and a profit maker.

But in­vestors who put their money into bio­fuel floats have seen their eq­uity shrivel be­fore their eyes. Ac­cord­ing to Re­new­able Fu­els Aus­tralia, the biodiesel sec­tor is on its knees: there were nine planned plants in Aus­tralia and all but two have been put in moth­balls.

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