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Market News

 December 12, 2006
Australia: Environmental Market

 The Australian Environmental Bulletin prepared by the U.S. Commercial Service contains business intelligence on the Australian environmental market. The following Market Report includes excerpts from the Fall 2006 Australian Environmental Bulletin, prepared by the U.S. Commercial Service, as well as information drawn from the 2006 Report on Australia's Environment released last week by the Australian Government.

Government support for new low emission energy technologies

The Australian Federal Government has announced funding of US$95 million for two low emission technology projects in Victoria as part of its broader planned US$1.5 billion to address the impacts of climate change.

The two projects -- Solar Systems and Hazelwood power station -- are the first funded and announced under the Australian Government's US$375 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund. In a recent government media release, the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Campbell stated that climate change posed a considerable challenge to Australia and that, "All low emission technologies need to be considered and, where appropriate, given opportunities to demonstrate their future capacity to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions."

The two projects are:
  • Solar Systems Australia Pty Ltd: up to $75 million for a large-scale solar concentrator power project in the Mildura region. This renewable energy power station will demonstrate the use of heliostat mirrors to focus concentrated sunlight onto high-efficiency photovoltaic cells to generate electricity.
  • International Power (Technologies) Pty Ltd: $50 million for its Hazelwood 2030 project. The demonstration project will retrofit brown coal drying technology, and a pilot carbon dioxide capture and sequestration facility.
Hazardous waste treatment equipment

In Australia, hazardous waste represents about eight percent of the total income generated from solid waste (US$1,415 million). The collection and transport of hazardous solid waste accounts for US$81.9 million while the treatment, processing and disposal of solid hazardous waste contributes US$31 million to total income.

The majority of hazardous waste is generated by the commercial, industrial and trade sectors. Sources of such waste include: hospitals; food outlets; chemical, paint and plastic manufacturers; and food processing plants. Data from New South Wales and Victoria suggests that more than 50 percent of hazardous waste is generated from the manufacturing sector and that solid hazardous waste constitutes up to 60 percent of the total hazardous waste stream.

While current statistics are not available, it is believed that the amount of hazardous waste being disposed of in landfills has been increasing. This can, in part, be attributed to increased disposal to landfill of asbestos and low-level contaminated soil from former industrial land, produced as a result of remediation and development of land into residential uses.

North American waste treatment technologies are already highly regarded in Australia. In light of the continuing trend to redevelop industrial land for residential uses, and increasing regulatory pressure to divert waste from landfills, firms with innovative hazardous waste treatment solutions are encouraged to explore the Australian market.

Contaminated Land Management in Queensland

In Queensland, contaminated land or land that has the potential to be contaminated is recorded on the Environmental Management Register (EMR) or Contaminated Land Register (CLR) and is made publicly available. All applications for redevelopment of potentially contaminated land need to be referred to the Queensland EPA for review. In 2003, the Queensland EPA had reported that the number of development applications reported to it had been increasing every year primarily due to the growth of urban centers into surrounding industrial areas especially in south-east Queensland.

Remediation of sites involves either full clean-up and approved off-site disposal or safe on-site management of contamination under the conditions of a statutory site management plan (SMP). Strategies used are consistent with the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (NEPM) and EPA guidelines. Part of the role of the Queensland EPA is to ensure that information is provided to land purchasers by requiring that property owners advise them if land is listed on either the EMR or the CLR. Most of the EMR and CLR searches are associated with property transactions. However it should be noted that land does not necessarily require remediation as a result of listing on the EMR or before sale. Investigations to have land removed from the EMR are undertaken voluntarily by the landowner/developer or under notice issued by the EPA to abate serious health or environmental risk.

Remediation is usually associated with redevelopment proposals. Contaminated land work must be conducted by professionals in accordance with national and state guidelines. A permit must be obtained from the EPA before any contaminated soil is removed from land for treatment or disposal. Remediation works are undertaken to ensure that land will be suitable for the proposed use.

Given the concentration of coal mining in Queensland, it is understandable that the EPA is also undertaking research into the assessment of contaminated land associated with the mining industry and the implications for post-mining land uses such as low-intensity grazing, environmental effects of mining contaminants, and health effects from ingestion of contaminated soil by livestock.

The Australian remediation industry relies, in part, on high-technology goods to supply remediation services. Technology and methods used in the North American market are recognized as more advanced than Australian methods. Opportunity therefore exists for U.S.-based technology to improve the services currently available in Australia.

Urban Water Industry

Australia's urban water industry is serviced by 300 utilities. Approximately, 70 percent of the population is services by 26 utilities. The 200 smallest utilities collectively provide services to 3 million people.

New South Wales

Water supply and sewerage services to metropolitan Sydney, which has a population of 4 million, are provided by Sydney Water, Sydney Water has four water treatment plants that are managed under BOO schemes. The Hunter Water Corporation, provides services to about 500,000 people from five local government areas -- Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock, and Port Stephens. Other areas within New South Wales are handled by two water boards and a few local councils. Rural water suppliers tend to be private co-operatives or irrigators.

Victoria

Victoria was the first State to corporatize [ugh find a better word] its water assets in 1992. The main water authority, Melbourne Water was divided into a bulk supplier and three retailers -- Yarra Valley, South East, and City West Melbourne Water services a population of nearly 3.5 million. The business is responsible for managing US$6.3 billion in water supply, sewerage, and drainage assets. South East Water, provides services to 1.3 million people in the south-east region of Melbourne.

Yarra Valley Water, provides services to 1.6 million people in Melbourne's northern and eastern suburbs. City West Water, is responsible for the provision of drinking water, sewerage, trade waste, and recycled water services to 276,000 residential and 31,000 industrial/commercial customers in Melbourne's central business district and inner and western suburbs.

Queensland

Water supply and sewerage services are provided by 126 local authorities and 31 Aboriginal community councils. Brisbane City Council, is the largest and still owns and manages its plants. Rural water supply is managed by the State Government.

South Australia

South Australia Water Corporation, is wholly owned by the government of South Australia, and delivers water and wastewater services to almost 1.4 million people. It has an annual turnover of about US$560 million, and assets of more than $5 billion. In Adelaide, the management and maintenance of water assets has been outsourced to United Water under a 15.5 year contract. This involves responsibility for six water treatment plants, five wastewater treatment plants, over 400,000 service connections, 9,900km of water mains and 7,000km of wastewater mains.

Western Australia

The WA Water Corporation is wholly owned by the Government of Western Australia, it is unique in that it provides water and wastewater services to the entire state. This encompasses the capital Perth and hundreds of towns spread over 2.5 million square kilometres. The corporation also takes responsibility for providing drainage and irrigation services to businesses and farms across the state. There are however, 22 small local authorities and 10 towns that receive services from mining companies.

The State of Australia's Environment

A comprehensive independent report was tabled on December 6, 2006 in Parliament outlines progress and pressure points on the state of Australia's environment. Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said "The Australia State of the Environment 2006 is the nation's most wide-ranging environmental report card to date."

It is the third in a series of studies prepared every five years for the Australian Government by independent committees of experts. Campbell noted also that the report is a great resource for government, industry and the community that tells us "what we are doing well in caring for the environment and what we need to do better."

The report tracks changes in a range of areas including atmosphere, biodiversity, human settlements, inland waters, coasts and oceans, natural and cultural heritage and the Australian Antarctic Territory. The report outlines key achievements in environmental management since 2001, including:
  • A four-fold increase in Australian Government spending on the environment;
  • Massive decreases in land clearing in many states which in turn has had a positive impact on Australia's biodiversity;
  • Major advances in protection for the marine environment;
  • Generally good air quality in most capital cities; and
  • Improved water management through the Australian Government's national water reform agenda.
The report also outlines key environment challenges for Australia, including the cumulative impacts of increasing populations on Australia's coastline; the need for continued waste reduction and recycling efforts; the poor condition of land, inland waters and coastal lakes in some parts of Australia; pressures on some of our fisheries; and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Also announced on December 6th was $13 million in funding for a variety of renewable energy projects, including research into cloud seeding, yeast technology to convert plant waste into ethanol, and turbulence mapping at wind energy sites.

The 2006 Report on the State of Australia's Environment is available here.