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abc interview blast from the past

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    did anyone ever find out why de graaf left ?

    SA project looking to tap into Earth's core
    Reporter: Mike Sexton

    KERRY O'BRIEN: A comprehensive new study in Britain is tonight being hailed as conclusive evidence that the planet is getting hotter.

    Sceptics of climate change have long argued there isn't enough proof, but now scientists from the University of East Anglia have checked records back to the 10th century - a millennium - further than ever before.

    The research shows that recent climate change is not part of a natural cycle, but, they say, the result of the greenhouse effect.

    Traditional sceptics still disagree.

    In per capita terms, Australia is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

    But there is a project under way in the SA outback that could play a major part in reducing emissions - by tapping into the Earth's hot core.

    Mike Sexton explains.

    NICK MINCHIN, FINANCE MINISTER: Australia has a relatively fast growing economy and a relatively fast growing population, so its energy needs will continue to increase as more and more people want air conditioners, more and more business locates in this country - and we want them located here.

    MIKE SEXTON: As Australia confronts the 21st century, two things are certain - we need more electricity and we need to find cleaner ways of generating it.

    At the moment, our power generation is heavily reliant on burning coal, and that comes at an environmental cost.

    JOHN CONNOR, AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION: Australians are the highest per capita greenhouse polluters in the world, and that's mainly because more than 80 per cent of our power comes from coal-fired power.

    MIKE SEXTON: Only 16 per cent of electricity comes from sources other than coal.

    That 16 per cent is divided roughly 50/50 between natural gas and hydroelectric schemes, which leaves less than 0.5 per cent coming from sources such as wind, solar or biomass.

    NICK MINCHIN: Given that we're never going to have nuclear power, which is probably the cleanest source of power, then we do need to understand the desirability of some proportion of our power coming from renewable sources that don't contribute to greenhouse gases.

    MIKE SEXTON: According to scientists, there's an enormous potential source of clean power deep below us.

    When the earth was formed, it was molten metal and, although the surface has cooled, you don't have to go very far down to find minerals hotter than 250 degrees Celsius.

    And one of the hottest places is the Cooper Basin, which lies below Innamincka in the South Australian outback, and it's here that a company called Geodynamics believes it can harness that subterranean heat.

    BERTUS de GRAAF, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GEODYNAMICS: We are very fortunate the Cooper Basin can be regarded as the hottest spot on earth, if you ignore volcanic regions.

    So we really have the best spot in the world for this.

    Heat is the key economic driver in the whole process - the hotter the better in terms of your conversion of heat.

    MIKE SEXTON: The theory is that, once a shaft has been drilled into the hot, dry rocks 5km below the surface, water is pumped down to be superheated.

    It then returns to the surface via another shaft.

    This steam pressure then drives a turbine to create electricity.

    The water is condensed and re-used.

    The power could be sent to either Broken Hill, Leigh Creek or Olympic Dam for distribution via the national grid.

    Geodynamics says the potential output matches the biggest hydro schemes in the world.

    BERTUS de GRAAF: It really is a clean sort of energy and our thrust really is not to be a niche player in renewable energy but really to provide large amounts of base-load power.

    MIKE SEXTON: After months of drillings, Geodynamics is within metres of completing their first shaft.

    The company has another reason to celebrate, with news that energy retailer Origin has bought a 19 per cent stake in the company making them, along with resources giant Woodside, the two main investors.

    ANDREW STOCK, ORIGIN ENERGY: Our appeal with that is that the size of the resource is such that it could meet quite a large part of the eastern seaboard's electricity requirements in the medium term if it's able to be developed commercially.

    So clearly being able to do that with less greenhouse emissions is ideal.

    MIKE SEXTON: Like all power retailers in Australia, Origin Energy is obliged by law to buy a certain amount of its electricity from renewable sources.

    If Geodynamics is successful in its hot, dry rock technology, Origin would have no problem meeting its target for years to come.

    But the company says consumers are becoming more savvy about their power source and demanding to buy green electricity.

    ANDREW STOCK: A segment of customers are saying, "That's what we want - "we want clean energy with no emissions."

    And the fact that it's fast growing indicates that I think an increasing share of the population is saying that's what they want.

    MIKE SEXTON: The amount of renewable energy generated in Australia needs to increase every year because of the Government's mandatory renewable targets, known as MRET.

    By the year 2010, 2 per cent of the nation's power must be generated by renewable sources and, at the moment, is targets are under government review.

    NICK MINCHIN: I can't pre-empt the result but my impression is that this MRET, as it's called, is actually working pretty well.

    There was some hesitation from big power consumers about what this might mean to them.

    I think those have been overcome and, by all accounts, it's now become an accepted part of the electricity industry in this country.

    MIKE SEXTON: But the Australian Conservation Foundation wants to see the targets increased to encourage more green generation.

    JOHN CONNOR: The Government's mandatory renewables target system was a world leader when it got going first but is now being overtaken by others in Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom which are setting much more ambitious renewable targets, driving renewable industry and driving pick-up of renewable energy.

    Things like solar panels on roofs are in much greater use in Germany than they are here in Australia, which is just madness.

    MIKE SEXTON: Meanwhile, as the drilling continues in the Cooper Basin, Geodynamics boss Bertus de Graaf believes every day his company is closer than ever to plugging into the geothermal power plant below the desert surface.

    BERTUS de GRAAF: There is really no comparison.

    Hot rock geothermal really is the cheapest possible way to generate heat.

    Of course we still have to prove the economics.

    So this is really a big resource plan.

    We know the heat is there, now the question is, "Can we get the heat out economically?"

    Transcripts on this website are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts
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