Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Clean Coal refused Clean Development Mechanism status – again. by Justin Blows
December 17, 2009, 8:23 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , ,

According to this report, a decision has been made in the Copenhagen meeting to exclude clean coal from the Clean Development Mechanism (CMD).

The CDM mechanism provides carbon credits to developed nations in return for investment in sustainable projects in the developing world, such as renewable energy and methane gas capture projects.  The CMD scheme has the potential to significantly lower the costs of the deployment of technologies such as clean coal, increasing their competitiveness.

Apparently, Brazil and allied countries blocked the inclusion of clean coal into the CDM.

This is another blow for clean coal which has been recently attacked as being unviable and too late to make a difference. Many believe, however, that clean coal is an essential technology if the world is to get any where near the required carbon reduction targets.

Justin Blows


Clean coal to triumph over renewables? by Justin Blows
November 23, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Feature | Tags: ,

A secret report written for the NSW government and leaked to the press argues that renewables are unlikely to be able to compete with clean coal, even at a carbon price of $100 / tonne.

The report does not state what sort of clean coal technology is considered, however, the author of the report, Richard Hunwick, has presented on the permanent disposal of carbon dioxide using silicate minerals.

The report advocates the building of a new coal fired power station in NSW.

The report finds that in 2015, with a $50 per tonne carbon tax, electricity produced from a state-of-the-art coal-fired power station in NSW would, at about $80 per megawatt hour, still be cheaper than wind ($115 per MWh) or solar ($130 per MWh).

The report states that:

With the application of modern technology and with suitable encouragement, stick as well as carrot, coal can continue to maintain its competitive advantage as a fuel for power generation for several decades to come, and do so in an essentially sustainable manner

Recently, Dr Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK was reported as insisting that clean coal was a “critical, crucial technology”, but raised doubts about its current viability.

The energy giant E.ON recently delayed its flagship Kingsnorth trial carbon capture and storage plant for two to three years.

TheFederal Opposition’s emissions trading spokesman, Ian Macfarlane, has been reported as saying that clean coal technology has passed Australia by and will probably never work.

The question is, will governments provide the incentives to make clean coal viable?

Justin Blows

Coal Tech 2009 by Griffith Hack
September 18, 2009, 4:42 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , , ,

Griffith Hack’s IP management consultant Mike Lloyd has just returned from the Coal Tech 2009 conference held in Brisbane, and came back a clean coal converted man:

Coal is sometimes used as the whipping boy in the clean energy debate, but the coal industry and its supporters are showing there are a number of options for dramatically improving its greenhouse gas emissions. Coal is undoubtedly important for Australia, providing about 75% of its power at an internationally competitive price, $43 billion worth of export income and 8% of its GDP. It also produces over one third of our greenhouse gases. Coal is also very important on a international scale, providing a key power source in many countries. Regardless of what its detractors may wish for, coal will be with us for many years to come.

A broad range of technologies are or have been developed to reduce emissions from coal mining and consumption, and some of these look close to being commercial ready. Coal’s relatively high greenhouse gas profile may actually help their adoption. Zero greenhouse gas emissions from clean coal technologies, while possibly being desirable in the long term, may not be necessary to achieve a significant overall reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gases emissions. Instead even a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the coal industry may be enough to have a helpful overall impact, and should be achievable in practice.

Nonetheless a big hurdle remains before these technologies are widely adopted. Some of these technologies require multi-billion dollar investments. Many of these investments may be unlikely in the current Australian political uncertainty regarding long term carbon emission pricing. Until these uncertainties are resolved, it will be difficult for the coal users to make either high emission or low emission investments in coal technologies. High emission investments will hobbled by the potential for high carbon pricing – low emission investments will be hobbled by the potential for low carbon pricing and how this will affect their business case. Maybe if the world can achieve a consensus on carbon policies during the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Australia’s politicians can in turn agree on the long term policies required to underpin major new investments in this area.

 Mike Lloyd

Oh no – now its peak coal! by Justin Blows
August 9, 2009, 11:07 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , ,

I come across this report that suggests that Australia has much less usable coal than previously thought.

It is reported that University of Newcastle researchers estimate global production will top out at 8 billion tonnes a year (it’s now about six) in 2034 and that energy production from coal will peak even sooner – best guess, at 157,000 petajoules a year in 2026.

Justin Blows

New South Wales invests in clean coal by Justin Blows
June 19, 2009, 10:33 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,
Munmorah Carbon Capture Plan

Munmorah Carbon Capture Plant

In this year’s budget, the New South Wales Government announced a significant investment in clean coal.  Apparently, a key focus of the mineral resources budget is the $16.5 million investment in clean coal technology designed to accelerate the work for clean coal in New South Wales.  New South Wales has a $100 million clean coal fund.

On the Central Coast of New South Wales, there is the $5 million Munmorah pilot carbon capture plant which is designed to capture 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.  Apparently, the state is searching for sequestration sites.


Why we need to fast track ‘Green’ patents by Justin Blows
June 11, 2009, 8:56 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , ,


Breaking News:  Griffith Hack successful in petitioning the Australian Patent Office to fast track “green” patents.  See here for more information



Australia desperately needs a fast track system for the examination of patent applications for climate change mitigation technologies, such as clean coal and solar energy.

In our recent clean coal and solar energy reports, we discussed how Australian’s filed a minority of Australian clean coal and solar energy patent applications.  The graphs below are extracted from these reports and show the number of patent applications filed per year by Australian and foreign applicants. 

Because of the relatively low patent filing rates by Australians, Australia is set to miss out on business opportunities that will arise from innovating in the cleantech space and then protecting that innovation for commercial advantage.  As international pressure increases for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more cleantech will be bought and used, but it looks likely that most of the technology will be imported.  We will not have much to export either.  This is bad for just about every economic measure you can think of: Green jobs; government revenue; and the price of technological adaption & mitigation of climate change.  It is also bad for the environment if adoption of these technologies are hindered as a result.

The commercialisation of climate change mitigation technology is essential to tackling climate change.  Patents facilitate the transfer and diffusion of these technologies in the market.  The faster patents can be issued the faster the technology will reach the market.  Patents should be an integral part of Australia’s response to climate change.  Strangely, as far as I know there has been discussion of this issue by neither Australian government nor industry.

Australian's files a minority of clean coal patents in Australia

Australian's filed a minority of Australian clean coal patents

Australian's filed a minority of Australian solar patents

Australian's filed a minority of Australian solar patents

One opportunity to turn the situation around is to fast track patent applications for green and particularly climate change mitigation technologies.  This would allow Australian innovators to rapidly increase their patent counts and regain commercial competitiveness in an area that patents really do matter.

So how fast should an Australian patent fast track system be?  The highly influential leading climatologist from NASA, Jim Hansen, recently said we have only four years left to act if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.   But the delay in the issuance of examination reports is well over 1 year which is too long given the window of opportunity.

The UK has introduced a fast track system for green patents (here is the official UK press release). They promise that a green patent can be prosecuted to grant in 9 months.  That is much more consistant with the window of opportunity available to us.

I do note that under Patent Regulation 3.17(2)(a) that The Comissioner of Patents may expedite examination of a patent if it is in the public interest to do so.  Surely, there is no greater public interest then the fast tracking of climate change mitigation technology and I look forward to hearing from the Patent Office that they too will fast track green patent applications, perhaps under the public interest leg of this regulation.

Justin Blows

Australian cleantech innovation: missing out on the new gold rush. by Justin Blows
June 10, 2009, 10:05 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , ,

Leading economists predict that the exploitation of clean and sustainable technologies (“cleantech”), have the potential to create wealth on the same scale as the introduction of the railways, electricity, cars and information & communications technology. There has been a strong growth in investment in this sector. The UN estimated a worldwide investment of US$155 billion in 2008 in sustainable energy technologies alone. Cleantech is one of the minority of business sectors that grew in 2008. And the future of Cleantech looks much bigger. China, for example, is considering investing around $560 billion in renewable energy technology. And that is just one country.  The business opportunities in Cleantech are enormous and appear to be growing strongly.

There are some innovative solar technology companies in Australia.  The privately held Victorian company Solar Systems has partnered with the Victorian government to build the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant near Mildura. Solar Systems developed technology that uses movable mirrors to follow the movement of the sun and concentrate the sunlight onto PV solar cells. Concentrating the sunlight reduces the area of expensive PV solar cells require. This and associated innovations were protected by Solar Systems filing patents around the world, assisted by Griffith Hack. Solar Systems have filed patents all around the world to protect their technology, which will play a useful role in bringing the technology to the wider market and subsequently reduce the world’s production of greenhouse gases.

Is Australia missing out on the Cleantech gold rush?

Is Australia missing out on the Cleantech gold rush?

Consumers are showing signs of voting with their wallets as well. The latest version of the Prius has just gone on sale in Japan, and has surprised even Toyota by immediately becoming the top selling car in Japan. After just half a month of sales Toyota has received 110,000 orders for the new Prius, which compares well with their global sales target of 400,000 per year. Toyota have protected the Prius hybrid technology with over 1200 patents around the world.

Owners of technology are often keen to protect their investment with patent protection and thus the number of patent filings tends to track the number of innovations. Unfortunately analysis of recent Australian solar and clean coal patent filing data by Griffith Hack suggests that while leading Australian firms such as Solar Systems are protecting their future, overall there is in general a relatively low rate of solar and clean coal innovation by Australian firms.

This suggests a future where Australian solar and clean coal energy producers are largely reliant on imported technology. Perhaps Australian firms need to be reminded that in the largest ‘real’ gold rush the world has ever seen, namely the Victorian gold rush in the mid 1800’s, that some of the largest fortunes were made by equipment suppliers to the miners, rather than the miners themselves.

Mike Lloyd &  Justin Blows