Thursday, October 19, 2017

Historic moment for Victoria's energy future

In a historic moment for Victoria's energy future, the Victorian Renewable Energy Target today passed the upper house in state Parliament and will become law.

“This is a historic day for Victoria's energy future, and a victory for the community who have long made the case for the Victorian Renewable Energy Target” said a Friends of the Earth renewable energy spokesperson, Pat Simons

Questionable claims on Matthew Guy's billboard.
“The success of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target is thanks to communities, businesses and workers from Portland, to Geelong, Yackandandah, Macedon and Melbourne”

Friends of the Earth congratulates Premier Daniel Andrews, Minister Lily D'Ambrosio, and the Labor government, branding its energy policy achievement an act of national leadership: 

“The Andrews government is leading the nation with a vision for jobs and investment in renewable energy,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth spokesperson.

“While the divided Turnbull government only offers ill-considered thought bubbles on energy, the Andrews government has shown leadership on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target," said Pat Simons.

“Victoria's Andrews government has set the bar for smart energy policy in Australia.”

The passage of legislation was also welcomed by prospective wind farmers from Barunah Park, Kevin and Jenny Blake:

“Renewable energy is extremely important to us, as we have seen the effects of climate change personally on our farm. We are very excited to host turbines as this will help minimise the effects of climate change in the future.”

“This legislation will also help provide us with a means to drought-proof our future earnings and keep our farm sustainable for our children and grandchildren.”

The VRET passed with the support of upper house Greens MPs, Fiona Patten of the Reason Party, Local Jobs First MP James Purcell.

Friends of the Earth was critical of the Matthew Guy opposition, who stuck to their pledge to vote against the VRET even though renewable energy enjoys strong support among Liberal party voters.

"In 2017, it's unacceptable for politicians to vote against policies to tackle climate change," said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth's climate change spokesperson.

"With unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and parts of Victoria experiencing a record dry June, now's not the time to be blocking action on climate change."

“Victorians will remember the opposition's vote against renewable energy jobs and cheaper power when they go to the polls in 2018.”

It is expected the Victorian Renewable Energy will:

Create 10,000 jobs in wind and solar across the state, from wind tower manufacturing in Portland to cable making in Tottenham, transformer manufacturing in Glen Waverley and Benalla, and warehousing/training in Lyndhurst.

See Victorian households save an estimated $30 on their power bill each year. Small-medium businesses will save $2,500 and big businesses will save $140,000.

Victoria's renewable energy rollout of 5,400 MW will cut electricity sector emissions up to 16 percent, helping the state meet its legislated net-zero emissions target by 2050.

Friends of the Earth have coordinated the community campaign for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target since 2014. 

Escaping energy policy limbo

After a week of uncertainty with energy policy, it was welcome news that a Strathmerton business is taking a step forward and embracing renewable energy.

Like many businesses, Booth Transport must have felt the financial sting from energy prices that continue to rise year on year.

In the pages of The News these stories are common, with many large-scale businesses facing tough decisions as the cost of power goes up and up.

Booth Transport decided to try something innovative to lower the power bills for its Strathmerton depot, and lower its carbon footprint at the same time.

Through an environmental user agreement with Moira Shire Council and the Sustainable Melbourne Fund, a state-of-the-art Tesla Powerpack was installed to help store energy from onsite solar panels.

On paper it seems to be an agreement where everyone wins.

Moira Shire Council does not have to pay for the installation, but helps loan repayments via its rates system.

Booth Transport does have to pay back for the expensive installation, but with power prices on the rise it could benefit in the long run.

And with the company expected to eventually employ up to 77 people at the Strathmerton site, less financial pressures from increasing power bills has to be good workers.

And let’s not forget the point of the expensive battery and solar installation, which is not just to lower power prices, but to lower carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

Although there are beneficial steps from individuals and businesses, any environmental gain is a drop in the ocean compared to action by governments.

Australia has had a tumultuous couple of years politically, as endless debate about climate policy has caused the premature political deaths of many leaders. 

After much debate, the former Gillard Government introduced a carbon tax which came into effect in 2012.

Seen as a broken promise in the electorate, the tax was abolished by the Abbott Government, but despite promises, power prices did not go down.

The country is currently in a state of limbo on energy policy, and uncertainty on future policy settings has led to a lack of investment in new power generation.

This, in turn, has been blamed for a rapid increase in power prices.

After much debate, both in parliament, and most probably within the coalition party room, Malcolm Turnbull unveiled his new energy policy earlier this week.

The National Energy Guarantee, or NEG, promises to increase supply and reduce emissions, but not in a way that will increase power prices.

The Prime Minister still needs to convince the Australian public it is the way to go.

But until there is more certainty on energy policy federally, companies like Booth Transport will take matters in their own hands to lower emissions (and the power bill).

Editorial from today’s Shepparton News - “Escaping energy policy limbo."

Envirokids rewarded for action

Tatura Primary School’s Envirokids group were named the best Student Action Team at the Victorian Government’s Resource Smart Schools Awards ceremony recently.

Teacher Donna Crosbie and several students travelled to the event at Melbourne’s Imax Theatre to learn if they were successful and be entertained by the energetic MC Costa Georgiadis.
Resource smart: Tatura Primary School’s Envirokids (standing)
 Bella Heart, Teige Mobberley, Noah Walker, Ava Fasano,
Cooper O’Neill, Leon Findlay, (front) Fayte Belmont-Wickliffe,
 Kalisha Hopson, Chloe Andonoudis, Sarah Saffron, Jemma
 Bailey, Taylee Shuttleworth.
The Envirokids group is made of 12 students in Years 3 to 6 who have been busy putting into practice programs to reduce waste and improve sustainability at the school. The group, elected at the start of the year, meets once a week to have a discussion and create a plan of action for the week.

‘‘They have helped educate their peers with initiatives such as bringing their lunch in a reusable container rather than in packaging and encouraging composting at the school,’’ Ms Crosbie said.

‘‘We have seen real results with the school’s landfill reduced by 33 cubic metres in the year.

‘‘While we have the Envirokids it is a whole school push to reduce waste.

‘‘The students will take part in Greater Shepparton Council’s Follow Your Rubbish Tours and recently worked with Goulburn Murray Water and the local Landcare Environment Group which discussed nature, waterways during a visit to Lake Bartlett.’’

The Envirokids also worked with Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Smart Program facilitator Alice Russell to do a rubbish audit of the school.

Declan Martin’s story in today’s Shepparton News - “Envirokids rewarded for action.”

Small town of Glen Innes to become renewable energy hub scattered with wind turbines

Tim Moses has 14 wind turbines
being constructed on his property.
A small town in northern New South Wales has become an epicentre for renewable energy, with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in wind and solar farms.

Perched on the Great Dividing Range, Glen Innes gets wind from all directions and as turbines fill the skies, the local economy is reaping significant gains.

For up to 30 landowners, having turbines on their land is an opportunity to "drought-proof" their income.
Tim Moses, a second-generation cattle producer is diversifying.

Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds

Dirty air in India and China. Tainted water in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxic mining and smelter operations in South America. Pollution around the globe now contributes to an estimated 9 million deaths  annually — or roughly one in six — according to an in-depth new study published Thursday in the Lancet. If accurate, that means pollution kills three times more people each year than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, with most of those deaths  in poor and developing countries.

Traffic moves at dusk in New Delhi, home
 to some of the world’s most polluted air. 
“Going into this, my colleagues and I knew that pollution killed a lot of people. But we certainly did not have any idea of the total magnitude of the problem,” said Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-chair of the commission behind the report. “I think all of us were really surprised when we saw this.”

The two-year project, which relied on data from researchers in more than 130 countries documenting the causes of disease and premature deaths in recent decades, found that poor air quality was the most significant pollution-related killer. That includes both outdoor pollution tainted by mercury, arsenic and other harmful particulates, and household air dirtied by the burning of wood, dung and other organic materials. The result: An estimated 6.5 million deaths in 2015 from heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory problems.

Read The Washington Post story by Brady Dennis - “Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds.”

Energy policy architect plays down carbon price fears as Malcolm Turnbull calls for end to ‘climate wars’

An architect of the government's new energy policy has played down suggestions the scheme represents a carbon price.

And the lobby group representing electricity wholesalers and retailers, the Australian Energy Council, has provided cautious approval for the Turnbull government's National Energy Guarantee, while warning significant design work was still required and that a carbon price is an inevitable outcome of the scheme.

The council, which represents wholesalers and retailers such as AGL, Energy Australia and Origin Energy, said the proposal was "a considered attempt to deal with the issues of reliability and emissions reduction at least cost”.

On Thursday, Energy Security Board member John Pierce declared that "we are not pricing carbon. What we are pricing is reliability, what we are pricing is the ability for the mechanism to be dispatched.”

Read the story in today’s Melbourne Age by James Massola and Peter Hannam - “Energy policy architect plays down carbon price fears as Malcolm Turnbull calls for end to ‘climate wars’.”

Labor says it will reach 50% renewable energy regardless of PM's guarantee

The shadow climate change minister, Mark Butler, says if state governments don’t veto the Turnbull government’s national energy guarantee, and if the policy passes into law, Labor will ramp up the level of emissions reduction in the event it wins the next federal election.

Mark Butler and the opposition leader, Bill Shorten.
Butler says Labor has been ‘crystal clear’ on energy policy. 
Butler says Labor has been “crystal clear” in discussions with industry stakeholders, and with state governments, that it will use any mechanism, either one of its own, or one it inherits, to drive 50% renewable energy by 2030.

In an interview with Guardian Australia’s Politics Live podcast, Butler says it is not relevant at the moment whether federal Labor supports or opposes the government’s new national energy guarantee, because the Turnbull government will not be in a position to implement it if the states veto it.

Read Katharine Murphy’s story on The Guardian - “Labor says it will reach 50% renewable energy regardless of PM's guarantee.”