Gippsland News & Views

Offshore Wind a local issue in South Gippsland

The Star of the South offshore wind project in South Gippsland reportedly obtained finance late last year.  I have written about this project previously and recently urged that it be fast-tracked. However the project has been delayed waiting approval from the Federal government. And the decision is in the hands of energy minister anti-wind politician Angus Taylor of whom the Australian Financial Review recently noted was “a formidable wind farm foe”. To counter this the Friends of the Earth recently ran a petition urging federal approval so that the project could proceed.

Organiser Cam Walker noted “The Star of the South (SOTS) windfarm proposed for a section of the coast off South Gippsland would be the largest offshore windfarm in the world and, in a very real sense, be a game changer for the energy system.  The project’s predicted generation capacity totals 2,000 MW.  The largest remaining coal powered generator in the Latrobe Valley is Loy Yang A, which has a maximum capacity of 2,200 MW.  SOTS would provide for the energy needs of 1.4 million households. The project would create an estimated 12,000 jobs in the construction phase and 300 ongoing positions.”

This is an important local issue in South Gippsland both state and federally, if there ever was one. Here is a major project that could increase electricity supply and thus reduce price, eradicate local unemployment, utilise the Latrobe Valley infrastructure and be environmentally and greenhouse friendly. This project if fast-tracked could be an important part in the just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. One wonders what the local (National Party) member has to say about all this.

Break the Silence on Climate Change by Deb Foskey

Climate change and drought. Coming to Gippsland with the support of the Nationals

Edited* Media Release from the Gippsland East Greens

“It’s been less than a fortnight since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report told us that we must act strongly to have any hope of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees,” said Dr Foskey. “If ever there was a wake-up call, this is it. The thousands of scientists who contributed data to the report say that keeping the temperature within 1.5 degrees will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ by 2030. For individuals, that means considering not just how much energy costs but how much we use and where it comes from. For governments, it means removing support from coal, gas and oil to renewable energy sources, halting deforestation and radically transforming transportation.

“Whoever forms government after the Victorian election will have to take on this gargantuan task and bring the people along with them. Let us not hear the Nationals and Liberals bleating that Australia is too small to make a difference; per capita we are among the world’s largest producers of carbon dioxide. Our Pacific neighbours are begging us to take action as their ability to survive depends upon it. If we think we have a refugee problem now, just wait until the seas wash over coastlines all around the world.

“Incumbent Tim Bull still hasn’t decided whether climate change, which he acknowledges is happening, is natural or human-induced. I can lend him many authoritative books and articles to read because it is irresponsible of him, as our voice in the Victorian Parliament, not to be fully informed on this matter. Is he blind to the impacts of temperature rise and changed rainfall patterns on East Gippsland, where agriculture is already feeling the pinch?

“While Labor has good policies on making renewable energy more widely available, it still pushes coal…The IPCC has made it clear that the time for positive actions for our future is now. The Greens want to ensure that our children and theirs experience a world at least as good as the one we have known. I challenge the other candidates for Gippsland East to declare their stance on climate change and outline the policies they will put in place to mitigate it.*”

*Editors Note: I have deleted parts of the MR that have attacked the ALP. Whilst much of it I agree with including the coal to hydrogen fiasco it is in the short term a matter of maintaining and possibly improving the Andrews governments’ momentum on renewable energy as opposed to the Lib/Nats opposition to the RET and having no climate policy. We are concerned here only with the issue and not partisan politics. In Gippsland East of the six candidates so far asked whether they accept the “scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming” four (2 independents, the ALP and Greens) have answered yes. For practical and strategic reasons as has been outlined many times here our preference is for ‘outstanding’ Independent candidates. For the full MR go here.


Bass Candidate Climate Statement & Narracan Forum Notes

We Must Demand Urgent Action on Climate Change

(Media Release from Clare Le Serve Independent candidate in Bass)

Today Independent Candidate Clare Le Serve called for urgent action on climate change. “The Independent Panel on Climate Change (recent report) is alarming. I care about my children and grandchildren and I want strong urgent action to ensure they have a sustainable future,” she said.

“The way the Canberra politicians dismissed the IPCC report is irresponsible. The Wentworth result tells us that the community is concerned, and that the community is demanding a strong focus on renewable energy and other low emission projects.

“Coal is dying, we need to rapidly move on. The new big batteries being installed are capable of stabilising the grid and we need to invest in the future not live in the past,” she said.

“However, it seems the Victorian Liberals are just as committed to the coal as their Canberra mates. Matthew Guy’s pledge to ‘scrap’ the Victorian Renewable Energy Target if elected is unbelievable. It shows he is out of touch, this would kill off new investment in renewables an area that will generate far more jobs in the longer term.

“His statement that he “will not allow our coal resources to be wasted, I will not allow such economic advantages to Victoria to be kept in the ground for the sake of ideology” shows how out of date and risky he is. The Liberal Candidate for Morwell Dale Harriman is reported to be actively encouraging the construction of a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley.

“I support the rooftop solar and battery initiatives of the Victorian Government (as) this is the way to go. My difference is I want to see more. But I haven’t seen a single announcement on renewable projects from the Liberals other than their attack on the ALP plan and a half-baked plan to approve onshore gas projects.

“We need urgent action to achieve a clean energy future, Mr Guy’s comments supporting coal causes me great concern,” Ms Le Serve said.

Brief Notes on Baw Baw Sustainability Forum Candidate’s Forum (Mal McKelvie)

We had an audience of 27 people with 7 candidates attending our election forum on Thurs 25th at REstore in Yarragon. All candidates who had nominated at the time of organising were invited by mail and electronically to the addresses they had given to the VEC. The 7 who attended were Christine Maxfield (Labor), Reade Smith (Sustainable Australia), Rhonda Crooks (Derryn Hinch Justice Party), William Hornstra (Greens), Geoff Pain (Health Australia), Robert Danieli (Australian Country Party/ Give it Back), Michael Fozard (independent). Gary Blackwood tweeted afterward that he had not been invited but he had been – via his registered address in Melbourne. We really wanted him there and I tweeted a question to him with a note to say hope to see you on Thursday at the forum, a few days before.

My personal impressions of their (climate) responses were…Reade Smith (candidate in the Upper House) was impressive. He has had numerous jobs, is Al Gore trained on the climate reality project. He is very aware of the climate issues and is taking action personally and politically…Will Hornstra is young and is well across the climate and social issues that he is passionate about…Michael Fozard talked a bit about climate change but also his son’s involvement in the coal to hydrogen project. He seems to want a foot in both camps.

Making every election in Oz a Climate Referendum

A recent article by Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan and Geoff Cousins in the Guardian called for the Wentworth by-election to be made into a Climate Referendum. The victory of Dr Kerryn Phelps has to a large extent fulfilled this with a record swing against the incumbent party in one of the safest seats in Australia and with every indication that climate change was a very important issue. Earlier in the year the safe seat of Wagga in NSW was won by independent Dr Joe McGirr who had climate change at the top of his agenda.

In a way my puny ‘Vote Climate Vote Solar’ efforts over the last 10 years were a prototype of the ‘climate referendum’ campaign. Those campaigns were never about winning but had the multiple aims of making climate change and renewable energy important issues, getting publicity on this wherever possible and just possibly influencing some of the other candidates. After eight elections in eight years I have decided to continue working from the sidelines mainly in the social media. (For anyone interested accounts of all my campaigns in pdf files can be found at the bottom of this page.) So the wins of McGirr and Phelps give us hope and the aims are now much higher – the removal of as many of the climate change deniers from our parliaments as possible.

Our election in Victoria is less than a month away and there are several organisations striving to make this a ‘climate referendum’ including the Act on Climate group of the Melbourne FOE and Environment Victoria. For my own part I have been asking every declared candidate the question “Do you accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming?” and publicising all the positive responses with pressure group Gippsland2020’s social media. This has been quite successful with 2020’s twitter post of Independent candidate in Morwell Tracie Lund’s reply getting over 200 engagements. So far 10 candidates in four of the five Gippsland electorates have said ‘Yes’.

And then there is a Federal election coming up next year in May or before as well as a NSW state election. Rumours on the social media suggest a prominent Independent candidate may line up against our climate-denier-in-chief Tony Abbott in Warringah. Let us not forget some of the others including Craig Kelly, Barnaby Joyce a number of other Nats, and Kevin Andrews and some other IPA cohorts in Victoria. The job before us all is to make every election a climate referendum.

More Basic Climate Questions for Gippsland Candidates

When asked about critical aspects of climate change our Lib/Nat pollies procrastinate and either refuse to answer the question or waffle on with the same end result.  But they are either following the party line (often deviously so as not to put off voters) or they do not understand the science, possibly both. A typical example is local member Tim Bull for Gippsland East who says that he accepts climate change but that the jury is still out on whether it is natural or not. In fact this is mere flummery trying to disguise an anti-science line by his party. It is his way of toeing the line. It is therefore a priority with anyone concerned with the urgency of global warming to expose this. This in turn requires the individuals who are asking these questions to quickly understand when the answer is scientifically incorrect, evaded or ignored.

Mr Bull the jury is not ‘still out’ on whether the global warming is natural or not. This is an argument of the status quo or ‘do nothing’ school – that because it is natural you can do nothing about it and therefore no political action is required. This argument is the main fall-back position of the climate deniers. The fact that our warming planet is caused by human activity has been accepted by mainstream science for many years and is grounded on the basic physics of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect, in turn, has been known for nearly 200 years and the details and measurements of the ‘effect’ have been refined over the years. It is the governor of earth’s climate and increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means the earth’s temperature will increase.

It has been noted that the BBC is now giving courses to its journalists on how to handle and ask questions on climate change which presumably includes the basic physics. Energy commentator and sustainability expert Alan Pears argued in this month’s Renew that our leaders need to be re-educated on climate matters: “But many of our leaders just don’t seem to grasp these principles. Maybe we need to set up remedial education for our leaders in basic physics…Senior managers in the ‘top 100’ businesses could also be included. And senior public servants.”

Whenever a government sympathetic to the science is elected they should immediately embark on a massive education program on the basic physics of climate change for the whole public. This is something that was missing from the Gillard government, and also missing from progressive Labor governments in South Australia and Victoria. It is only by such campaigns that the financial power of the vested interests can be matched and overwhelmed. Then, perhaps, we will get the action that is necessary.

Some Sustainable Projects for the Latrobe Valley

An article published by the ABC noted that all 3 Gippsland electricity generators in the Latrobe Valley will have to close by 2030 if Australia is to reduce its CO2 emissions in line with the 1.5C aim of the Paris Agreement. To some this is inevitable and requires a rapid but orderly transition from fossil fuel based power to renewable energy. I sketched out a very rough proposal for this in 2013. Since then I have made numerous suggestions of how this ‘just transition’ can happen quickly in the valley and will summarise a few of them below.

But for this to happen by 2030 these, or similar projects, will probably all require government assistance in some way – incentives, finances and planning, guidance etc. And these projects can, and should, be designed to take advantage where possible of the valley strengths including manufacturing and infrastructure. The following suggestions are in no particular order

1.Turning  waste fly ash into cement along the lines advocated by think tank Beyond Zero Emissions. The valley has at least 20 years supply of fly ash and this would be positive step towards a carbon neutral product. Touted by valley resident Howard Williams as a win/win situation.

2. Various floating solar farms have been advocated by Chris Barfoot and others at locations such as Lake Narracan and the Hazelwood Pondage. No site preparation is needed, the floats can be manufactured locally and electricity produced can hook straight into the valley infrastructure.

3. A major local pumped hydro project was suggested by Paul Treasure. Designed to be both local and connect to valley infrastructure Paul’s proposal would store as much energy as Yallourn W currently produces. This suggestion gained a fair bit of traction in the social media and attracted some green criticisms. A modified version or similar alternatives are well worth considering.

4. Star of the South is a major offshore wind farm off the Ninety Mile still in the planning stage. Again the power is designed to make its way to Melbourne via the valley and is a major development eventually employing 300 workers. This project should be fast tracked.

5. Heat pumps are now being manufactured by the Earthworker Co-operative in Morwell. Supporting this project with a bulk buy for public housing may help it grow quickly.

These projects are no means exclusive but combine a number of features – being as local as possible, supporting valley manufacturing and infrastructure, using various combinations of renewable energy and energy storage and with government support. So far most of the wind, solar farm and energy storage projects in Victoria have been outside Gippsland. What is needed is an enthusiastic local member in Morwell to push a variety of projects perhaps like some of those I have outlined.

More on Kalbar Resources Rare Earth Claims

Last week I wrote* generally and critically about Kalbar Resources Rare Earth (RE) claims for their Fingerboards Mineral Sands project. In short their website claimed that REs were an ‘essential’ component for permanent magnets in both wind turbines and electric motors. Their promotional material implied, but did not state outright, that the revolution in wind generation and electric vehicles could not occur without the Fingerboards mine. I disputed this but did not provide much detail.

So having published the blog I continued the search for more evidence and came across an Amory Lovins article published last year. Entitled “Clean Energy and Rare Earths: why not to worry” the article focusses mainly on supply and demand of REs and to a much lesser extent on their specific interest to us. In this article Lovins is most enlightening.

The ‘myth’ that REs are essential to the renewable energy revolution as permanent magnets in wind turbines and electric motors appears to have originated in “2015 [when a] MIT Technology Review asked, “What Happened to the Rare-Earths Crisis?”… [and]  misleadingly called rare earths “crucial to the permanent magnets used in wind turbines and motors in hybrid or electric cars…”

Lovins expanded: “Some such reports persist even in 2017. But they’re nonsense. Everything that such permanent-magnet rotating machines do can also be done as well or better by two other kinds of motors that have no magnets but instead apply modern control software and power electronics made of silicon, the most abundant solid element on Earth. The first kind is the induction motor, invented by Nikola Tesla 130 years ago and used in every Tesla electric car today. The second kind, less well-known despite origins tracing back to 1842, is the switched reluctance (SR) machine, likewise made of just iron and (less) copper, but using a different geometry and operating principle.”

It is clear that the rapid adoption of renewable energy is the first step to mitigate global warming. This includes the widespread, if not universal, adoption of both wind generation and electric motors. Kalbar’s intention is to exploit this but their claim for REs and permanent magnets is both incorrect and misleading. One wonders how many of their other claims will stand up to close scrutiny.

*In this I noted my intention to do a future blog on Kalbar’s carbon emissions. I have since learned that their emissions will be part of their Environmental Effects Statement on Air Quality. The emissions are yet to be calculated but “likely to be more than 200,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per annum.”

Asking Gippsland Candidates the right Climate question

Melbourne University energy hub senior adviser Simon Holmes à Court has been asking politicians and would be politicians a simple question on climate change. Some time ago he asked Liberal candidate in the Mayo by-election Georgina Downer “can you please let us know whether you accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming?” More recently he has asked the same question of the Liberal candidate in the Wentworth by-election David Sharma, with, so far, no response. Simon has then publicised the response or non-response to his followers on twitter.

Following Simon’s example I decided to ask the same question to candidates in the five Gippsland electorates starting with Gippsland East. Although still 50 days from the election it soon became obvious that this was an exceedingly difficult task and that I should concentrate on Gippsland East. So far I have asked the question of the five known candidates in the electorate and all have responded.

The question obviously has two parts – accepting the scientific consensus and that the warming is human caused. A spokesman for local member Tim Bull replied to my email but his answer was vague and ambiguous. Our local member accepts climate change but ignores the scientific consensus and claims incorrectly that the jury is still out on whether the warming is caused by humans.

The three candidates who have so far responded positively to the question are the Greens Deb Foskey and Independents George Neophytou  and Matt Stephenson. Their replies have been publicised on facebook and twitter through Gippsland2020. Amazingly the tweet on the latter’s reply was retweeted by Simon and received about 200 impressions (see above) – not quite viral but a big response in local terms. Stephenson is a twitter novice and unfortunately has not been able to take advantage of this.

It has been drawn to my notice that the Baw Baw Sustainability Group will be having a candidate’s forum in the seat of Narracan and there well may be forums in other electorates – quite possibly Morwell. Such events are ideal for the question to be posed by a single questioner and asked of all candidates present requesting that they respond with a single word – yes or no. And if no forums are held the same question can be directed at candidates through their contact details listed by the Victorian Electoral Commission.

I am sure that Gippsland2020 will happy to promote any of the positive responses in Bass, Gippsland South, Morwell and Narracan as they have been doing in Gippsland East. I will relay any positive response readers from any of these electorates send me.

Kalbar and Climate Change – the Greenwash

Protest against the mine.

The proposed Fingerboards mineral sands mine is becoming an election issue in East Gippsland with 3 candidates so far expressing opposition to it. Kalbar Resources have recently opened a shopfront in Bairnsdale with an apparent ‘greenwash’ claim of ‘sustainability’ in its window. Since no mine is sustainable their ‘environmental’ claims rest upon the need for rare earths (RE) in the transition to renewable energy.

Their website claims correctly that “the Rare Earths is a group of elements that are not actually that rare in the earth’s crust, but are rare to find in economic concentrations. The Fingerboards deposit is rich in the highly valuable rare earths…” and then incorrectly asserts “These rare earths…are essential to…temperature magnets used in windfarms, and the powerful batteries in electric vehicles.” Elsewhere it is noted that the Enercon wind turbine from Germany – currently the world’s largest – has no components with RE minerals. Some unconfirmed estimates suggest that as little as 10% of wind generators have RE minerals in them.

Further the website claims “Once in production, the Fingerboards is expected to supply up to 10% of global demand for rare earths required for the development of clean energy. This will be pivotal, to Bloomberg’s estimate of wind and solar energy reaching a combined 48% of global energy capacity by 2040. The proposed Gippsland off-shore wind farm would consume roughly 50% of the Fingerboards annual Neodynium and Prasodynium (NdPr) production, enabling the construction of 14,000 gigawatts of wind power annually; enough to power 14 million homes. Rare earths production from the Fingerboards is enough to construct 2.8 million electric vehicles annually.”

Aside from an outdated Bloomberg estimate the tone of the website implies that none of this will happen without the mine. As well as noting the absence of RE in at least some wind turbines (above) Kalbar are not considering alternative supplies, product substitution and possible recycling of these materials. That without the Fingerboards mine the clean energy revolution will not occur is arrant nonsense. And it will almost certainly happen a lot faster than the Bloomberg prediction.

Though promoting the clean energy revolution and RE in their publicity it should be noted that a ‘typical Fingerboards concentrate’ has about 2% RE which in turn represents slightly over 20% of the estimated value. This can be compared with 30% titanium mainly used in paint and 16% zircon used mainly in ceramics. I have requested a full analysis of their typical concentrate from Kalbar – that is the missing 52% – but as yet have had no reply. I suspect that it probably contains the usual nasties including radioactive Thorium and possibly Uranium.

The long and short of it is that the Kalbar website is mainly greenwash and the clean energy revolution is going to happen anyway. I hope to comment in a later blog on the greenhouse gases that such a project as Kalbar envisages would produce.

Carbon Capture and Storage and Golden Beach by Karen Vogel*

Golden Beach and its neighbour, Paradise Beach. Both towns sit beside one another and form part of the Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland, Victoria. Both towns are quiet, at last Census in 2016 the average age of residents was 60, there are around 750 homes approximately ¾ of which are holiday homes. We are currently fighting a battle with organisations called CarbonNet and AGR Australia P/L. The CarbonNet project is investigating commercial scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) just off the coast of Golden Beach.

We are taking a stand against plans for CCS for a number of reasons:

  1. The government refusal to move away from coal and into renewables
  2. Millions of taxpayer dollars already wasted on Carbon Capture over the past 10+ years with seemingly nothing to show for this
  3. Risks to the environment and community with leakage
  4. Decades of ongoing monitoring into future generations, of which will further tax payer dollars will be wasted
  5. We dispute that this idea will meet global warming targets as it will create more emissions for this to work, not less

Whilst the local media has been following this story, we need something bigger now, and more help letting the world know of our plight. We find it interesting that such a small sleepy town is the target for these plans, highly convenient that there is considered to be a rock base just off Golden beach, CarbonNet finding has capacity to store the Carbon.

Investigations are currently in process, we have had Seismic Survey Testing earlier this year, with further Seismic Testing planned over a 15,000km stretch over a 5 month period, beginning in October 2018.  Communication with the community to date has been minimal and effects of this testing has been significantly downplayed by CarbonNet executives who have previously advised community members we would not notice Seismic Testing, members instead formally reported complaints of illness, affects to dogs and property damage. All complainants are still awaiting formal response from CarbonNet along with inspections on property.

CCS planning at Golden Beach has been known by the local council (Wellington Shire) for many years, though never communicated or advised to ratepayers. Only since the town has formed a small committee demanding adequate communication to the community on the project, has there been some improvement with this.  We will continue to protest against these plans.

You can find more information about our Community group on Facebook here and our Website here.

*Edited. Other blogs on this subject here and here .