Renewable Energy and our local Pollies

Letter to the Bairnsdale Advertiser (published 17.2)

Dear Sir, congratulations to our local member Tim Bull and the Nationals for supporting the passage of the permanent ban on coal seam gas in parliament. It is a pity that the Nationals took so long to come on board instead of supporting local farmers and landholders from the outset.

Now they have a similar and much bigger problem with the coalition in Victoria joining in the Federal government’s war on renewable energy. Without a shred of doubt all aspects of renewable energy including solar, wind, battery storage and micro-grids are beneficial to regional Victoria, country towns both large and small and to farmers, businesses and ordinary citizens.

In last year’s Federal election I noted that the Waubra community north of Ballarat have drought proofed their farms and their community by earning $8000 per annum for each wind generator installed on their land. As there are 128 of them this adds an extra one million dollars to the community each year. The community also receives an annual return – enough to bring their local pub and other organisations back to life. Further 200 people were employed in the manufacture (which could be done in Morwell or somewhere in Gippsland) and installation of the generators and 26 permanent onsite jobs. This keeps a large amount of money in the community and helps revive it. As well as providing renewable energy there is no pollution, greenhouse gases are saved, there is no big hole in the ground and farming continues with minimal disturbance.

It is fairly obvious that there are large parts of Gippsland that are suitable for either wind or solar development and these are still compatible with current farming practices. Where conditions are not suited to wind solar may provide the answer like the recent project for a $20 million community solar farm at Wangaratta. Other types of renewable projects might be suitable for community adoption. For example tidal energy at Lakes Entrance or pumped hydro in the Hazelwood open cut once the mine is closed.

As well as provide jobs many of these projects could be financed locally with our savings which currently are likely to be invested in the Adani coal mine (along with your tax dollars) or one in outer Baluchistan. (Unfortunately as far as I am aware at the moment there are no organisations or banks where you can use your savings to support local renewable energy projects.) Every dollar not spent on your electricity bill is a dollar that remains in the community. It is decentralisation in action – a policy mouthed by the political parties but rarely acted upon.

So what will our representatives do on this issue? At the moment they are not only backing the wrong horse they are doing their best to stop the obvious winner. Some encouragement and a benign political climate is probably all that is needed for renewable projects to boom.