Community Power Hub Launches in Gippsland!

From the GCCN Newsletter*

Gippsland Climate Change Committee and its partners the Energy Innovation Cooperative (EIC) and the Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group (MSEG), this week launched the Gippsland Community Power Hub (GCPH), to help community organisations in Gippsland action their sustainable energy ideas. The Hub will provide support to community organisations in Gippsland through three hublets (Eastern, Central and Southern) that address critical issues such as poor energy literature, access to technical advice and funding sources, and partnerships and links with renewable energy providers in Gippsland.

People across Gippsland want to shift to renewable energy to reduce the long-term cost of energy, improve the reliability of energy supply, and forge a path to a more sustainable Gippsland. Yet over three quarters of Gippsland’s population say they know little about renewable energy options. A study by Sustainability Victoria found that 91 per cent of people in the Latrobe Valley support renewable energy, however, of this same group just 4 per cent said they knew how to shift to sustainable energy source. This demonstrates the need to empower communities to make the sustainable choices they already want to make.

The Hub’s work focusses on three key areas: 1. Technical advice – support to understand the technical and legal requirements for community energy projects including behind the meter agreements and power purchase agreements. 2. Financial support – assistance with project budgets and funding sources. 3. Connecting communities – providing links and partnerships between communities of shared sustainable interest and building support for renewable energy service providers in Gippsland.

Gippsland Community Power Hub’s Coordinator, Darren McCubbin, said the program’s mission aims to empower local communities with the knowledge and the education to adapt to renewable energy sources, with action that can be scaled Gippsland-wide. “Literally, our future depends on us living with less impact on our planet and its precious resources.”

*GCCN website is here.

Is Climate Delay the new Denial? by Nola Kelly

First published by the Metung Science Forum

The rhetoric started with “the climate has always changed” and moved on to “well it does seem to be changing but it is not human induced”, and seems to now have reached “well the climate does appear to be changing and humans may have had some impact but we will deal with it later”. Probably by taking some small actions in 2049. It has come to the point when anyone with a brain capable of analysis, and even a basic level of critical thinking, has finally come to the conclusion that they must accept the science on climate change or risk looking like a total fool. But still we dither, talk about what might be happening, think about exciting new technologies that will save us all, talk some more about perhaps setting some targets into the future, but all the time still actually doing next to nothing.

It has always intrigued me how some of us become captivated by reality TV shows involving such things as cooking or DIY when often none of the skills that may have been learned from the program appear to be translated into our lives. We don’t all of a sudden become gourmet cooks or build that extension with our own two hands. They do however serve a very real purpose – they allow us to live vicariously. We might “feel” like a great cook while watching Masterchef as we eat our takeaway, have a real sense of pride and achievement in that new deck we just helped build by watching and commenting as someone else built it, or even believe we are fitter because we just watched the football. Talking or reading about climate change can become the same, we feel as though we are doing something without actually having to act. As Greta Thunberg would say it becomes “Blah, Blah, Blah” and nothing really changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe issues and problems certainly need to be researched and discussed, but once we reach the stage of believing the science, even if we can’t recite all the minute detail, it surely then becomes time for us to act on those beliefs. Put our “money where our mouths are” so to speak. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk! With knowledge comes responsibility. Once we know something we can’t unknow it. Once we become aware of injustice, or wrong doing, or the looming crisis humanity will face in the future if we don’t take steps right now to mitigate it, we are obliged to act. To quote an old saying “If you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem”.

It might sound trite, but for us to make changes to mitigate the looming disruption that nature will force upon us, our lives actually have to feel different. Business as usual is no longer an option. We all need to do whatever is within our power to act. Install those solar panels, buy an electric car, plants some trees, reduce consumption, lobby a politician, join a demonstration, spread the word and lead by example. Do whatever we can but we need to DO SOMETHING NOW. By acting we can regain our power, feel less helpless, and play a constructive part in the world. Delay is no longer an option and we all have a role to play.

Electric Vehicles on Phillip Island (Part 2) by Zoe Geyer

Solar charging Nissan Leaf at home

First Published in Bass Coast Post*

​How much does it cost to run an EV compared to a petrol vehicle? “Much cheaper to run. A 300km charge will cost $7.20 off peak or $14 peak from grid power (current Origin charges) but we are able to charge for little or no cost from our solar system. Minimal service cost, for example brake pads last much longer due to using regenerative braking to slow down in most situations and no oil to change.”

“We have 10kw of solar on the house roof and a Zappi 22kw charger in the garage. We can fully charge in just over 2.5 hours. We often just charge for 1 hour before going out and gain an additional 100km + in the battery which is fine for travelling in the Bass Region. We are learning to time charging with peak solar output to reduce our carbon footprint & costs or, if required, we use off peak grid power to maximise economy.”

EVs are becoming more prevalent and more affordable year by year. Many countries, including the UK, China, Japan, France and Canada, have banned the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The Victoria Climate Change Strategy is targeting 50% of all new car sales to be zero emissions vehicles by 2030.

But back to Michael and Theresa’s comment that their 2019 Renault Zoe ZE40 is an economic purchase over time but more expensive to buy. The upfront expense can be challenging. I was able to buy my own Hyundai Kona EV through my small business as a work car with a monthly payment plan, but I was fortunate that my circumstances allowed it – otherwise the upfront cost of an EV would have been beyond my grasp.

So how do we bring about easy access to EVs for the community to align with Bass Coast’s climate action plan? Totally Renewable Phillip Island recently contacted the Good Car Company (part of EnergyLab, dedicated to the clean energy transition) which buys second hand EVs in Japan and brings them to Australia for resale.  Their model is a bulk buy for interested communities. They have worked with communities including Hepburn, Southern Tasmania, Canberra and Geelong.

We asked the Good Car Company if they could offer their second-hand EVs for sale on Phillip Island and Bass Coast. They were supportive of a bulk buy but want to understand what interest there is in Bass Coast. Have you thought about buying an EV? If you have, please fill out the TRPI survey or respond via direct link. The survey takes a couple of minutes. Note, this is not a commitment to buy. Let’s just see where it takes us.

*the author is co-ordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island. The full article is here. Earlier blogs on EVs here and here.

Electric Vehicles on Phillip Island (Part 1) by Zoe Geyer

image: Jeni Jobe

First Published in the Bass Coast Post*

On Wednesday I was sitting in a café talking with a dear friend (face mask carefully tucked under chin while sipping coffee) about how to fix the climate change mess when the earth shook. Silence descended as everyone was stunned by the shaking leaves of plants, clinking of glasses, and rumbling under our feet. After a moment my friend broke the silence: “I’m just waiting for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to arrive now.” We’re all feeling a sense of foreboding as we look for a pathway to a future world of sunshine, rainbows and optimism.

It’s in this space that so much is happening at grass roots level. Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI), a community group targeting 100% renewable and net zero carbon emissions by 2030, is one of many groups committed to taking action. And the momentum is growing. In 2019 Bass Coast Shire declared a Climate Emergency and earlier this year the council adopted a climate action plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. The Plan identifies 15 direct actions that households can take, three of which focus on transport: switch to low or no carbon transport; purchase more efficient passenger vehicles; and purchase an electric vehicle (EV).

EVs are more efficient than standard combustion engines, the plan notes. “Even when powered by the standard grid electricity, EVs reduce carbon emissions, noise and tailpipe pollution, improving public health and reducing ecological damage. They also provide energy storage potential which could support future energy grid flexibility.”

Well, fantastic. But how does owning an EV work out in practice? We consulted Michael and Theresa who live in Corinella and are the proud owners of a 2019 Renault Zoe ZE40, a small car that is the best-selling EV in Europe. They’ve had the car for one year as of this week and bought it to take a small personal action in response to climate change. Importantly the 300km range suited their recent move to Corinella. “We visit family in Warragul and Ferntree Gully, have commuted to work in Pakenham and make many trips to Wonthaggi for shopping.” But is their EV more expensive than a ‘normal’ car? “Yes, for a comparable small car but we don’t have the running costs so definitely an economic purchase over time.” (to be continued)

*the author is co-ordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island. The full article is here. Earlier blogs on EVs here and here.

Gippsland Climate Change Network Message by Carolyn Crossley

From the GCCN newsletter*

The Gippsland Community Power Hub along with six other Community Power Hubs, funded by Sustainability Victoria, was announced in July by the Honourable Lily D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. Since then, GCCN with our program partners Energy Innovation Cooperative and the Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group have worked together to establish the Governance Group which has been meeting regularly and now we have engaged a highly skilled and enthusiastic team to take the project forward. We have completed four of our implementation ready projects already. Watch this space!

We have other projects that are progressing well. So far, we have engaged with over 100 business across Gippsland introducing them to the sustainability Victoria Small Business Energy Saver Program. The Biomass project is moving into the next phase including biomass crop trials and further investigations into Pyrolysis options in the Netherlands through Nettenergy systems and here in Australia.

The Energise Gippsland Solar Program and the New Energy Jobs Fund (NEJF) Energise Gippsland: Renewable Fund continues to make the introduction of solar systems affordable for individuals and community groups. Darren McCubbin our CEO is working towards strengthening our connection with the Greenhouse Alliance and the Gippsland Councils with the aim to meet regularly to work together on targeted advocacy, capacity building activities and regional partnership projects.

Big news on Renewable energy in Gippsland.  Congratulations to the successful grant recipients in the first round of funding from the Latrobe Valley Energy and Growth Program includes Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation for the 4.9 MW solar farm and solar installs on the Heyfield and Districts Museum, Coongulla Community Hall, Heyfield Golf Club and Heyfield Tennis Club.

The realisation of the Gippsland Renewable Energy Zone! The Osmio Australia Delburn Wind Farm proposed 200MW, and the Octopus Australia, and the Clean Energy Finance proposal for the 80 MW solar farm with up to 80 MWHr battery storage at Fulham are at the Planning application stage. The Perry Bridge Solar Farm has already received planning approval for the 44 MW solar farm. 

The Federal Governments Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 will establish a framework for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore electricity projects. This is an exciting step toward establishing a new offshore wind industry, led by Star of the South and Gippsland! These projects offer an exciting new way for the Gippsland community to transition to a new clean energy economy. Exciting times!

*GCCN website is here. The author is Chair of this organisation.

The Melbourne Riots and Climate Change

A peaceful and well organised demonstration in Melbourne c.2016 (FOE)

Unruly, violent, and unco-ordinated protests against the pandemic lockdown by small groups continued in Melbourne recently. Propaganda, mainly from the Murdoch media, has blamed unionists and the protests ostensibly were caused by the Andrews government’s attempts to control the spread of the virus in the construction industry. In reality, anti-vax and anti-lockdown campaigners, along with conspiracy nuts and neo-Nazis, have hijacked the angst felt by some in the construction industry and community at large. Much of their actions are antithetical to the union* movement, (e.g. being a leaderless rabble as opposed to highly organised) and definitely to science. Unions also are concerned with the common good rather than individual freedom.

How is this connected to climate change? I have recently written that the anti-vax and anti-lockdown movements centre on the denial of medical science and this opposition goes hand in hand with climate change denialism. Guest blogger Mark Kilpatrick wrote a similar critique of this three years ago – well before the covid pandemic. Those vigorous climate change deniers in the political sphere – Palmer, Kelly, Christenson, Roberts and no doubt many others – are quick to exploit these divisions and disturbances. I have argued previously that, as the result of their actions can be fatal, they are also criminal.

An article by Josh Roose in The Conversation suggests that the demonstrators’ main concern is employment insecurity exacerbated by the current political miasma. The ability of these various political rogues to use the social media to promote their cause is also important. To that, we can add the mainstream media, especially with regards climate science and in this regard, the propaganda of the Murdoch media has been appalling. These conflicts, with violence begetting violence and the proliferation of videos of the violence on the social media, have distracted many from the overriding issue of global warming and divided friends and family over vaccinations and violence. As Michael Mann has pointed out distraction and division are now some of the main tools of the climate change deniers.

The demonstrations highlight the need for a just and peaceful transition from the fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy one, better media laws and improved science education both for students and for the general public. In the longer term when our government eventually adopts a climate emergency, everyone who wants work will be fully employed and reaction in the media will be muted.

*many years ago, I was a member of the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association. Since then I have written a sympathetic history of the Victorian Coal Miners Association.

A Metung View of COP 26 by Tom Moore

So, Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor will shortly be in Glasgow to represent us at COP 26. On our behalf, and ably supported by the Murdoch media, they will be lecturing the world on how to use Technology to reduce carbon emissions. No doubt the world will listen intently – especially the French!

But neither of our representatives seem to have the faintest understanding of what technological solutions are available. As evidenced by their incredibly arrogant and incompetent performance to date, it seems clear that the technologies they intend to support are limited to Coal, Gas and Carbon Capture and Storage. This government is so clearly dependent on the fossil fuel industry for its survival that it dares not take any reasonable stance on climate issues. It is safe to say that around the world we are for many reasons and incidentally not just climate-related, no longer regarded as a progressive nation.

On the issue of climate change we are clearly seen as one of the world’s worst laggards.

Even as recently as this month, this view has been strengthened by our government thumbing its nose at the world by appointing Brendon Pearson, a staunch advocate of the fossil fuel industry, as Australia’s permanent representative to the OECD. Pearson is, of course, the man who supplied the lump of coal that Morrison brandished in Parliament. I believe that the world has accepted that any progress made in Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be achieved despite the Morrison government’s efforts not because of them.

And then again based on the incredibly incompetent diplomatic efforts of our prime minister and defence minister over submarines, even if we do commit to net zero by 2050 at or before the conference who will believe us. Australia has given a solid impression that we cannot be trusted to keep our side of the bargain. We break a contract without notice having made statements of solidarity as recently as a month ago – a contract signed in good faith with a good friend who put its trust in us, extending support to Australian workers moving to France and providing French experts to work in Australia. And according to the Prime Minister the French should just accept that we had to change our minds and run along into the arms of our better friends.

So, are you proud to have this prime minister and his energy minister represent you at one of the most important world meetings ever? Or are you, like me, wishing to distance yourself from what they are likely to say “on our behalf”? Fifty years ago, I made a life-defining decision to become a proud Australian Citizen. I will never regret doing so, but there are limits to how proud we can be on the world stage when our federal government simply refuses to carry its weight to help make things right, especially on climate change.

*Tom is a member of the Metung Science Forum

Drawdown – a review by Tessa Campisi

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming Edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin Books, 2017)

Meticulously researched, visually engaging, and optimistic in tone, Drawdown is the ‘coffee table’ book of the climate movement. With contributions from an interdisciplinary team of experts, the book synthesises and compares 100 ways in which humanity can reduce emissions, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and as the title declares ‘reverse global warming’.

The solutions are grouped into seven categories (eg transport, women and girls, land use) and ranked by to their ‘drawdown’ potential, according to the authors’ modelling. Whilst some solutions focus on technology and efficiency, such as Geothermal (ranked #18), many solutions present novel ways in which social and cultural shifts can reduce emissions, such as Ridesharing (#75).

Drawdown is an excellent example of effective science communication. Complex or unfamiliar concepts such as the energy grid or soil microbiome are explained succinctly yet clearly, backed up with scientific data carefully selected to illustrate an argument.

Importantly, Drawdown debunks the ‘silver bullet’ fallacy – the idea that climate change can be magically ‘solved’ by new technology. The authors acknowledge the multifaceted nature of the crisis, and therefore the need for diverse and even seemingly conflicting solutions. Whilst Drawdown extols the benefits of a ‘Plant-Rich Diet’ (#4),  it also highlights ‘Managed Grazing’ (#19) as a drawdown strategy. Further, whilst carefully emphasising their role as ‘transition technologies’, controversial solutions such as ‘Nuclear’ (#20) and ‘Waste-to-Energy’ (#68) are examined for their merits and limitations.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis, I like to flip open Drawdown and read about a solution that somebody, somewhere, is working on. It goes beyond touting the virtues of energy efficient lightbulbs and electric vehicles, and hints that another world is possible. Drawdown is not simply a blueprint for a low-carbon future, it is a vision of a world which is more just, more connected and more respectful towards the planet.

*copy in the EGSC library. The author is a regular visitor to Gippsland

East Gippsland Shire Joins Cities Power Partnership

Congratulations to the East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) joining the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership (CPP). Environment Connect Spring 21 announced that “A motion was carried unanimously enabling East Gippsland Shire Council to sign up to the Cities Power Partnership at the 24 August 2021 Council meeting.” At least two other Gippsland councils – Wellington and Baw Baw – have joined the CPP.

The CPP website states “The Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership is Australia’s largest network of local councils leading the way to a thriving, zero emissions future. We are made up of over 145 councils from across the country, representing almost 60 percent of the Australian population. Local councils that join the partnership make five action pledges to tackle climate change. Whether it’s putting solar on the local library, switching to electric buses, or opening up old landfills for new solar farms, the possibilities are endless.”

Environment Connect noted “The CPP program focusses on supporting and celebrating the emissions-reduction success of local councils across Australia. The free program connects local Councils with shared emissions reduction project interests across the pledge areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport and community advocacy. Partner councils submit five pledge actions and report on progress in an annual survey.”

Councils choose pledge actions from the 40 that the CPP offers under the categories of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Transport and Work Together and Influence. Shire Environment officer Rebecca Lamble listed the five pledge actions nominated by the EGSC as follows: “1. Roll out energy efficient lighting across the municipality 2. Facilitate large energy users collectively tendering and purchasing renewable energy at a low cost. 3. Provide fast-charging infrastructure…at key locations for electric vehicles. 4. Develop education and behaviour-change programs to support local residents and businesses to tackle climate change through clean energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport, and; 5. Support the local community to develop capacity and skills to tackle climate change.”

The first three actions pledged are already in progress and scheduled to be completed by 2022 although facilitating other large energy users besides the shire to join Power Purchase Agreements (such as Patties?) may be an ongoing role. The EGSC has chosen “low hanging fruit” but the pledges of numbers 4 and 5 are interesting and any progress in these areas will be beneficial. One wonders what sort of programs the shire will use for this and how they assess them.

Caught in the slipstream Part 2 by Michael Whelan

First published in the Bass Coast Post *

​Councillors noted that our communities here in the southeast region are also already experiencing both acute and chronic climate change impacts and determined that we should speak out about this. I made the following comments last week on behalf of the group.

“With Australia’s land areas having increased in temperatures by 1.40C degrees, communities are already experiencing devastating impacts resulting from these temperature increases.   Every municipality in the southeast of Melbourne has a story to tell about how increasingly intense heat, bushfire, rainfall, storm surge and drought hurt their communities, particularly the vulnerable.”

“It is past time to get serious on this issue. Our beaches are disappearing, the Brighton bathing boxes are being shored up with sandbags, beaches are being replaced by rock walls, valuable buildings are being damaged by storm surge events and bayside drainage is no longer coping with rainfall events.

“The IPCC’s recent Sixth Assessment report presents an absolutely frightening picture of what the future holds for us, for our children and grandchildren and generations to come. The impacts and costs are only going to worsen.

“Local government and the communities they represent are at the frontline of dealing with climate change impacts, but they are the least resourced to address the problems.

 Science says that to have any hope of keeping global temperatures to 1.50C above preindustrial temperatures, we must stop using fossil fuels and rapidly deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency. We need to invest in technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere. We wait at our peril.

“Local government needs urgent financial assistance to enable them to invest in infrastructure that will protect communities from climate impacts. All levels of government must work together to accelerate this transition ensuring our economic well-being and making sure vulnerable members of our community are protected.”

The group also lamented the distraction from urgent and effective climate response that COVID 19 pandemic has caused. “The devastating bushfires of 2019-20 should have been met with shock and awe; however, they have been overshadowed by the more evident, acute threat of COVID-19. We must not lose focus on climate change, a chronic threat, even as we finally forge our way forward into a COVID-normal world. When it comes to human health and well-being, and good governance, our current response to this climate emergency falls woefully short.”

I am consulting with my Bass Coast council colleagues with a view to putting a notice of motion acknowledging the dire warnings presented in the IPCC report and seeking to look at how we can be most effective in the context of Council’s Climate Change Action Plan and take actions that will make us more resilient in the challenge of climate change.

*see here. Michael Whelan is a Bass Coast councillor and chair of the councillor advisory group to South East Councils Climate Change Alliance.