Gippsland News & Views

Could Bairnsdale Burn?

(The Guardian)

The London fires in July left me with the feeling that the historic fire of London could be repeated, and if so, is any residential area safe from the catastrophic fires the climate emergency helps create. An article in The Observer noted that 41 houses burnt in three locations as the temperatures approached 40C and a comparison of this recent event was made with the great fire of London in 1666. 

“Guillermo Rein, professor of fire science at Imperial College London, said that strong winds played a major factor in spreading the 1666 fire, which lasted for four days and ended when soldiers blew up houses to create fire breaks, and the strong easterly wind died down. ‘While it was blowing, the [great fire of London] was completely unstoppable’ he said. ‘So let’s put it this way. Tuesday could have been even worse if we had more wind.’ Gusts reached 14mph last week, barely above average.”

There have been a number of examples in North America of substantial towns being destroyed by bushfires. Examples in Victoria include Marysville in the Black Saturday fires of 2009 when whole rows of houses burned and at a number of locations in the Black Summers fires when many residences were lost – all or nearly all, in rural locations. During these recent fires a number of substantial towns were threatened, including Bairnsdale, and the fires advanced at a terrifying pace on a number of occasions.

These fires were the third I had prepared for in the last 20 years, although the first in an urban situation, and there was little I could do beyond keeping a close ear to the ABC emergency radio. Fortunately, the conditions were benign and the threat passed. But we are left with the question ‘Could Bairnsdale burn?’ and the answer is almost certainly yes.

A bushfire that approached the town during catastrophic ‘code red’ conditions would almost certainly make severe inroads destroying many residences and taking lives. The river flats and the river are easily surmountable obstacles and the combustible material in urban environments is plentiful – wooden fences and buildings, trees and shrubs, cars, even asphalt roads. As global warming gets worse we should be making detailed plans for the defence of the town.

Local ‘Voices’ Group Forms

Helen Haines current member for Indi

Media Release 25th August 2022

A number of local citizens have had three meetings to date to discuss the formation of a Voices of The East group (VoTE) based in Bairnsdale. “Voices” groups provide a means whereby more people can have their say about what issues are important in their lives and what they as individuals can do about them. The “Voices” groups are non-party political and are not a political party. Anyone who is not already a member of any political party and who is concerned about honesty, integrity and the state of our Australia democracy within all levels of government, may join these groups.*

The “Voices for Indi” group was active in the federal seat of Indi (won by Cathy McGowan in 2013), and more recently “Voices” community independent candidates won six seats in the May 2022 election. Currently there are several “Voices” community groups supporting community independent candidates for the November Victorian state election.

Some of the agreed basic principles of Voices of The East or VoTE are integrity, honesty and transparency, trust, respect, inclusivity and equality. A spokesperson said Voices of The East plans to organise a series of kitchen table conversations (KTCs) around East Gippsland. KTCs are small friendly groups of friends, neighbours or family who want to express and prioritise what’s important and to have their say.

Interested people are warmly invited to take up this unique opportunity to join VoTE and perhaps offer to help or attend KTCs in their towns and villages around East Gippsland.

Contact Grace on gracemc1936@gmail.com

*the Climate 200 organization supported many of the successful candidates in the recent Federal election and is supporting some ‘Voices’ candidates in the approaching State election. The three essential issues that the so-called ‘teal’ candidates ran on were climate change, integrity and gender and would apply generally to all levels of politics. Blog on Voices for Monash here .

Our Climate Election: a small step in the right direction

As the dust settles on the Federal election and Labor’s climate legislation passes both houses it is clear that this has been the first true ‘climate election’ – something I, and many others, have been calling for years. The final results saw great gains for the climate independents (from 4 to 10) and the greens (from 1 to 4) in the lower house and one new climate independent in the Senate. In the Senate the Greens and climate independent Pocock hold the balance of power. Less publicised has been the demise of a number of climate change deniers through retirement (Kevin Andrews) or defeat (Eric Abetz) although the LNP have still managed to introduce a few new climate troglodytes.

For those doubting the climate election the ABC noted that “according to the ABC’s Vote Compass, more people listed climate change as their most important issue this election than any other topic. Amazingly that was true not just overall, but in every single electorate in the country except for two — Longman and Flynn — where it was the second-most mentioned issue after cost of living.” Perhaps that alone helps explain the rise of ‘teals’ in safe liberal seats and the defeat of prominent party members – so called ‘Liberal moderates”.

But we must remember that all the powerful climate-denying lobbies still exist and are active, as is the poisonous filth emanating from the Murdoch media still attempting to dictate the agenda. The ALP too is in receipt of generous donations from the fossil fuel industry and appears to consider gas and fossil fuel exploration OK. A bipartisan approach on climate appears too much to hope for and the LNP (with one exception) have signalled their continued opposition by opposing Labors modest 43% bill.

With the State Election fast approaching, both major parties would do well to remember that the Climate Emergency is well and truly upon us, and business as usual no longer appropriate. At least one source indicates that the ALP could achieve their greenhouse emissions reductions target of 2030 simply by ceasing logging of our native forests now.

My EV journey Continues Part 3 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

What surprised you the most when you switch to an EV?

While everyone had done their homework before getting an EV and knew they could outperform most ICEs in a drag race, nearly all were surprised at how truly phenomenal the acceleration is (or can be, if you don’t use an “eco-switch” to limit it and save energy).

What disappointed you the most when you switched to an EV?

The only disappointments mentioned were not to do with the EVs themselves, but rather the slow rollout of: (a) any meaningful government policy on EVs, which has left us well behind where we could have been in terms of the types of car available and their price – relative to many other countries, there’s still not a lot to choose from and they are still more expensive than they should be; (b) rapid charging stations – depending on the size of your battery, this can be a particular problem if you want to go through Gippsland and up the south coast of NSW.

They are coming, but if you have an EV now, you need the chargers to be there now too; and (c) bi-directional charging, which I spoke about in my previous article – it allows you to charge your car for free on solar during the day then use it to power your home in the evening.  Bi-directional charging technology operates fine overseas and is coming to Australia, but its not here yet.

What would you have done differently?

My favourite answer to this question was “Buy an EV earlier!”.  A couple of people mentioned that they could have done more research before buying but then, on reflection, both said any trepidation they had about getting an EV was unfounded because they are totally happy with what they have, so more research would probably only have led them to the same conclusion.

The final question sums up the experience in one simple score that I believe says it all: on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (ecstatic) – how pleased are you that you bought an EV?  Apart from one self-declared “hard marker’’ who rated their experience “around 8”, all scores were between 9.5 and 11! 

In other words, once they got over any teething difficulties, these EV pioneers are ecstatic about their decision to switch to an all-electric car.

*Full article here.

My EV journey Continues Part 2 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

What’s the best thing about owning an EV?

The answers were split between the “feel-good” factor on one hand: knowing you’ve organised your personal transport as best you can to minimise your contribution to the mounting climate crisis; and the “petrol head” answer on the other: it’s a simple fact that as far as acceleration goes, a standard EV beats a standard ICE hands down every time.

Also, not having to pay for petrol ever again rates pretty highly, particularly as petrol price rises make the economics of driving an EV more and more appealing, as did the option of single-pedal driving – Nissan call this the e-pedal, a “way of including a gentle but effective braking effect (regenerative braking) on the accelerator pedal.  You will very rarely need to use the brake pedal (which is why brakes pads last a very long time on EVs)”. 

But it’s not all beer and skittles, so I also asked what is the worst thing about owning an EV? The clear winner again was range anxiety (or range hesitancy or uncertainty). 

“It is important to calculate your day to day driving distance and make sure you buy a car that has twice that range”. The EV tells you the percentage charge you have left in your battery at any given time, and it also converts that into a guestimate of how many kilometres you have to go. But the actual distance you have left depends on a range of factors, as it does with an ICE, like whether you use the heater or the air conditioner, how many people in the car, tyre pressure, whether you are driving on the open road or stop-start, whether the terrain is hilly or flat, the battery’s temperature, etc.

So you are never quite sure exactly how much is left, thus the conventional wisdom of never running down to below about 10 or 15% of the battery’s capacity.  “Having driven the car for over 20,000kms, I’m still watching the Range figure constantly, even though I know I’ll have around 100kms of range left after driving to Melbourne or the Latrobe Valley and back to the Bass Coast”…

Fortunately, we have a several rapid charging options in Bass Coast and the council will soon be installing four more as part of their plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.  But another note of caution: if you will be reliant on a particular rapid charging station for a trip, it can pay to check beforehand that it is in working order (vandalism is a problem at some locations) and that the technology is compatible with your vehicle (it’s VHS versus Betamax all over again when it comes to the plugs – it’s not that hard to work out what you need but it does take a little doing at the start and you don’t want to be relying on a charger that doesn’t work with your particular vehicle).

*Full article here.

My EV journey Continues Part 1 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

I’d like to share what some of the pioneer EV drivers in Bass Coast say they have discovered about going all-electric, which might help you fill in a few gaps if you are thinking of making the leap. I asked Cassie Wright and Rob Gray (Nissan Leaf), Donald Ellsmore and Cheryl Padgett (Volvo XC40), Werner and Ursula Theinert (Nissan Leaf), and our Mayor, Cr Michael Whelan (Hyundi Kona) about their experiences. This is what I learned.

Jumping straight in the deep end: what’s the most important thing anyone thinking about buying an EV needs to know? The consistent answer was to understand the difference between an EV and an ICE car (internal combustion engine) and remember to do a bit of planning before taking off.  Fuelling an EV is not a simple matter of stopping for a few minutes to buy petrol at one of the zillion petrol stations between where you are and where you want to go. 

​“Whilst it is nice to not have to study the big illuminated fuel price signs at service stations, it was comforting to know they were there when needed during the days of diesel car ownership.” If you’re just going into town and pottering around, which is what most people use their car for most of the time, then making sure you are sufficiently powered up is not hard.  Either use your own, free electricity to charge up at home on a sunny day, or plug in overnight to use off-peak electricity using the EV’s inbuilt timer to turn charging on and off.  You can charge slowly through a normal power point using a portable charger (a heavy duty cable with a box in the middle), or you can install a home charger (a dedicated unit on a wall near where you park your car, inside or outside) to speed up the process.  Either way, it’s not too difficult.

But if you are going on a longer trip, you’ll need to do a bit of planning: how far are you going, how big is your battery (some will make it to Melbourne and back without needing a charge; others not so), how “full” will your battery be when you take off, will you be able to charge up overnight if you are staying away, will you need to use rapid charging stations along the way. If so where are they and how long will you need to stay at each?  Sound hard?  Not really.  There are websites (like www.abetterrouteplanner.com) and phone apps (like www.chargefox.com/) that work much of it out for you, and if you do the same trip a few times (like Melbourne and back) you’ll learn the routine pretty quickly.

*Full article here.

Darren Doesn’t Care Part 2 by Tony Peck

It is actually impossible to plan to ensure a decent future for a community when your government and all its policies were spent denying there is a problem. They spent their time vehemently arguing that we should burn fossil fuels indefinitely. Chester has avoided planning for a decent future by his ‘I’m not as concerned as you’ attitude. To his credit Chester did have a moment where he bravely stood up to extremists in his own party and advocated the acceptance of the dangerously inadequate net zero by 2050 target eventually reluctantly accepted by his government. There are few places in Australia with a better infrastructure for a renewable future with a comprehensive distribution system already in place. However Chester’s government delayed until it belatedly updated legislation to allow offshore wind farms in Australian waters.

His government has long actively thwarted plans for wind, solar and other renewable energy solutions. His government made Australia an International pariah as they acted to delay uptake of renewables. The uncertain future for our regions workers is directly tied to this delay and uncertainty, and to Chester’s own government’s dedication to a fossil fuel future despite the harm this will cause to generations to come. Indeed we are seeing serious impacts already, with intense, widespread fires, frequent intense storms, rain events, floods. Scientists have long predicted these outcomes but Chester’s government has gone against recommended actions at every step.

Chester should acknowledge that as well as the employment of people in the Valley the future of our nation is at risk. We are the 13th largest economy in the world. We also have amongst the highest per capita emissions in the developed world. Our governments have committed us to ongoing mining of fossil fuels and indeed exploration which will feed even more emissions in future. Scientists are predicting that impacts of global heating on Australia will be severe.

This man wasted time when he could make a difference and has left every person not only in Gippsland, but the nation, in a worse place. To now express concern for employees disadvantaged by his government’s inaction is pathetic. There is no justification in delaying the transition to renewables. Those adversely affected by the change must be supported and given a real future as part of addressing the climate emergency. 

*there are a number of critical blogs of Darren’s position on climate. See here and here. The author is a member of EGCAN

Darren Doesn’t Care Part 1 by Tony Peck

Darren Chester* has published a long post on his Facebook page discussing the Integrated System Plan (ISP) recently released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Chester’s response includes a summary of the plan, but his focus quite rightly is Gippsland. One of the key points Chester advocates is a delay in closure of the remaining brown coal power stations as they ‘only’ contribute 7.5% of our national electricity grids emissions and Australia only emits 1.5% of global emissions. He justifies this due to his concern for the workers employed in the fossil fuel industry.

Chester’s argument has sparked my anger. I was one of the East Gippsland Climate Action Network members that met with Chester in 2019, not long before the unprecedented fires that engulfed much of the East coast of Australia. Chester’s response to our anxiety about the rate of global heating and his government’s poor response to action was that he was not as concerned as we were. Of course we probably already had low expectations as Chester has consistently and indeed always voted with his government as they have eliminated the price on carbon, eviscerated every policy that was designed to reduce emissions and stymied effective action by states and industry to tackle the global emergency.

So this man, who was an active opponent of change, is berating the lack of care for people in his electorate who will lose work when the power plants close. Where was his planning and care for a transition when he was in power? Where was his foresight in ensuring new industries were in place to ensure a viable future for the region? Where was his support for a just transition from fossil fuel to a renewable energy led future for our region? Where indeed is his care for the people of Australia as they increasingly suffer the devastating effects of climate change. (to be continued)

*there are a number of critical blogs of Darren’s position on climate. See here and here.

100 Phillip Island households to share renewables? by Zoë Geyer

Phillip Island Battery Site (Mondo)

Condensed version first published in the Bass Coast Post

WHAT is the future of renewable energy in the local community? How do we manage the transition to renewables without leaving any of our community behind? These questions are front of mind at Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI) as we start recruiting 100 households on Phillip Island to take part in a 12-month tariff trial using a community battery for virtual storage. Indeed, topical questions of these times, as the Australian Energy Market Operator hit the headlines this month with the unprecedented suspension of the national electricity market.

Back on the Island, the last few months have been busy with great bounds forward in two projects. Both projects are based on Phillip Island and are funded by the Victorian Government under the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Neighbourhood Battery Initiative. They explore neighbourhood batteries as a vehicle for community energy sharing, increased social equity and access to locally produced renewable energy.

TRPI and the Energy Innovation Co-operative has partnered with Mondo, a service provider in community mini-grids and regional energy, to lead an upcoming tariff trial using the Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System Big Battery at Wimbledon. The project is supported by Bass Coast Shire Council. The 5MW battery is currently under construction off site and will be commissioned later in 2022 at the council-owned Gap Road site near Wimbledon Heights.

The tariff trial will look at locally produced household renewable energy in a community-benefit sharing model for social equity. The participants will be involved in co-designing the trial structure with the project partners.

Who can participate? The trial is open to people with houses on Phillip Island (owners, renters, holiday home-owners), people without solar panels as well as people with solar panels, and people from all walks of life – we’re looking for diversity and to enhance social equity in the community’s access to renewable energy.

Earlier this year TRPI conducted a community survey where over 95 per cent of respondents said YES or MAYBE they would consider donating their excess solar to others in the community to increase social equity. Given the generosity shown by the community to date, we are very interested to see the results of the co-design process and outcomes of the trial.

The Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System (PICESS) will be a permanent installation on the island and will mainly address the need for peak supply during summer and improve the resilience of supply in summer while also being available at other times for other network, market, or community services. This can lead to an improvement in the consistency and reliability of the electricity on the Island. We also plan for this battery to enable new technologies and trials and increase the solar capacity on the island…

TRPI’s vision is for Phillip Island to be carbon neutral and 100 per cent renewable by 2030. These neighbourhood battery initiative projects are stepping stones to a thriving local renewable energy movement. This is an innovative project happening in our shire, with the community actively engaged to have a say in how this model will develop through the region.

Zoë Geyer is co-ordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI)

10 years of Gippsland Climate Blogging

Your Carbon Footprint by Ray Dahlstrom

The first blog in this column was posted on the 28 November 2012 – nearly ten years ago. The early blogs were mainly part of my political campaigns – running for office and trying to form a ‘climate’ party. This mainly involved letters and press releases to the local media. Gradually news items, opinion pieces including those by guest bloggers, and images, were all added to the mix and by mid-2015 the blog had become a regular twice weekly affair. At 300 to 500 words per blog, I estimate that about 250,000 words have been written in 600 plus blogs.

The aims of blog have not changed. The subject matter has stayed local and restricted to wider Gippsland, and where wider commentary or news has been involved written by local authors. The latter especially applies to book reviews and general comment on climate change. My style has been deliberately folksy and personal where appropriate, accurate, and endeavouring to keep the science as simple as possible. It has attempted to remain positive and hopeful in the long process of combatting the forces of denial and vested interests, although occasionally negative pieces have slipped through, one of which, an early piece on wet bulb temperatures, has had quite a number of readers over the years.

The monthly readership has been between 800-1200 for the last five years with occasional peaks above. My most read blog remains a piece on the CSIRO bushfire predictions in 1987 published before the black summer bushfires took off in Gippsland at over 7000 reads.

Partly due to my workload, and partly relief at having the climate deniers and delayers booted out of Federal government I have decided to reduce the blogs from twice a week to weekly. It will also no longer be as regular with occasional missing weeks, but the struggle goes on. The vested interests, their acolytes and the deniers are still with us, holding positions of power and influence in parliaments, the media and various other organisations; they have not gone away.

The recent election of an ALP government in Canberra seems momentous but in reality it is a small step in the right direction. During World War II Winston Churchill said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” So, hopefully, it is too with the struggle for real action on the climate emergency.