Victorian Greenhouse Alliances 2017 Conference report

David Atkinson recently attended the Victorian Greenhouse Alliances conference on behalf of Mitchell Shire Council. Greenhouse Alliances are partnerships of local governments and other organisations responding to climate change through implementing projects. Covering 70 councils and most of Victoria, the ten Greenhouse Alliances work with their members, community and partners in mitigation, adaptation and sequestration activity. His report follows:

The plenary on what can Australia can learn from Germany’s energy transition featured key speaker [Dr Anne Kallies, RMIT] from Germany who spoke about energy transition and bringing back utilities to local government. In the post-war period, Germany had a mix of private and public utilities. By the end of 2012, 190 communities ran their own power grid, and 70 Municipal utilities had been founded. She called it “Re-municipalisation” – i.e. local government [LG] taking back responsibility for local services – especially the operation of local distribution grids. She likened it to “empowering the public”. Could Mitchell Shire [MSC] run their own electricity grid???

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The Tallarook Arboretum needs our help!

BEAM members have enjoyed many get togethers at the beautiful Tallarook Arboretum. Now it’s time for us to give back to this special place.

Hello friends and fellow BEAM members, I’m writing a plea for help from the Dabyminga Catchment Cooperative (DCC, which incorporates Tallarook and Reedy Creek landcare groups). We have been responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the Tallarook arboretum for the past 10 or so years. We have quarterly working bees with an average of 6-8 participants, but now we are asking for BEAM’s help.

The arboretum was flooded in spring, washing away most of our lovingly applied mulch. Now, weeds abound and the whole place is looking a bit worse for wear. Our faithful band of workers need some assistance, so if any BEAM members can help, we will be eternally grateful.

When?     Sunday March 26th, 10am – 12 noon

Where?    The Tallarook Arboretum, opposite the Mechanics Institute Hall

What to bring?  Wheelbarrows, garden forks and rakes for mulch spreading, handsaws, secateurs, muscles and something to share for lunch.

Please wear gloves and suitable shoes for outdoor work

Mark South- DCC

Sustainable Seymour update 2nd March 2017

We posted a Sustainable Seymour update on the BEAM website a few weeks ago – see  Since then, there has been little direct progress but lots of excitement from the Community Energy Congress in Melbourne and announcements from the State Government.

Update on projects

The feasibility studies for pumped hydro and Chittick Park are still in progress and we hope to have some preliminary results very soon.  The Seymour Structure Plan is getting closer – latest information is that it will go to Council around April and will then be released for public comment – but don’t sharpen your pencils quite yet.  We will resume our discussion workshop when we have something to bring to the table on these projects.

Community Energy Congress, Melbourne, 27 &28 February

Jeff Wilmot, Marie Gerard and Peter Mitchell attended the congress on behalf of BEAM.  Jeff was sponsored by Sustainability Victoria, and Marie and Peter were sponsored by Mitchell Shire Council – many thanks to those organisations.  Also present were Elyse Kelly (Environmental Programs Coordinator, Mitchell Shire Council), Malcolm Green (also part of the Sustainable Seymour network), Shirley Saywell, Andi Kofler and others from Euroa Environment Group (our partners in the Pumped Hydro Project), Geoff Lodge from Goulburn Valley Community Energy, Tom Brown from Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance (we plan to meet with Tom in April), and more than 450 other people from around Australia and overseas.  There will be more information from the Congress that we will share with you as it comes in, but below are our initial reports:

My interest in attending was to explore ways that we could go from feasibility studies to fully funded and well managed projects.  For example, groups setting up projects need to have contracts with funders (who may be donors or investors), with owners of sites for the solar panels, with suppliers and installers, and with purchasers of the electricity.  To assist groups like us, Frontier Impact Group have developed a Behind the Meter Solar PV Funding Guidebook (see  ClearSky Solar Investments ( can match investors with investors;  they cite returns of 6-8% for investors so solar is a good bet.  Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Asutralia (CORENA – see work on a donation system for renewable energy projects.  All these groups are not-for-profit.- and that’s just the start.  So lots of choices for the future – and a lot more to think about.

I also attended an Action Planning session on solar gardens, and came away with the impression that there are no significant legal barriers to setting up virtual power networks (although the hope for a lower tariff for local use of the existing powerline network has not been approved).  Another aspect in the discussions was equity – a key theme of the Congress in general.  Local networks can be used to share the bounty provided by the sun between those with solar panels and those who – for whatever reason – cannot install solar panels.

So lots of possibilities and lots of groups that can help us make it happen.


The first session on the second day was called “Action Planning” in which participants could put up topics for discussion and action.  Curious about what interest there might be in the technology, I suggested pumped hydro electricity storage as a topic. Thirty people came to the session, including Shirley and Andi. Elyse kept notes on the discussion and will type them up. Members of the group came from all over south-east Australia, from Mullumbimbi in northern NSW to Kangaroo Island. Some already had ideas for projects.  At Mullumbimbi they want to make use of an existing mini-hydro generator, at Bendigo they want to use old mine shafts and in Gippsland they want to use the pit and pondage when Hazlewood power station shuts down.

 The resulting action was to set up an interest group to share data and progress.  One member of the group is making a submission on the subject to the Federal government’s Finkel Review into the National Energy Market.


We were interviewed during the conference – for an exciting broadcast, go to and find the speaker bar.  Our segment begins at 16:55 minutes.

News from the State Government

Feed-in Tariffs have been raised from 5 cents to 11.5 cents. 

See  This is very welcome for people who want to encourage renewable energy.  But there has been some concern, in particular about the possible higher prices imposed on households without the capacity to install solar panels.  The opposition is planning to block the legislation, but there are many other better options that could make this a win-win for communities such as Seymour.

Victoria now has stronger laws to combat climate change.

Environment Victoria passed on the information that the Victorian parliament passed into law a new Victorian Climate Change Act on 23rd February.  It’s a significant step forward. The Act establishes the framework for eliminating greenhouse pollution in Victoria over coming decades.  In particular, the Act:

  • Establishes a target of net zero climate pollution by 2050
  • Requires five-yearly interim emissions targets from 2020 onwards
  • Improves accountability and transparency on efforts to cut emissions
  • Ensures all arms of government are factoring climate change impacts and emissions reductions into their decision-making and policy setting.

Legislating targets to get to zero emissions means that every investment and government decision made from here on needs to consider how it helps the state eradicate greenhouse pollution.

We congratulate the State Government for taking these two big steps towards a low carbon economy.

Social change projects from around the world with Kai Saywer

Kai Sawyer, peace activist, student of nonviolence, and permaculture educator from Japan, shares his story of exploring the world of “peace” and “sustainability” in a 2-3 hour presentation on Wednesday the 22nd of February at Abdallah House in Seymour.

Please join us at 6pm for a Pot Luck dinner (bring food to share) before the presentation which will begin at 7:30pm. Space is limited to around 30 guests, so please call Richard on 0402 503 763 if you want to come. Kai will be requesting for a donation, so please consider contributing.

“From the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to living in the jungle of Costa Rica with no running water or electricity, to my visits to various amazing permaculture communities. My story focuses more on people and relationships (social permaculture), social change and empowerment, rather than food production. I conclude with how I am cultivating the cultural soil to plant radical practices of peace and ecology through my project called Tokyo Urban Permaculture.

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Sustainable Seymour Projects on the go!

Sustainable Seymour Update February 2017

Renewable energy continues to be the main thrust of the Sustainable Seymour group.

Pumped Hydro: The pumped hydro feasibility study is under way, led by Roger Dargaville from the Melbourne Energy Institute. On 25 November, a meeting in Seymour with Roger and six staff from Goulburn Valley Water was followed by inspections of the two project sites at Trawool and Euroa. The meeting was attended by Jeff Wilmot, Richard Telford, Julie Mitchell, Malcolm Green and Bob Brown from Seymour and Shirley Saywell, Andi Kofler and Charlie Brydon from Euroa. Jeff reports:

Due to the low head and large amount of water needed, the capacity of the Strathbogie project, utilising Waterhouse and Abbinga reservoirs, is about 2 MW, which is the capacity of the diesel generator now used at peak times. But at such time,s the water demand for other purposes is also high so may not be available for hydro-generation. New pipe is also needed which could cost $4 million.

At Trawool the head a(290 metres) and volume of water (5o megalitres) being considered equate to potential energy of 40 MWh. Generator capacity could be 4 MW or more depending on the time required to run. The potential income from “arbitraging”, ie buying cheap power to pump and generating at times of expensive power, could be $1 million per year. The granite wall would withstand the daily cycling involved as it is impervious. There would be no safety issues as the water level would change slowly, but some kind of cage would be required over the outlet pipe. The reservoir would still be available for recreation. Another possible purpose for generation could be to level the output of the Cherry Tree Range wind farm across the river.

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End of Year Get Together at Tahbilk

Please join the BEAM committee, along with Euroa Environment Group and Strathbogie Voices at our annual end of year celebration at Tahbilk Winery, Nagambie.

Come along and bring your friends – it should be a great day out. See details below, and a map to the venue here. Please RSVP to book your spot! email: or call Caro on 5784 1177 or 0400 831 3302016-beam-end-of-year Download the PDF of the flyer here.

Plastic is not so Fantastic

Rivers and Ranges Community Leadership Program (RRCLP) is the newest of Victoria’s many leadership programs. The program covers the municipal areas of Mitchell, Murrindindi, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges. The program is based on community capacity and resilience building for the purposes of creating leaders connected to their local regions.   As such, they are well placed to identify local issues and needs and identify solutions. Leaders are a good resource in building resilient, connected and thriving communities.

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The program takes a group of up to 24 diverse participants through a ten-month learning experience and exposes them to leaders at all levels of government. At the completion of the project the participants are expected to participate in community leadership and service.

Each cohort of RRCLP completes an environmental or art project as part of their learning. This year’s cohort split into two teams to complete separate environmental projects.

Team Bravo have chosen to tackle the problem of plastic in the environment. We are working with the Flowerdale Men’s Shed to produce a song about the 5 ‘r’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle. This song will be released via social media and we will attempt to measure the project’s impact via this platform also.

As a complimentary addition to the project, we have printed reusable calico bags which we will distribute at the November Tallarook Farmer’s Market complete with information regarding the dangers of plastic and ways to reduce its use. These bags will also contain either a reusable keep-cup or reusable plastic drink bottle.


Children at the Flowerdale Primary School decorated some of the bags during a session where they learned about the 5 ‘r’s. We have surveyed the children on their use of the 5 ‘r’s and will measure the impact, if any, at the completion of the project via a follow-up survey. We are hoping the final survey will show a decreased use of plastic and a better understanding of the issues. The children were very engaged during their session.

Collaboration with other community groups was another strong element of our project and we will be creating a map to show connections between community groups both before and after the project’s completion. BEAM Mitchell Environment Group was very supportive of our project and have produced a flyer with tips on reducing plastic use for inclusion in the bags. Many other groups offered support along the way.

All involved groups will be acknowledged by use of the bags.

You can follow our progress on our facebook page by the name of Plastic Not So Fantastic.

Linda Kennedy

Ten tips to reduce plastic

  1. Take your own shopping bags (don’t accept single use plastic bags)
  1. Drink from a reusable drink bottle or keep cup
  1. Choose items with less packaging
  1. Shop at the farm gate or at Farmers’ Markets
  1. Buy in bulk
  1. Say no to plastic straws
  1. Take lunch to work or school in a reusable lunch box (without added plastic wrapping)
  1. Grow your own veggies
  1. Don’t line your bin with plastic (easy if you have chooks to eat messy scraps)
  1. Shop second hand or at op shops

And now here’s Charlie Mgee with his song Plastic! from his new album Grow Do It.

Who is Trent McCarthy?

Trent McCarthy will be presenting ‘From Little Things New Jobs Grow‘ at our AGM on the 20th of August. How regional local governments and communities can drive the clean energy economy and create thousands of new jobs.

Trent McCarthyTrent will share his insights and experiences about to create local prosperity and employment through connecting new and old technologies, the sharing economy and grassroots sustainability initiatives, drawing upon successful programs in Australia and overseas. Are we ready to take up the challenges and opportunities?

Trent McCarthy is CEO of Central Ranges Local Learning and Employment Network, a dynamic not-for-profit working to improve the outcomes for young people in the Mitchell, Macedon Ranges and Murrindindi Shires. Trent brings to the role his unique background as a strategic facilitator and educator, specialising in leadership, creativity, entrepreneurship, communication and sustainability. Trent has also worked as a director and comedian, performing in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival since 2005.

In his spare time, Trent serves as a local councillor in Darebin, where he has championed the award-winning Solar $avers program and various community solar initiatives. An Executive member of the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action, Trent is a former Vice President of the Victorian Local Governance Association. In 2011, Trent was a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Awards as the co-founder of the Whitelion Bail Out, working with over 1,000 business leaders to raise $5 million to support youth at risk. A third generation game show winner, Trent believes we create our own luck.

Hear Peter Lockyer and Trent McCarthy on Earthchat