We posted a Sustainable Seymour update on the BEAM website a few weeks ago – see http://www.beam.org.au/post/sustainable-seymour-projects-on-the-go/. 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 https://www.frontierimpact.com.au/resources). ClearSky Solar Investments (http://www.clearskysolar.com.au/) 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 https://corenafund.org.au/) 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 fuzzylogicon2xx.podbean.com/e/energising-the-community/ 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 http://delwp.vic.gov.au/energy/electricity/victorian-feed-in-tariff. 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.