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???

Following her presentation there was a response panel made up of Benjamin White from DELWP, Alison Rowe of MEFL and Johnathon Prendergast of UTS who l was particularly impressed with. He was a solar consultant who said that the Victorian government has set a target of 30% of energy to be renewable two years ago with 40% target by 2025.

Next there was then an information session on operating large scale renewables in L.G. This was discussed by a panel of speakers;

  1. Adam Clarke from the City of Newcastle.
  2. Russell Harris of Woolemi Consulting who talked about a solar farm on the sunshine coast which was originally a sugarcane farm and had issues with soil.
  3. Keith Reynard who was a councillor of Bendigo city council [COGB] who say they use 550Gw/h p.a. of power which equates to $80M-$120M that leaves the region in electricity bills.

This makes you think – how much is leaving MSC doesn’t it as we don’t produce any power, just pay it?

The COGB have a target of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2020 (from 2011 levels) and a 100% municipal renewable energy goal by 2036. They are putting in EV charging points [which l noticed were already in Margaret River when l was over there for my nieces wedding earlier this year!] and have solar PV installations which are producing the following power to;

  • Library 20Kw
  • Regional archive centre 30Kw and;
  • Tramways 50Kw
  • Ok they sound like small amounts but it’s a start! They are also developing underground pumped hydro using old mining shafts etc.

Next I attended the session on Procuring large scale renewables in L.G. by Johnathon Prendergrast of UTS, Monica Richter, WWF and Tim Stock of Greenpower. Monica stated that there are nine companies on the ASX who are committed to purchasing ~100GW/hrs over ten years- normally they sign on for three years, so it shows their commitment. This equates to approx. 20% of each of their electricity load. The issue is trying to find a retailer. She discussed how the price of electricity is increasing. It was as low as $30-$40 M/W but is now approx. $100M/W and is likely to increase by 300% in the short to medium term. She did mention that Qantas will have to pay $30M more from 1/7/2017 p.a. due to the increase in electricity prices. Tim from Greenpower said they have invested $1.5B in renewables, including development of a large solar farm. They have recently launched Greenpower Connect- http://www.greenpower.gov.au/Business/GreenPower-Connect/#.

Then there was a session on Advocating for renewable energy, run by Simon Corbell , the Victorian renewable energy advocate. He addressed barriers to distribution, generation and storage, transforming generation stock towards renewable energy and suggested we have a look at the Victorian renewable energy roadmap: http://delwp.vic.gov.au/energy/renewable-energy/victorias-renewable-energy-roadmap. He said they were supporting households and communities to invest in renewable energy and driving jobs and the economy especially in the rural areas. He said the role of the renewable energy advocate was three fold;

  1. Present and explain victorias renewable energy policies
  2. Meet with project developers to attract investors and to stop barriers.
  3. Advise government on industry and community.

He said the issues for LG are;

  1. Strong and early community engagement
  2. Alignment with local economic development strategies
  3. Managing impacts eg Roads and;
  4. Clarity on local government fees and charges

He said VRET had the following renewable energy targets:

  • 25% by 2020 with >1,500MW
  • 40% by 2025 with > or up to 5,400MW

He also mentioned a “renewable purchasing initiative” [RCPI] with a 75MW tender including 35MW for solar trams.  Some interesting sites to look up are GreenSync and Sunverge if you are interested in this.

Next I attended a session on Mapping the impacts of climate change, featuring Martin Hartigan – the nature conservancy council; Marco Amati of RMIT who spoke about the National Environmental science program. i.e. Clean air and urban landscapes hub; and Dominic di Martino of the city of Brimbank who spoke about a software program that can automatically analyse trees. He said it was important to know what assets you own and what benefits these assets provide. It can do LiDar Analysis [Physical composition of trees] and Hyper – spectral imagery analysis [Botanical composition of trees]. He gave a snapshot of what Brimbank asset management looks like;

  • Now; 200,000 trees                                2046;       900,000 trees [30% canopy cover]
  • 195,000 residents                                                   225,000
  • 1 public liability claim/ 2 days                               this will increase
  • Community expectation                                        this will increase
  • $600k survey                                                          $2.7M/survey

The software was particularly useful for making sure trees are healthy for risk purposes. It will be as simple as logging on to a website and he indicated it would be available for other shires. I reckon – watch this space for the near future as it could shape our tree assets and registering their composition, health and species.

I found the next session- Waste to energy – the most interesting. It was presented by four guys; John van der Rooden of Hepburn who [l think -check if you want to quote me!] said there are 13 landfills in vic and this is going down to four. He pointed out the obvious – that there are big costs in transporting and looking after landfills. He said the landfill levy was brought in to support emmssions and there are three big projects on at the moment.

  1. Dandenong
  2. Hume
  3. Altona

The next guy, Andrew Edney of Yarra Valley Water said they manage 75% of our waste! He said they built an Anaerobic digestor six months ago in Wollert. It “eats” 40T/day of residential food waste [and they are open to more residential food waste – is this an opportunity for MSC?] which equates to 35,000T p.a. [l didn’t check these figures to see if they work out – not your average accountant!] but it has two engines that produce 1MW power. This would be a great project to go and see in action don’t you think?

Craig Eyes of Wind Pacific in the Hepburn shire said they too have a small Anaerobic digestor with the process of hammer milling into a 6mm ultrasonic system so the bugs are processed in a short time [24-48hrs] and they get the methane content to 88% and feed power into the grid. They are doing a six month feasibility study to see if it is worth it. Initially it is processing 2,000T p.a. but there plan is to do 40,000T. They estimate the payback period could be brought back to 4.5 years. So keep an eye on wind pacific in Hepburn shire if you are interested!

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