Tag Archives: state government

YCAN’s 40th Rebranding Birthday Party!

Wednesday 3 November, 5.30-6.30pm, 112 Smith St, Collingwood.
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For the last nine months, rain, hail or shine, committed members of Yarra Climate Action Now have been “rebranding” (i.e. protesting) Richmond Labor MP Richard Wynne EVERY SINGLE WEEK!
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We would like to invite you to celebrate the 40th rebranding in a row!
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There will be live music, a big birthday cake and fun for the whole family!
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This truly epic action has been calling on the State Government to put the interests of Victorians before those of the coal industry, and they are feeling the pressure. However, with a new coal-fired power station on the cards there is still work to be done.
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To RSVP contact us.

A YCAN Investigation – State Government Green Jobs Package

Just under two weeks ago many of us at YCAN received a media release from Peter Batchelor, the Victorian Minister for Coal Industry Profits, trumpeting the recent Green Jobs Action Plan released in the State Budget on 4 May. As some environment groups had praised the plan, one of our members decided to investigate to see if the Brumby Government (as opposed to current form) had actually put forward a decent policy to tackle the climate crisis.

The State Budget announced several proposed water and energy efficiency measures. Most if not all of these initiatives are grouped under the heading ‘Jobs for the Future Economy – Victoria’s Action Plan for Green Jobs’. Outside the ambit of the ‘Jobs for the Future Economy’ package Peter Batchelor proudly trumpets the hosting of the World Geothermal congress in 2015. Yes that’s right a conference, in five years time.

The package allocates modest amounts to training and research but the proposed actions generally promote modest energy efficiency and water saving measures at the point of end use, the benefits of which are self-evident. These initiatives can be divided between limited term programs that last until the money runs out and a few driven by regulatory change and training programs that could be expected to have ongoing benefits. Modest but positive aspects of the package are the changes to landfill fees which seem likely to strengthen the recycling industry and the Green Door package from Planning Minister Madden which both tightens the climatic requirements of new housing and provides some training for builders relevant to the new regulatory regime. The rest however appears to be little more than pork barrelling. The total cost to government is projected to be $175 million and according to the Premier, “The program will achieve cost savings of more than $7 million per year through reduced energy and water consumption and save 130,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year”. Judging from the premier’s media release the package is projected to create ‘up to 700 (green) jobs’.

So how significant are these reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?

If we take the projected cost ($175 million) and divide it by the projected annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction (130,000 tonnes) we find the projected cost of mitigation is a staggering $1400/tonne.

If we compare the projected annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction (130,000 tonnes) to Victoria’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions (121.9 Mega tonnes) the projected reduction is about 0.1% of current total annual emissions. For Victoria to achieve its share of Kevin Rudd’s pathetic 5% emissions reduction using these measures would (by the Government’s own figures) cost $8.7 billion!

So to summarise – the major climate change policy of the Brumby Government in the latest state budget will reduce Victoria’s emissions by 0.1%!

Another example from this material is the seductively named ‘Solar Hubs’ program under which the Brumby Government proposes to allocate $5 million for the establishment of up to 10 ‘solar hubs’ around regional Victoria with grants of between $250,000 and $1 million. As these solar hubs are simply arrays of conventional domestic PV solar collectors the same as some of us have on our roofs it is not hard to do the sums. Approximately $15,000 buys about 1.6 kilowatts (kw) of generating capacity. Assuming that the government gets a good price from its suppliers perhaps $100,000 would buy 16kw of generating capacity. Scaling this up $1 million would buy 160kw and $5 million would buy 800kw of generating capacity. Allowing for 4 hours of collection this array of installations collects around 3.2Mw-hr daily. Multiply by 365 to get annual generation and we find that annual generation from this array would be around 1168 (say 1200) Mw-hr. Annual residential energy use in Victoria is around 164 Petajoules.

One petajoule = 277,778Mw-hr therefore annual domestic sector energy consumption, (164 petajoules) = 45,556,000 Mw-hr. The reduction in domestic energy demand resulting from the implementation of this program (1200Mw-hr) is miniscule. Given a projected annual rate of increase in domestic energy consumption of about 2.5% the solar hubs program would have to be multiplied by roughly 1000 to just cover the growth in energy demand! To follow this exercise in the absurd just one step further, just covering the projected annual increase in domestic (residential) energy consumption by expanding the Solar Hubs program would cost $5billion! These figures look incredible but we’ve checked several times.

The Brumby government is adopting a time-honored pre-election strategy of throwing money (as little as possible) at very carefully selected targets to give the misleading impression that they are addressing a problem that they think might impact on them electorally but which they have in reality chosen to avoid. Of course it can be argued that the primary intention of this package is the creation of environmentally responsible jobs. It is hard to judge whether $175 million spent on the creation of ‘up to’ 700 green jobs in regional Victoria is good value for money but as an exercise in emissions reduction (surely the primary measure of the ‘green-ness’ of a proposal) or as a demonstration of the government’s ability to extract best value from green dollars invested, this package is very uneven.

In any case it is hard to take any policy seriously that proposes to reduce Victoria’s emissions by 0.1%.

Replacing Hazelwood Power Station with clean energy would reduce Victoria’s emissions by around 12%. It’s time Brumby committed to this.

Everywhere you go – Clifton Hill Politician Rebranding 17/4/10

Richard Wynne, our beleaguered State Labor Government Member of Parliament, feeling his political mortality and searching for some environmental credibility in the absence of any useful environment policies invited his constituents to a ‘City West Water’ shower head exchange on a suburban street corner in Clifton Hill. A number of YCAN friends and supporters showed up in response to this invitation to remind him of the climate and environment issues the ALP wants Australians to forget. This was YCANs first action as part of the combined ‘Replace Hazelwood’ campaign. Wynne and his staffers were extremely unhappy to see us and enthusiastic responses from passing drivers to the ‘Honk for Urgent Climate Action’ sign visibly irritated the shower head exchange team making it all the more worthwhile for those of us on the other side of the street. Thanks to all who participated and especial thanks to Mic Rosenbrock for the terrific video.

Environment ministers say the darndest things!

(and we’re not even talking about Peter Garrett)

Last Tuesday, Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) attended a consultation session on the Victorian State Government’s Climate Change Green Paper. The session was well run and designed to illicit feedback on the Paper in preparation for the development of the White Paper and subsequent climate change legislation.

The feedback on the day was overwhelmingly negative. Almost every table (we were seated in groups at round tables) criticised the Brumby Government Paper for not having many concrete actions, not supporting the roll-out of renewable energy technologies sufficiently, not having policies that are science-based that adequately address the size of the climate crisis, and for handballing all greenhouse gas mitigation responsibilities over to the Federal Government, even while the Federal Government has proven, through the design of the pathetic Carbon Polluters Rewards Scheme (CPRS) that it is not willing to take climate change seriously and it is not willing to cut our emissions to a degree that will avoid runaway, catastrophic climate change.

Business as usual, in other words.

In the face of this criticism, the Victorian Environment and Climate Change Minister, Gavin Jennings made some truly strange closing remarks.

Although he spoke in true politician style using very ambiguous language, the implications (note – not a direct quote) of his remarks were as follows:

“I understand that we are not doing enough according to the current climate science. However, the people in this room who have criticised our Green Paper are particularly engaged in this issue and are not representative of the wider Victorian population. Therefore, we won’t do what you say, even if I know it is the right thing to do, because we believe it isn’t popular enough.”

Many people left shocked. Was this the confession of a Minister who knows his government is failing on climate change? Was he trying to ease his conscience? Or is he admitting that his career is more important than the future of humanity?

In any case Minister Jennings’ words are a call to action. If the Brumby Government thinks that (really) acting on climate change – which means transitioning our power supply away from coal by 2020 at the latest – isn’t popular enough, we need to prove them wrong, and we can also use our vote to support those candidates that will act.

If you haven’t told a politician what you think about climate change yet, please do. And you can write your own submission to the Green Paper. To help YCAN write our submission (due 30 September) please get in touch.

We want a real solar feed-in tariff!

The Brumby State Government continues to support an ineffective solar feed-in tariff, that just won’t do the job to encourage the take-up of solar panels across the state. As was reported in The Age this week, the Minister for Coal Industry Profits, Peter Batchelor has said that if the amendments to the tariff put forward by the Greens pass the State Upper House (with support from the opposition parties) then the solar feed-in tariff scheme will be pulled completely.

Yarra Climate Action Now has written to the State Member for Richmond, Richard Wynne, to ask the State Government to support the amendments and pass a scheme that will actually work to encourage clean solar energy. An abridged version of the letter is below. For the full version send us an email or leave a comment on this post.

This is a no-brainer really. We encourage all members of the public to email their local member in support of a gross solar feed-in tariff.

To see our previous posts on this issue with links to further information click here and here, and see Environment Victoria’s web site.

Dear Richard,

The reason for this letter is the government’s failure to deliver on its clear election commitment to introduce an effective gross feed-in tariff to stimulate the growth of clean renewable solar electricity in the State of Victoria.

At the last election the Victorian State Labor Government committed itself to the institution of a ‘German style’ gross feed-in tariff to promote privately generated solar electricity. As is well known by now the institution of such a tariff which commits electricity generation and distribution companies to purchase all privately generated solar electricity at a premium rate was the centre-piece of the rapid expansion of photovoltaic solar electricity generation in Germany over the last decade and a half. This imposed small cost increases on conventionally generated electricity but created a great deal of employment in a rapidly expanding industry.

For reasons best known to itself after an acrimonious and difficult debate between proponents and opponents of such a scheme within the State Government, the Government finally adopted a position that committed the relevant industry bodies to purchase back from private generators only solar electricity generated in excess of requirement. In other words they would pay for that electricity that entered the grid and take as a free gift the reduction in overall demand generated by the installation of the equipment in the first place.

The government did this despite advice that such a scheme – known as a net feed in tariff – would do nothing to stimulate change to clean renewable solar electricity. It did this in the full knowledge that such a measure would discourage local investment by overseas producers of solar panels that the government was seeking. The rationale for rejecting a gross feed in tariff for a net feed in tariff was that introduction of the former would cost low income households too much in increased energy bills. This occurred despite credible informed advice to the contrary and the example of Germany where this did not happen. The justification for this action was a set of figures produced at the last minute by Energy Minister Peter Batchelor the source and basis for which are unknown and which Batchelor has consistently refused to discuss with the press, hiding behind spokespeople from his staff.

There is still an opportunity to salvage the solar laws as they pass through Parliament, so that we can develop a thriving solar industry in Victoria. The importance of making the Brumby Government’s solar laws meaningful for industry is now even more critical given the Federal Government’s plan to cut the solar rebate scheme as of 1 July 2009, and replace it with a less effective Solar Credits Scheme – effectively halving the support for small-scale solar installations. In Victoria this scheme must be complementary to any renewable energy target that Victoria has, it is not one or the other, but both. The climate science demands a transition to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. We need to be taking emergency action now.

If the Government’s proposed solar laws pass through the Parliament in their current form, they will do little to support solar power, the solar industry development, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We call on you, as our elected representative in the State Parliament, to work to implement the amendments to the legislation proposed by Environment Victoria, the Alternative Technology Association, the Moreland Energy Foundation and the Electrical Trades Union that are summarized below.

1. Allow business and community organisations to participate in the scheme.
The Brumby Government’s model excludes business, local government and community organisations like churches, from participating. This restriction should be removed to encourage all sectors to invest in renewable energy.

Premier Bracks made clear during the 2006 election campaign that small businesses would be included in the scheme. The Brumby Government must deliver on this election commitment, and also allow for the inclusion of community buildings in the scheme.

2. Increase the system size limit for the 60c per kWh tariff to 10kW.
The Brumby Government’s Bill excludes any solar systems of more than 3.2kW. This will effectively deter households from installing larger systems – a ludicrously perverse incentive for a scheme that is supposed to encourage solar power.

3. Make the 60c per kWh payable on gross, not just net generation.
The Victorian Government has shunned the experience of over 40 nations with feed-in tariffs and has decided to pay the tariff only on the excess generation of solar electricity that is fed back into the grid, rather than on all of the electricity generated.

The Government’s own departmental and independent advice (leaked to The Age earlier this year) stated that the proposed ‘net’ feed-in tariff would do nothing to increase the uptake of solar power in Victoria to 2020. This advice also found that the ‘gross’ feed-in tariff would lead to a seven fold increase in Victoria’s solar uptake to 2020.

4. Ensure that the small-scale renewable energy producers included in the scheme are actually paid for the electricity they generate.
Under the government’s proposed scheme, those eligible for the 60c tariff for feeding electricity into the grid would not actually be paid. The legislation suggests that a customer would receive a credit on their electricity bill if they fed energy into the grid. This amount would roll over to the next bill if it was not used.

However, if this credited amount of electricity was not used within 12 months, or if the customer changed retailer it would simply evaporate. The customer is left with nothing. For an energy efficient household with a 3.0kW system this lost credit could amount up to $600 and would establish a perverse incentive for the householder to consume more energy towards the end of the twelve-month period.

Failure to rectify these flaws in the proposed legislation would make it difficult to escape the conclusion that, despite its election commitments and the positive effects springing from them in terms of employment growth and industrial investment, this government is committed to avoiding meaningful action to promote the growth of clean renewable solar electricity.

Thus far the Brumby Government has a lamentable record on climate change action (as opposed to rhetoric). The voters in the Seat of Richmond are aware of the climate science and want urgent, emergency action to prevent runaway climate change and create green jobs. We hope that you will heed this letter and finally begin to fulfill a clear and unambiguous election commitment to support the growth of the solar electricity industry by introducing an effective gross feed-in tariff.

Yours faithfully,
Yarra Climate Action Now

Five things the government doesn’t want you to know about climate change

The following text is from a flyer that Yarra Climate Action Now has produced. For electronic or hard copies of the flyer contact us on YarraCAN@gmail.com.

The world’s scientists are telling us that we are facing a climate emergency. We are running out of time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and need to act urgently. The effects of runaway climate change are unthinkable and must be avoided at all costs. However, our governments are beholden to vested interests in the fossil fuel and other dirty industry lobbies and are not dealing with this issue adequately. This is what you need to know:

1. The Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is worse than nothing.
The scheme will:
– Lock in inadequate emissions reduction targets of 5-25% by 2020 on 2000 levels – completely out of touch with what the scientists are calling for.
– Undermine international negotiations on a global emissions agreement by showing Australia is not willing to pull its weight.
– Expose taxpayers to possible compensation claims when we have a government that will actually take climate change seriously by giving pollution property rights to polluters.
– Result in a massive transfer of wealth from all of us to already rich, polluting companies, through free permits and other “compensation” giveaways.
– Disenfranchise voluntary action by households and communities, by ensuring their efforts do nothing to reduce emissions and only free up more permits for polluters.

It needs to be scrapped and sent back to the drawing board. Even without a scheme Australia must participate in international negotiations and so will be forced to reduce emissions in any case.

2. Climate science (it’s worse than you think)
As climate scientists study our climate system, they are discovering that they initially underestimated the effects of carbon pollution. Global warming is happening faster than previously stated, and most governments are basing their policies on outdated science. See key outcomes from the March 2009 gathering of climate scientists in Copenhagen.

3. Climate change is bad for the economy, fighting climate change creates jobs!
Climate change will cause progressively worsening economic shocks, which we are already witnessing, such as prolonged drought and extreme events (bushfire, heatwaves and windstorms). It will do the same to our trading partners. As climate change worsens, it has the capacity to cause recessions and depressions. Fighting climate change on the other hand, is likely to stimulate the economy and create jobs, since it will require a large investment to install renewable energy technologies and these technologies are more labour intensive than the old-fashioned dirty ones. See: www.unep.org/greeneconomy

4. Individual action is not enough
Governments like to talk about black balloons and changing light bulbs, but the truth is to stop climate change we will need significant change to business and politics as usual. This will require not only individual, but collective action that shifts the power balance in this country away from the big polluters and towards the Australian public.

5. The necessary technologies already exist
The technologies required to shift our economy to 100% renewable energy already exist. We do not need to wait for unproven technologies that are decades away like carbon capture and storage (clean coal). We can make the change now while leaving the coal in the ground. See: www.beyondzeroemissions.org and www.wecansolveit.org

Bad Figures and Bad Decisions: A solar superpower sleeps


In May of last year, the State Government announced that a feed-in tariff would be introduced in Victoria. A feed-in tariff is a mechanism for encouraging the take-up of solar photovoltaic energy generation (otherwise known as solar panels). It has been very successful in Germany, transforming its solar power industry into a €2 billion export earner which employs 57,000 people.

The German feed-in tariff pays householders a premium rate for the energy that they produce from their solar panels, thereby reducing the pay-back period and encouraging take-up. This is called a gross feed-in tariff. However, unlike Germany’s model, Victoria’s feed-in tariff will only pay householders for the extra energy they feed into the grid left over after their own use, rather than the total energy produced. This is a net feed in tariff. Considering the Victorian model limits the size of eligible arrays to 2kW (which produces less electricity than the average household uses), it will be ineffective and will not result in mass take-up of solar technologies.

It was revealed last year when the decision was first announced, that the Victorian Environment Minister, Gavin Jennings was for a gross model, while the Energy Minister Peter Batchelor was in support of a net model. Mr Batchelor was able to convince Premier Brumby because he produced figures that showed a gross model would increase electricity costs to households by about $100 a year.

Last week, in a series of reports, The Age revealed that calculations by the State Government of the cost of a gross feed-in tariff was actually between $18 and $37 per year per household, and that the $100 a year figure was produced by Peter Batchelor at the last minute. It also revealed that senior state bureaucrats supported the gross feed-in tariff, claiming the State Government’s preferred model would be ineffective.

Peter Batchelor has yet to respond to questions on how he arrived at the $100 a year figure, and where it came from, considering his own department had already come up with a much lower cost figure in a detailed analysis. Did the Victorian Energy Minister simply make up the figures in order to quash a policy he didn’t like? A policy that would have seen thousands of jobs created and growth in a crucial renewable energy industry? And if he did, why did he do it when he knew the cost was not actually that great?

If these allegations are true, then Peter Batchelor has a lot to answer for. We still await his response.

To read the excellent series of investigative reports on this issue in The Age, click here, here and here.

It is not too late for the State Government to change its policy, adopt a gross feed-in tariff, and expand it to bigger solar photovoltaic systems and to commercial and community buildings as well as households. This is a policy that would do wonders for the take-up of solar energy technology, which is an essential plank of a science-based and just response to climate change.

There is currently a campaign to encourage the Federal Government to adopt a national gross feed-in tariff. Australia is a solar energy superpower, and our governments are failing to take advantage of it. To find out more and sign the petition, visit this website.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Release the black balloons!

Credit where credit’s due. At the dawn of 2009, John Brumby, and his Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings, announced the formation of four new national parks in Victoria. These national parks aim to protect sections of Victoria’s stressed River Red Gum ecosystems, and two of the parks will be jointly managed by the Yorta Yorta people. This brings to an end a decade-long campaign by the traditional owners of the area, and YCAN congratulates them and their supporters, particularly Friends of the Earth, for their great win.

The announcement includes an adjustment package for those who will lose their jobs as a result of the formation of the parks and the State Government claims that more jobs will be created once the decision is implemented. The parks are an important step towards boosting the resilience of vital ecosystems in the area, especially as the impacts of climate change on the Murray Darling Basin continue to worsen.

Unfortunately that is where the credit ends. The Brumby State Government has so far been a great disappointment on environmental issues and on climate change. While they have implemented some tokenistic market-based policies such as the Victorian Renewable Energy Target, the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target and a second-rate solar feed-in tariff, the fact remains that climate change is ignored in almost every policy decision and Victoria’s emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate.

A recent report by The Climate Group shows that Victoria’s emissions were 2.1 per cent higher in 2008 than the previous year (a 6 per cent increase based on 2000 levels) and our electricity use rose. Victoria’s emissions from petrol also increased.

This is a damning indictment of John Brumby’s policies. At a time when scientists all over the world are calling loudly for rapid and deep cuts in emissions, Victoria continues to belch out more emissions than ever before and continues to be amongst the worst per capita greenhouse gas emitters on earth. Instead of admitting to its shameful record and promising to change its ways, the State Government has tried to spin itself out of trouble by claiming per capita emissions have fallen. Not only does this not recognise that we also come out looking bad if emissions are measured per capita, it is completely irrelevant to halting the effects of climate change – the atmosphere doesn’t care about per capita emissions if absolute emissions keep rising.

On top of this, the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability’s State of the Environment Report, released in late 2008, makes for alarming reading. Most of Victoria’s ecology is increasingly degraded, and the degradation is worsening.

John Brumby and Gavin Jennings, it’s time you listened to the world-class climate scientists you have appointed to your Climate Change Reference Group, such as David Karoly and Amanda Lynch, and get serious on climate change. We suggest you start by changing the following policies:

Transport

Despite the fanfare and the great wads of taxpayers’ money spent in its promotion, the Victorian Transport Plan is more of the same short-sightedness that has got us into this huge transport mess in the first place. According to the Public Transport Users Association, the plan commits the State Government to building 122km of new roads. Almost half of the $38 billion plan will go to increasing or building new major road capacity. Building new roads in metropolitan Melbourne is profoundly stupid. New roads only encourage private vehicle use, thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, traffic congestion and they drive us further into oil dependence, at a time that peak oil is estimated to be less than a decade away. Investing in new roads serves no benefit other than to enrich big business and wastes money that should be invested in public transport and other sustainable transport modes.

Energy

The rhetoric is that the State Government supports renewable energy. In reality however, John Brumby has approved a new coal-fired power station and a gas-fired power station for construction in Victoria. They have even put taxpayers’ money towards the new coal plant. You can’t have it both ways Mr Brumby, you either think climate change is a serious issue and work to reduce Victoria’s emissions, or you build new fossil fuel power stations.

Forests

The Brumby Government continues to support the logging of old growth forests. This insanity means that we are irreversibly destroying some of our best carbon sinks, the ecosystems that provide us with clean air and water and provide habitat for our biodiversity. Logging is currently occurring at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland, an area of high value forest with trees over 300 years old.

Water

The water outlook for Victoria is nothing short of frightening. Climate change exacerbates the situation with rainfall predicted to reduce further and the current eleven year drought most likely a more permanent dryness. It is wise that the Brumby Government is taking this challenge seriously, but their construction of a large industrial desalination plant and piping water out of the Murray Darling Basin to Melbourne should be solutions of last resort, once all other avenues such as stormwater and rainwater harvesting, stricter conservation initiatives and recycling have been tried.

In addition, the State Government continues to water down the environmental criteria for the desalination plant. It has gone back on its promise to build renewable energy generation to power the plant, and is now going to purchase renewable energy certificates to cover its electricity use (but not the energy used in its construction). Just one week ago, the State Government watered down the energy efficiency requirements of the plant, removing all limits on energy consumption.

The Brumby Government needs to understand that the crises we are now facing, brought about through a combination of climate change, resource depletion and biodiversity loss (among others) have the capacity to destroy the very foundations of human economic activity and human wellbeing. We need a change in paradigm, leading to a change in policy, and we need it fast.