The renewable revolution is rolling

Whether the Australian government likes it or not: The renewable revolution is rolling. Across the world, clean energy is booming, now producing more than 20 percent of the world’s electricity needs. And the clean energy is cheaper than polluting fossil fuels in many countries – including Australia.

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The federal government wants to reduce the country’s Renewable Energy Target while it keeps subsidising the fossil fuel industry with over $10 billion dollars every year, and in Victoria, the state government has put various regulations in place to protect its allies in the coal and gas industry with anti-wind farm laws and investing in coal and gas projects rather than in renewables.

The logic response to this kind of climate inaction among our elected leaders is energy action at community level. Citizens are saying “When politicians won’t protect our climate, then we must do it ourselves.” And then they begin to figure out what it takes to start community-owned co-ops that run solar and wind farms to the benefit both for people and climate.

In the 32nd Sustainable Hour today, you are going to meet some of these people. They met at a congress in Canberra recently, and we bring a first-hand report from the event.

Citizens are also saying, “When politicians won’t protect our farm land and nature parks from the toxic coal and gas mining industry, then we must do it ourselves,” and then they get together in community groups that mobilise resistance against the new coal and gas projects which are being rolled out.

This is Geelong calling: Welcome to The Renewable Revolution.


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 32:

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Growing fracking resistance in Geelong region

Guest in the studio:
• Alan Manson, Frack Free Grovedale
Alan Manson is one such example of a citizen who recently took on the task to educate and mobilise residents in his own neighbourhood, Grovedale, about the dangers and stupidity of fracking. Alan Manson came to The Sustainable Hour to talk about the new anti-fracking community group he has established: Frack Free Grovedale.

» www.facebook.com/frackfreegrovedale


This is the documentary film, Alan Manson talks about: ‘Fractured Country – An Unconventional Invasion’ is about the risks to communities from invasive gasfields, produced by Lock the Gate Alliance (Australia).



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The first Australian Community Energy Congress

Held in Canberra in mid-June 2014, the first National Community Energy Congress gathered around 300 people who are active in starting community-funded solar and wind projects.

► The Hon. Rob Stokes, Member of Parliament and New South Wales minister for environment, addresses the National Community Energy Congress

The New South Wales government will open an online portal for community energy in August 2014 to allow the conversation to continue.

Audio excerpts from the congress in The Sustainable Hour:
► Steve Blume, Solar Council, about RET and renewables policy (5:42)
► Susan Davies, Victoria (0:49)
► Mark Spain, facilitator, rounding up the congress (1:44)



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“If we can see something in our minds eye, we can create it. For many of us it’s a low carbon world where we can all live a healthy, abundant and satisfying life where there is collaboration, creativity and innovation creating employment and ensuring clean water, food, energy and housing security for all.”
MOSS, Australia’s industry body for sustainability


» Mik’s photo blog from a short visit in Copenhagen:  www.facebook.com


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INSPIRATIONAL TRAVEL NOTES:

Energy trends and community developments in Denmark

By Mik Aidt

There was a short note in the newspapers on 1 July 2014 saying that this weekend, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas received an order from two American energy companies to deliver 287 wind turbines – 62 turbines to RES Americas and 225 to the French company EDF Renewable Energy: an order worth almost $20 billion.

The same day, the newspapers reported that the Danish government now launches a new fund called ‘Denmark’s Green Investment Fund’ to finance the green transistion especially in transport and energy sectors. The special thing about this fund is that it is constructed in a new kind of collaboration between public bonds and private super funds and pension funds.

The Danes are buying less, shopping less. Food co-ops and energy co-ops are blossoming, with models both for ownership and renting. The four wheel drivers are being exchanged with smaller cars and bicycles. And with ‘Share-Cars’. Private consuption in Denmark is down seven percent compared to the level seven years ago.

Its considered cool or good style to drive an EV. The influential CEOs in the business world are now all driving electric vehicles. In particular Tesla is popular.

People talk a lot about ‘The New Nordic Wave’ which is about bringing down the transport of food.

The Danes have a new word, ‘growth criticism’ (vækstkritikken), which has taken root as a movement, vocalised in the media by groups such as Omstilling (‘Transition’). A newspaper article this Monday talked about that the Danes now also need to learn how to relax on all their many ‘personal growth’ ambitions: “We keep optimising our perfect lives and our bodies, and in that process we miss out on human relations and the simple joy of life (‘livsglæden’),” said the article, arguing that we should not only talk about being more careful with the resources of the planet, but also with our personal human resources.

Passing by on a pedestrian street in the central business district of Copenhagen, I watched this banner being hung on the wall of a house:

“Imagine if we are those who knows that this is no longer going to work. That the Earth, the climate, the crisis, the over population, the consumerism, the WHOLE THING is about to collaps and that it is is of no use to be screaming ‘growth’.
Imagine if we are the ones who are a aware of this. We don’t want this anymore. We can’t go any further. We want a different story – an adventure we truly believe in.”
S/H

 

During my short visit in Denmark in the last week of June, I several times experienced discussions circling about issues of ‘happiness’ – about The American Dream (which has been declared dead a number of times in recent years) and about The Danish Dream, an emerging vision of a future according to ‘The Scandinavian Model’ based on principles of an inclusive, fair and sustainable society where there is confidence and trust among the citizens.

The Danes have again and again popped up on happiness-research charts as ‘the happiest people on the planet’. Or if not ‘happiest’, then the most content. They don’t talk about that among themselves. But I noticed that people in Denmark often are questioning the government’s energy and growth policies (the Danish government keep launching one ‘growth booster’ package after the other, and a municipality decided to allow test-drilling for unconventional gas, fracking, to begin the week I was there), but also the more philosophical questions about our human existence and what it is we hope to achieve in the time that we have been given on this planet. The rethinking of what ‘progress’ means.

Politicians – including the federal Danish politicians – fear that the Danish zero growth paradigm and the ‘growth criticism’ translates directly to unemployment and economic crisis. But the young people at universities are suggesting new models with a ‘wheel of life’-focus on what makes you feel good, based on immaterial and social experiences that make you feel content and happy.

In business circles there is a new talk about ‘circular economy’ – a new model for recycling and ‘upcycling’ – which in northern Europe has been declared one of the most hopeful ideas in the world as of now. And there is talk about ‘culturability’ where culture is seen as a driver for economic, environmental and social sustainability.

I found it interesting to learn that the overall goals of the European Union for 2020 are built on these three keywords: ‘Smart, inclusive and sustainable’.

Australians can and should do the same as Denmark and the rest of the world to avoid being left behind.

Solar revolution in India

The newly elected India government of Narendra Modi has announced a suite of initiatives for solar energy across the country. $250 million is budgeted for solar measures in the 2014/15 financial year and will be financed by a doubling in the tax on coal to 100 rupess ($1.70) a tonne. The tax, introduced in the 2010 budget, collected about 25 billion rupees in its first year.

» RenewEconomy:  Modi accelerates India solar revolution, doubles tax on coal


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World Bank shows climate-smart policies bring added benefits

Improving energy efficiency, waste management and public transport can help tackle climate change, save lives, reduce crop losses and boost the economy, according to a report published by the World Bank and the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Adding up the benefits finds that policies encouraging waste reduction could save 94,000 people a year from premature deaths from pollution-related diseases by 2030 and prevent the production of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking two billion cars off the road.

The report outlines regulatory, tax and other policy actions that if fully implemented could account for 30% of the total emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius danger threshold. These policies could also increase annual global GDP growth by $1.8 trillion by the same year. Coming ahead of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September, the new report “reinforces the case for action over inaction on climate change”, at a critical time, when world leaders must choose to “be on the right side of history, to champion ambitious action that not only cuts carbon pollution, but also delivers jobs and economic opportunity”.

» Report:  ‘Climate-smart development: adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change’ (PDF, 88 pages)

» Source:  www.worldbank.org and  www.documents.worldbank.org



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British doctors take a divestment stand

The British medical profession’s influential national organisation has sent out a strong message about climate change by deciding to withdraw its funds from the fossil fuel industry and to support renewable energy instead.

The body that represents doctors in the UK has voted to end its investments in fossil fuel companies − making it the first national medical organisation in the world to do so. David McCoy, a doctor who chairs Medact, said: “In the same way that ethical investors choose not to profit from tobacco and arms sales, the health community worldwide is correctly calling for divestment from another set of harmful activities.”

» Source:  Climate News Network



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CALENDAR

23 July: Green Drinks about Community Renewables at Beav’s Bar in Geelong, 5:30pm
People in Geelong have embraced solar power on their rooftops. The next step is to take that success and enthusiasm to move into big community renewable projects that create local manufacturing jobs,” he said. This event could be the kick-starter to just that.

22-25 July: Clean Energy Week – two-day conference in Sydney about technology developments in renewable energy and energy efficiency

27 July: National Tree Day: Community Planting Day

21 September: The largest-ever demonstration for climate action
On the next-to-last weekend in September, tens of thousands of citizen activists will converge on New York City for the People’s Climate March, timed to coincide with the arrival of delegates to the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit. The Sierra Club is among the 100+ (and counting) co-sponsors of the march, which just might be the largest-ever demonstration for climate action, calling on President Obama to put real solutions in place that will inspire leaders around the world and compel them to take action.

5 October: Climate Change and Sustainability Forums in Surf Coast
In October this year, in the lead-up to the State election in Surf Coast – a marginal electorate of South Barwon – SCEG is holding a series of public forums relating to climate change and sustainability with the final forum being dedicated to candidate questions and answers.
It is with great excitement that we can confirm at the 1st forum Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe from the Lowy Institute will give the keynote address and that Professor David Karoly, an expert on climate change and climate variability will be speaking. Venue and time to be confirmed.



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