Why we go off the grid and grow our own edibles

In The Sustainable Hour on 30 April 2014 we seek to understand the arguments in the power games which currently are taking place between the citizens and the regulators. To stand up for what is right you must first understand what is wrong.

For instance, when you look at your electricity bill – which you may have noticed has doubled in just the last couple of years – do you understand exactly why it is that it has increased so much?

Guests in the studio: Mark Hoffmann and Mike Lawrence.
Prerecorded: Dave Kerin and Cr Eve Fisher

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“In a very positive way you need to make yourself aware of what the solution is, and then get on with making it a part of your local life and your local environment.”
Mike Lawrence, CEO, Greenline Engineering


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 23:



» To open or download this programme in mp3-format, right-click here (Mac: CTRL + click)


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Get familiar with the facts

It is worth making yourself familiar with the reason that electricity has been getting dearer, because apparently what has happened is that we, the consumers, are being ripped off. Tony Abbott blamed the Carbon Tax and won an election. Now he wants us to believe it is because of the Renewable Energy Target. The truth, according to a new report from Schneider Electric and a recent ABC radio documentary, is that we are charged billions of dollars for unnecessary infrastructure, wires and poles, while the companies that manufacture and set them up happily have shoveled in our money.

“In a very positive way you need to make yourself aware of what the solution is, and then get on with making it a part of your local life and your local environment,” says Mike Lawrence, CEO, Greenline Engineering: “Be proactive about it. And work with your local politicians. By the end of the day, the logic of the renewable energy movement is just too clear and too strong to stop it or slow it down. We have got those that are digging the hills in, the black and brown coal energy generators – and it is a very powerful lobby group, probably the most powerful in the country – but their argument is becoming increasingly thin,” Mike Lawrence explains.

Mike Lawrence’s statement is highlighted by the news of today that Sunpower Corporation – one of the largest solar companies in the world – will be using Australia as a global testing ground for a new model for providing electricity: an announcement on a pilot project in Victoria, focused on the economics of storing domestically produced solar power, is expected in the next two months, according to ABC Environment who wrote:

“For years, it’s been keenly understood that the next big thing – the Holy Grail if you like for solar – would be the ability to store energy generated from solar panels for later use at a reasonable cost. (…) Sunpower’s solar storage gets around this problem. Householders will have the potential to disconnect from the grid under the new system proposed by Sunpower.”

Geelong’s vegetable gardens rebel movement gains momentum
Mark Hoffmann, chair of the Geelong Organic Gardeners, explains why Geelong’s council claims that the banned practice of turning a nature strip into a vegetable garden “threatens residents and Geelong’s international wetlands”, while the truth is that communities benefit from the new trend of establishing public vegetable gardens in various ways – creating more biodiversity, sustainability and more interconnected neighbourhoods.

The green transition
We also visit the Renew Geelong Picnic and talk with Dave Kerin from Earthworker Cooperative and Surf Coast Councillor Eve Fisher about community renewable energy solutions.

There is a quiet revolution happening at national and local level among cities and industries. From efficiency standards and regional carbon prize-markets to higher goals for energy and resource efficiency, local initiatives to a very high degree are pushing the development in a less fossil-dependent direction.

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Audio excerpts from the programme

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Eve Fisher [4:27 minutes]
Surf Coast Councillor Eve Fisher explains why, after she has returned from a community renewable energy research trip overseas, she now wants to focus on legislation and regulation. Recorded and broadcasted live at the Renew Geelong Picnic in Eastern Park on 27 April 2014


» To open or download the mp3-file, right-click here and use dropdown menu to download.

» More information about Cr Eve Fisher’s research journey can be found on her blog:  www.evefisher.com

» Surf Coast Energy Group:  Eve sums up Community Renewables night
Surf Coast Energy Group asked Cr Eve Fisher to give a brief summary of her talk at SCEG’s renewables evening held in March 2014.



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Dave Kerin  [3:56 minutes]
Dave Kerin from Earthworker Cooperative explains about the idea to start up a solar pump factory in Geelong.


» To open or download the mp3-file, right-click here and use dropdown menu to download.

» More information about Earthworker Cooperative on   www.earthworker.org



Topics we talked about in The Sustainable Hour

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Renew Geelong Picnic

Families, businesses, organisations and residents in Geelong marked this year’s Earth Day and its Green City theme with exploring and exchanging sustainable experiences, ideas and visions, and in particular: solutions to the carbon emissions problem.

» Listen to more interviews and see photos from the day on:  www.thesolution.org.au/picnic



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Divestment day

On the first ever Divestment Day citizens around Australia will be joining forces to the tune of 100 million divested dollars.

That is how big is the fossil fuel divestment movement is in Australia now: It has passed the $100 million dollars mark – the total of savings accounted for by the people who have been warning their bank that unless they stop funding fossil fuels, they’ll bank elsewhere. And on Divestment Day, Saturday 3 May 2014, (and on Friday as well), hundreds of Australians will turn that warning into concrete action and actually move their accounts to a bank which promises not to invest it in dirty gas and coal projects.


Amount loaned to coal and gas export ports on Australia’s East coast since 2008

The big four have invested almost $20 billion dollars into coal and gas:
ANZ: $6749 million
Commonwealth Bank: $5199 million
NAB: $4695 million
Westpac: $3182 million

…whereas other banks have decided not to invest into coal and gas, such as:

Bendigo Bank: $0
Beyond Bank: $0
Victorian Teachers Mutual: $0

» Go to the banks comparison page if you want to know what your bank is doing. It is one of the most visited pages of the campaign:
www.marketforces.org.au/banks/compare

» More info:  www.350.org/divestmentday

Why is divestment a good idea?

The probability that within the next decade you will one day wake up to lost pension assets and a ruptured fossil bubble is very real and tangible. Energy companies that rely on fossil fuels are being pushed from two sides:

On the one hand, the renewable technologies develop very quickly. The price of solar cells, for instance, dropped 80 per cent over the past five years. And the price falls may well overtake the fossil fuel already within this decade.

On the other hand, we know that about two-thirds of the fossil reserves must remain in the ground, unused, if we want to prevent the temperature from rising more than two degrees this century. A goal that the vast majority of the world’s countries have agreed on in 2009.

To put it another way, then two thirds of the pension assets which are invested in fossil fuels will not be realised if we are to live up to our own objective to avoid damaging and irreversible climate change.

This is a realisation several major banks have already reached.

The last few years, the divestment in the fossil fuels has accelerated. Both the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and several other major banks and pension funds have already decided to partially or completely stop their involvement in fossil assets.

Even big banks like HSBC, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have warned against the risky investments and CO2 bubble.

Last year HSBC, for example, estimated that there was a risk of a loss in the range of 40-60 per cent of the value – and both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup estimates that coal has become so expensive that it no longer makes economic sense to build new coal plants.

If you want to avoid that your retirement money is losing steam when the financial CO2 bubble bursts, it would be timely care to cater to the growing uncertainty about the value of the carbon-dependent parts of your retirement portfolio.

It is time that we take stock of the situation and get ahead of that CO2 bubble-burst which everyone knows is going to happen.



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“Mr Abbott’s claim that the renewable energy target is expensive is not supported by the data.”
‘The price of power’, ABC Radio National

The price of power

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is repeatedly blaming the carbon tax and renewable energy for rising electricity bills. Don’t let Mr Abbott and his allies in the fossil fuel industry fool you. Here is a radio documentary and a report you should make yourself familiar with.

The Guardian has quoted Tony Abbott as saying: “We’ve got to accept … that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressures in the system. (…) Cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages …. I mean, this country ought to be an affordable-energy superpower.”

ABC RN’s ‘Background Briefing’ is investigative journalism at its finest. On 27 April 2014, Jess Hill and her team of ABC investigators focused on electricity prices:

“In the last few years, our power bills have doubled, making Australia’s electricity prices some of the highest in the developed world. The big power companies say the Renewable Energy Target is undermining their businesses and they want it wound back. The federal government agrees, so who is to blame for the high price of power?

‘The main reason that electricity has been getting dearer is the overinvestment in poles and wires, and the fundamental inefficiency in the way that the national electricity market’s working,’ says Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute.

$45 billion over the last five years have gone to overinvest in poles and wires. Why? Because there has been some “dramatic profits” in that business,” ABC says.

» ABC Background Briefing’s ‘The price of power’ on 27 April 2014:  www.abc.net.au

» To listen, you can open or download the mp3 audio file here:  mpegmedia.abc.net.au

“Policymakers need to look beyond short-term economic considerations in the interests of some of the big companies to longer-term community interests. And that’s what governments are supposed to do, but unfortunately it’s not happening at the present time.”
Bernie Fraser, a former Reserve Bank governor, chair of the Climate Change Authority


Electricity prices and renewable energy

Here is the report from Schneider Electric which shows that the influence of Australia’s Large-scale Renewable Energy Target is forecast to REDUCE long-term electricity prices.

» Download the report ‘Australia’s Large-scale Renewable Energy Target: Three consumer benefits’:  download.schneider-electric.com (PDF)

“Long-term electricity prices in Australia are uncertain and act as a risk to both energy-producing and energy-consuming firms. Schneider Electric’s Energy and Sustainability Services Division tested price outcomes under several scenarios of market drivers to identify and understand how stakeholders can most efficiently influence long-term market conditions. Among the key findings of this study were the impacts of different scenarios of the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) on market conditions. The influence of the LRET is forecast to reduce long-term electricity prices.

» Read more on:  www.schneider-electric.com and www.reneweconomy.com.au

The Sydney Morning Herald – 29 April 2014:
Households face higher power bills by 2020 if renewable-energy target is scrapped, study finds
Axing Australia’s renewable-energy target – currently under review by the Abbott government – would halt $11 billion in future investments and mean higher household power bills by decade’s end, new modelling has found, commissioned by the Clean Energy Council

“I hate to break the news to you, great leader, but there is no longer any such thing as cheap fossil fuel energy in Australia. The Abbott government seems to hate renewable energy, but the march of progress is unstoppable at this point. The only question is, when will the government get out of the way?”

“It’s about time the PM accepts that Australia has a “super-abundance” of wind and solar, just as it has of coal and gas. The only difference being is that wind and solar generation will be cheaper  — as the government’s own economic adviser suggests  —  and cause a lot less pollution.”
Giles Parkinson, RenewEconomy’s editor



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Greenest power company in Australia

“Renew Economy was inundated with requests and questions on how energy retailers are responding to the review of the Renewable Energy Target. “Who is the greenest?”, is the most common request. To help address that question, they have taken the trouble to go through the submissions of the biggest retailers. Here are the summaries. We will let you decide.”

» Renew Economy & Climate Council:  Who is the greenest power company in Australia?



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23 sustainable hours of listening online

You can listen to all of the radio shows in full length as well as in selected excerpts. Use the links below. You will also find links to more information about the topics and sites that have been mentioned during the hour.

| Social streamHour no 23No 22No 21No 20No 19No 18No 17No 16No 15No 14No 13No 12No 11No 10No 9No 8No 7No 6No 5No 4No 3No 2No 1 |




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