Australian news, and some related international items

Victorian Environment Protection Authority wants ILuka Resources to explain radioactive trash dump plan

text-radiationIluka Resources asked for more proof that waste won’t pollute river, KATE DOWLER THE WEEKLY TIMES SEPTEMBER 16, 2015  THE Environment Protection Authority Victoria has asked miner Iluka Resources to provide more proof that its plans to continue dumping radioactive waste south of Horsham will not pollute the Glenelg River.

The EPA has formally asked Iuka to provide more information by Friday on the company’s works approval application to continue dumping interstate mining waste at its former Douglas mine site.

Among the EPA requests, Iluka has been asked to install new groundwater bores to prove potentially contaminated water from the dump site is not moving from the dumping pit into the Glenelg River or local lakes, and raw groundwater data from before and after dumping at the site began.

Many residents in the Douglas and Kanagulk regions, and in the surrounding regions that are linked to the Glenelg River catchment — Balmoral, Rocklands, Harrow, Casterton, Cavendish, Hamilton, Digby, Dartmoor and Nelson — are concerned the radioactive waste could leach into waterways and threaten human health and the environment.

The Horsham Rural City Council, with EPA support, must decide if Iluka Resources can continue using the pit to dump mine waste — low-level radioactive byproducts and concrete and steel that has been in contact with radioactive material — from both old Victorian mines and active sites interstate……….

September 18, 2015 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

Guidelines for growing renewable energy in Victoria

Victoria-sunny.psdFour easy ways to grow renewable energy in Victoria, REneweconomy, By  on 12 August 2015  With the Abbott government sabotaging Australia’s clean energy future, states such as Victoria must step up and lead on renewable energy.

The uncertainty unleashed by the Abbott government has cost Australia’s renewable energy sector dearly. On the Prime Minister’s watch, investment has collapsed by 90 per cent and over 2,500 people working in the sector have lost their job.

Not content with its savage 20% cut to the national Renewable Energy Target, the Abbott government has dictated to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that it can no longer invest in wind farms and rooftop solar power.

This is the context in which the Daniel Andrews government is developing its Renewable Energy Action Plan to grow the sector and jobs in Victoria.

The Andrews government has been sending all the right signals when it comes to renewable energy. It was elected with a commitment to repeal the Baillieu-era restrictions on wind farms. And it delivered on the commitment just months after taking office.

To date, the Andrews government has provided financial support for the Newstead community in it pursuit to be 100 per cent renewable by 2017, as well as a 30-KW community solar project in Woodend. It has also established a $20 million New Energy Fund to encourage investment in renewable energy and cleantech projects.

The Andrews government’s Renewable Energy Action Plan is due for release later in 2015 and will build on these positive first steps.

“We will do whatever we need to do to increase the total percentage of energy generated from clean sources but also do whatever we can to create more jobs,” Premier Andrews said while visiting the Ararat wind farm.

There are some straightforward ways the Victorian government can increase renewables before it announces its comprehensive plan. Continue reading

August 14, 2015 Posted by | energy, Victoria | 1 Comment

Winda-Mara – Aboriginal success stories that we just don’t hear about

Stories like Winda-Mara’s need to be told—they show how Aboriginal communities are more than capable of creating their own forms of livelihood, if given space to do so. Winda-Mara’s diversity has been key to its success—rather than being just a “health” or “employment” program, it approaches issues holistically, asserting that cultural heritage protection and community health are fundamentally linked. Now that my eyes are open to it, I’ve realised that other Aboriginal communities across the country have similar stories. Let’s find and share these stories, and support these communities in articulating their own visions for their futures.

The Indigenous Australia We Don’t Talk About
By  on August 8, 2015 It’s not very often that most of us hear success stories from Aboriginal communities. The overwhelming majority of the mainstream media treatment of Indigenous issues focuses on the (very real) problems which affect Aboriginal people, problems which can seem so complex and entrenched that imagining solutions usually seems impossible. In a society still dominated by a collective denial of our violent past and oppressive present, a society which hides behind empty sloganeering about ‘progress’ as it continues to punish Aboriginal people whenever they articulate their desire for control over their own lives, any coverage at all can seem like a blessing. But I wonder if only ever hearing the negative stories helps to reinforce an understanding of the situation as intractable and hopeless—if it perhaps leads us away from imagining and articulating alternatives.

A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I were privileged to be able to visit Winda-Mara, an Aboriginal co-operative run by local Gunditjmara people in Heywood, south-western Victoria. Winda-Mara was established in 1991 as an Aboriginal health organisation with the aim of providing culturally appropriate healthcare to the community. Since then, the organisation has expanded to also include housing, education, employment, and environmental and cultural heritage management. Continue reading

August 12, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Victoria | Leave a comment

Al Gore’s visit and Victoria’s Climate Charter proposal

a-cat-CANAl Gore is visiting Australia to promote action on climate change. Still, we have to watch out that he is not on the “nuclear for climate” bandwagon.

A good sign is that Gore has recently been criticised by the pro nuclear front group Breakthrough Institute for being “sceptical” about nuclear power’s future.


On Monday, Environmental Justice Australia will release a proposal for a Victorian Climate Charter, which it says is modelled on the state’s existing Human Rights Charter.

Gore,-Al-climateAl Gore flies into Australia to push momentum towards Paris climate summit July 27, 2015   Environment editor, The Age   Former United States vice-president Al Gore has flown into Australia for a whistlestop tour that includes meetings with state government ministers and senior business figures as part of efforts to build global momentum towards the Paris climate change summit later this year.

Mr Gore arrived in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, heading to a speaking engagement and then dinner with Victorian ministers and senior executives from major companies, including BHP, National Australia Bank and Qantas, to discuss climate change and the importance of the Paris meeting, at which it is hoped a new international agreement to curb global warming will be signed……..

Ministers from Labor-led Victoria, Queensland and South Australia will attend Monday’s meeting with Mr Gore. Conservative-led NSW will send a senior public servant, as will Labor-led ACT. Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western Australia will not be represented. Continue reading

July 27, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Brotherhood of St Laurence exposes Victoria’s unfair electricity charges

A critique of the Victorian retail electricity market  Brotherhood of St Laurence 7 July 2015

The Brotherhood of St Laurence commissioned Bruce Mountain from Carbon and Energy Markets (CME) to investigate the Victorian retail electricity market.

Electricity costs have been rising across Australia’s National Electricity Market since 2007. In most Australian states rising network costs – the poles and wires – have been the primary cause of these price increases.

However, the Victorian case is different. Network costs are lower than in other states, and haven’t risen as much. High retail charges appear to be the cause.

The report and accompanying summary, released 7 July 2015, investigate the dynamics of the retail energy market and how that impacts on householders bills……..

July 13, 2015 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victoria’s new wind farms going ahead

wind-Hepburn-community-farmNew wind farms for Victoria by Mark Eggleton, AFR, Jul 8 2015  This content is produced by The Australian Financial Review in commercial partnership with GE  With the first new wind farm development beginning construction in Victoria since the election of the Coalition government recently, Australia could be on the brink of a new burst of activity in the renewable energy sector.

It follows the recent announcement of the $450 million Ararat project to build Australia’s third-largest wind farm in south-western Victoria with financing provided by developer Renewable Energy Systems (RES), turbine-maker General Electric and two other backers.

Yet while the new facility at Coonooer Bridge owes nothing to the recent agreement on the renewable energy target, the Ararat announcement came within days of the RET deal being passed in Parliament. Both projects come at a time when Australian business is starting to feel mildly confident about Australia’s energy future with the RET deal delivering much-needed certainty to the sector. Moreover, both wind developments play to the country’s natural resource strengths.


GE’s sales and finance managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Jason Willoughby, says Australia is blessed with great renewable energy resources – both from a wind perspective and from a solar perspective.

“I speak to colleagues in the US and in Europe and we compare what the wind speeds in Australia are, and they’re amazed that they’re so good and well located to where the load is.”

 Speaking about the RET deal, Willoughby says it is the single biggest factor in providing a path forward for the renewables sector………

Importantly for Australia, Willoughby said the renewable energy target will unlock upwards of $10 billion of investment.

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

GDF SUEZ Australian Energy, coal mine owner, investing big into solar energy

“Solar is becoming totally competitive,”  “Solar is an energy of the future. It is the energy with the biggest potential for development. It’s no longer a subsidized niche.”

the shift by Engie from centralised fossil fuel and nuclear capacity to one based around decentralised renewable energy generation is typical of the transformation going on around the world – with Europe’s E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall, and in the US, with generators such as NRG, and network operators in California, New York and elsewhere.

Parkinson-Report-Hazelwood owner makes big push into solar energy, REneweconomy, By  on 10 July 2015 The owner of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station, the dirtiest generator in Australia, has announced a major push into renewable energy, snapping up the international solar farm developer SolaireDirect for about $A300 million.

GDF Suez, now known as Engie under a massive re-branding campaign that signals its shift from fossil sun-championfuels and nuclear to renewable energy, will become the largest solar and wind developer in France after the purchase.

But its big focus is on the international scene. Gerard Mestrallet, the CEO of Engie, one of the biggest operators of nuclear plants in Europe, says new solar now beats new nuclear on price, with new solar parks costing between $US60 and $US90/MWh. Continue reading

July 11, 2015 Posted by | business, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

New wave power technology set to boost economy in Port Fairy, Victoria

Hope for $21m Port Fairy prototype wave power unit to boost local jobs, 2 July 15 

Moyne Shire Council says the construction of the state’s first prototype wave power unit off the Port Fairy coast, in south-west Victoria, is set to boost the local economy.

wave energy Port Fairy

The $21 million project, which will be installed in November, is expected to feed 250 kilowatts of renewable energy into the national grid.Mayor Colin Ryan said it was a significant event for the renewable wave energy industry and Victoria.He is hoping it will create new jobs in the region.

“I’m very happy to hear the news, I think it’s a great opportunity for Port Fairy with potential work opportunities for our locals, be it employment directly involved with the project or service industries and businesses in the town supporting the workers that come for the project,” he said.

“It being the first type of its power generation is a significant event and being the first one in Victoria … to do with currents and it was the desired locality for the operation, which is good news.”

July 2, 2015 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victoria, unlike USA, may slash solar tariff, rather than promote home solar


For intense, apart from avoided, line losses, there is no credit for network benefits, or environmental benefits. The contrast with some US states, where pricing regulators put the “fair” solar tariff at close to the retail price, is striking.

Regulator wants to slash Victoria solar tariff by 20 per cent By  on 2 July 2015 Victorian energy regulator the Essential Services Commission has recommended that the minimum feed-in-tariff paid for surplus rooftop solar output fed back into the grid be cut to 5c/kWh from the current level of 6.2c/kWh in 2016.

The recommendation, included in a report released this week, suggest that the falling cost of wholesale electricity prices – coincidentally the result of reduced demand and increased renewable energy – justifies the cut. [good graph here on original]  Continue reading

July 2, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Landcare group reports high radioactive gas levels at Iluka mine

Radioactive gas levels at Wimmera mining site near Horsham too high says Landcare group, ABC News, 30 June 15 


A Wimmera Landcare group in south-western Victoria says monitoring it has done shows levels of radioactive gas at a mine near Horsham far exceed the maximum for public exposure.

The Kanagulk Landcare Group placed four radon gas monitors at properties surrounding Iluka Resources’ mining operations at Douglas over a three-month period.

It said analysis of the monitors’ data by Australia’s nuclear industry regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, reveals levels of the gas were four times the limit.

The group’s Albert Miller said the State Government needed to step in…….

July 1, 2015 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

Big economic benefits to regional communities, from new wind and solar farms

renewable-energy-pictureRegional areas to reap economic benefits of new wind and solar farms after new RET passes Federal Parliament ABC Rural  By Catherine McAloon 26 June 15 Up to 50 new wind and solar farms are expected to be built in regional Australia, after a bill on a new Renewable Energy Target passed Federal Parliament this week.

An international consortium has announced plans to build a $450 million wind farm near Ararat, in western Victoria, and the Clean Energy Council expects it will be the first of many new projects.

“The Ararat wind farm really represents the first green shoots for an industry that’s been doing in extremely tough for the last 18 months,” the council’s Mark Bretherton said.

“We’re very confident that, with the bipartisan support that’s been restored to the Renewable Energy Target, we’ll see a lot more activity in this sector over the next few years.”

Mr Bretherton said between 30 to 50 major wind and solar projects, worth an estimated $10 billion, were expected to be built over the next five years, with most of those in rural areas.

“Most of the opportunity that we are going to see over the next five years will probably be in the wind and solar farm sector, so what that means is basically where there is the strongest wind and an opportunity to connect to the grid you’ll see wind farms, where there is the best sun, you’ll probably see some solar farms, particularly where there is enough land to build those kind of projects.” He predicted regional areas would see the greatest economic benefits of new renewable energy projects.

“That’s really good news, particularly for people who live in those areas. What it means is extra income being paid to farmers, direct jobs and it means money being paid for community projects as well.

“But apart from local jobs, it also means money is being spent at local restaurants, corner stores, equipment suppliers, motels, pie-sellers and much, much more.”………………

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Victorian government concerned about Abbott’s anti wind energy position

Victoria baffled by Prime Minister’s comments on wind turbines Vic Country Hour  By James Jooste The Victorian Labor Government says it will be a “one stop shop” for investment in renewable energy by building more wind farms across the state.

But recent efforts by the State Government to underwrite Victoria’s energy production with renewables has been stifled by a reduction in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 and negative comments by the Prime Minister.

Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said recent remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, where he called wind turbines “visually awful”, were sending mixed messages to industry.

AUDIO: Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne says his state welcomes wind energy investment (ABC Rural)

“Well I think people we’ll be looking very curiously and saying, ‘Well where does the Federal Government stand in terms of renewable energy and climate change?'” he said.

The State Government wants to scrap section 7c of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act which prevents states fromreinstating independent targets for renewable energy.

June 19, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Victorian government moves to speed up wind farm projects

Wind-farm-Waubra-VictoriaStreamlined Victorian wind farm planning laws promise more regional renewable energy investment ABC News, 12 June 15,  The Victorian Government says changes to wind farm planning laws will drive renewable energy investment in the state.

New changes mean the Planning Minister will assess wind farm applications and their infrastructure together.

Previously, developers had to submit multiple applications to local and state governments.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said it made the application process easier for investors.

“What we are saying is that the doors are open, we are unambiguously in the space of wind farms, we are encouraging investment and the decisions that we reach today around the planning considerations give a streamlined outcome for anyone who wants to invest in wind farms in Victoria,” he said.

He said the move would create jobs in country Victoria.

“Investment in wind farms just makes tremendous sense in terms of employment outcomes for regional communities, it makes tremendous sense in terms of climate change and it’s a great win for regional economies right across regional Victoria,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Wind Alliance said it has concerns for south-west Victoria’s renewables sector, in the wake of comments made by the Prime Minister……

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Mount Alexander Shire, Victoria, launches MASH (Mount Alexander Solar Homes)

Further information on MASH 2 can be viewed here.

Victoria-sunny.psdSunEdison Australia Powering MASH 2 Solar Initiativ June 9, 2015Castlemaine-based non profit group Hub Foundation has sparked a second solar revolution in Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria, Australia; in partnership with SunEdison.

Hub Foundation’s largest project so far has been MASH (Mount Alexander Solar Homes). The community solar bulk-buy program has already achieved 225 new solar PV rooftops in the area – half of all solar power systems installed in Mount Alexander Shire last year.

During the first stage of MASH, 3,000 panels were installed in total. 24% of homes in the Shire are now saving on power costs with a solar rooftop; making it equal second among Victoria’s shires. But perhaps the Shire may boost its ranking very soon, while helping even more residents to save on energy bills and reduce their CO2 emissions.

For those who missed out on the first stage of MASH, MASH 2 was launched on the 4th of June by Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire, Cr Christine Henderson. Continue reading

June 10, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Yackandandah – small Victorian town with a big renewable energy future

Yackandandah’s small steps to a big renewable future, Michael Green The old brick-veneer community centre in Yackandandah has been transformed.

“We’ve had some really cold days this week,” says Ali Pockley, the centre’s manager. “But you come in here and it’s just toasty. It was hopelessly inefficient up until the retrofit, no doubt about that.”

With the help of a state government grant, local tradies installed a large solar photovoltaic system, insulation, double-glazing, shading and efficient air conditioners for heating and cooling. Electricity bills have plunged by three-quarters.

Yackandandah 1

Pockley launched the retrofit of the community centre together with an even bigger initiative: Totally Renewable Yackandandah. A group of residents are aiming for the north-eastern Victorian town to produce more electricity than it uses, by 2022. They began working on their scheme twelve months ago, and already the number of solar households in the town has jumped. Now, one in every three houses has solar power, more than double the national average.

Matthew Charles-Jones, from Totally Renewable Yackandandah, says they’re surveying residents and working on their grand plan, with the help of a local council grant. In the meantime, new solar panels, like those on the Men’s Shed, will make it easier to reach the target.

Yackandandah is one of four Australian towns plotting to become 100 per cent renewable, along with Newstead, in central Victoria, and Byron Bay and Uralla in northern NSW. Newstead was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the state government to develop its plan. Continue reading

June 6, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment


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