Australian news, and some related international items

Victoria’s Labor government to fund Macedon community solar energy program

Victoria-sunny.psdAndrews government shows renewed interest in renewables The Age, February 28, 2015  Michael Green

Renewable energy projects, including solar energy schemes i are staging a revival in Victoria under the new Andrews Labor government.

The Woodend local sustainability group is launching two green energy projects: a new solar energy scheme and the resurrection of a longstanding plan for three community-owned wind turbines.

Today, at the Sustainable Living Festival in Woodend, Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will announce a $100,000 grant for a 30-kilowatt solar farm.

The panels will be installed at the old timber mill, where the tenants’ ongoing electricity bills will be reinvested in more  solar panels. It will create a “perpetual fund” for community renewable energy, says Ralf Thesing, president of the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group.

Last week, D’Ambrosio announced a $200,000 grant for the central Victorian town of Newstead to become fully powered by renewable energy.

She says the Labor  government will “support and stand alongside” communities such as Newstead and Woodend, who are planning “to better control how their energy is made and where it comes from”.

“Everywhere I go, whether it’s metro Melbourne or regional and rural Victoria, people love renewable energy,” D’Ambrosio says. “That’s why we’re seeing many communities coming up with plans to make renewable energy part of their everyday life. They’re bottom-up approaches and they’re a terrific boon for local jobs.”

The Andrews government is preparing a “renewable energy action plan” and finalising the guidelines for its $20 million “new energy jobs fund”. It will also release a discussion paper on community-owned wind power.

For the clean energy advocates in Macedon Ranges shire, the election result was transformative. “It changes our situation completely – from being banned, we’re now unbanned,” says Barry Mann, who is helping co-ordinate the wind power project……….

The Victorian Liberal party appears to have had a change of heart under the leadership of Matthew Guy. For the first time, the state has a “shadow minister for renewables”, David Southwick. He says Victoria has the opportunity to be a leader in renewable energy. “We want an industry that can deliver more clean energy and clean energy jobs.”


February 28, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | 1 Comment

Victoria’s Green Party has plan for boosting Renewable Energy

greensVictorian Greens to use renewable energy group as bargaining chip with Labor February 11, 2015   State Political Correspondent for The Age The findings of a new Victorian renewable energy group to improve the sector will be used by the Greens as a bargaining chip in upper house negotiations with the Labor government.

The Greens have invited industry and experts to help tackle Victoria’s low investment in renewable energy, under a Greens plan.

Last year the Climate Council found that Victoria had the least favourable regulatory conditions of any Australian state for renewable energy.

Greens Melbourne MP Ellen Sandell is hosting a meeting next month with experts from the sector to address the state’s poor performance and has invited Premier Daniel Andrews and Industry Minister Lily D’Ambrosio. Both said they would not be attending.

The Greens, who hold five critical upper house votes, say the roundtable will produce a plan for how to bring jobs in clean energy to Victoria, accusing Labor of having no real plan for the sector at last year’s election.

Ms Sandell, who is energy spokeswoman, said the roundtable and its findings could be used as a bargaining chip in upper house negotiations.

“We have always said we will use our power to get the best outcomes for climate change and renewables however, we can. I’m starting by bringing renewables experts together and I hope the Premier listens to their recommendations,” Ms Sandell said.

“Despite incredible wind and solar resources, we have the most restrictive policy environment in the country, making it the worst place in Australia to invest in new energy sources.”

“As a result, we have the second lowest renewable energy capacity per capita of all of the states. Something has to change, and I’m determined to make it happen.”

Ben Courtice from Yes2Renewables said uncertainty around Australia’s renewable energy target had stalled investment in large-scale renewable energy projects.

“There is a real role for state governments to keep renewable energy’s share of our electricity use growing and sustain the industry into the future,” Mr Courtice said.

Invitations have been sent to Infigen, Solar Council, Metro Solar, Keppel Prince, local universities and Environment Victoria.

February 14, 2015 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victorian government seeking federal climate money for energy efficiency programs

Schools and hospitals could win from climate-fund bid, The Age February 1, 2015 Jason Dowling and Tom Arup School buildings and hospitals could be upgraded to save power and reduce emissions under a potential bid from Victoria for a slice of the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar climate-change fund.Victorian school buildings and hospitals could be upgraded to save power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions under a state government bid for a slice of the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar climate-change fund.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville met her federal counterpart Greg Hunt to discuss how Victoria could access the $2.55 billion emissions reduction fund – the central pillar of the Coalition’s “direct action” policy.

She said while it had previously been unclear how states could win federal funding to reduce emissions, the conversation with Mr Hunt had been encouraging that it would be possible to get support to introduce energy efficiency measures across a series of schools and hospitals.


“He was saying we could do that, so hopefully that’s right,” she said.

Under the federal policy, companies and governments can bid for funding to cut emissions. Funding will go to projects that show through an auction process that they can cut emissions at lowest cost.

On other climate change policies, Ms Neville told Fairfax Media the Andrews government would review the state Climate Change Act and would look at reintroducing a state emissions reduction target. The former Labor Brumby government introduced a target of a 20 per cent emissions cut by 2020, but it was scrapped by the Coalition………

Ms Neville said South Australia was also reviewing its climate change laws and she hoped the two states could work together to become an investment target for renewable energy. A joint emissions reduction target with South Australia was not out of the question.

Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said he would also like to see the state government explore ways to use the federal emissions reduction fund to shut some of the state’s high-emissions brown coal power generation.

On a new emissions reduction state target, Mr Wakeham called for a body such as the federal Climate Change Authority to be given the job of advising Victoria on targets.

He said Labor’s previous state target should be the starting point, and that targets should be short term to remain front of mind for politicians. ……..

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

Strong interest from South Australia and Victoria in ACT’s wind energy auction

Parkinson-Report-ACT wind energy auction: And the winners are …. REneweconomy, By  on 14 January 2015  The ACT government’s wind energy auction has thrown up some surprising winners, and none of the planned 200MW of wind turbines will be built within a bull’s roar of the nation’s capital, if market intelligence is correct. The ACT government advised the winning tenderers of their success just before Christmas, and have until early February to prove that they have the finance in place to build the projects.

The winners have not been publicly announced, and will be kept confidential. But through a process of elimination – i.e. by crossing out those among the 18 project tenders who concede they didn’t make it, there are three likely winners.

They are the Hornsdale wind project in South Australia – regarded as the country’s most prospective wind project because of its excellent wind resources. Industry estimates suggest that the project could be a go-er with a tariff of around $80/MWh…………

The second winner is thought to the small Coonooer Bridge wind project in Victoria. This is owned by Windlab, a spinoff of CSIRO which is based in Canberra. Coonoer is likely to be just 18MW, but will also likely have a level of community ownership through an innovative structure that we discussed here.

The third project is less certain but is thought to be the Ararat project owned by RES, also based in Victoria. It is also bidding for less than half of its nominated capacity of more than 220MW.

The ACT wind energy auction is important to the wind industry in Australia because the sector has been at a standstill for nearly two years. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, no new wind projects were financed in Australia in 2014 because of the Federal government’s attempts to nobble the renewable energy target.

That helped cause an 88 per cent slump in large scale clean energy investment, and pushed Australia down from 11th position to 39th in the world, below Myanmar and Honduras. For some international investors, the ACT auction was considered to be the last hope in Australia, given the uncertainty that continues around the RET.

Contrary to the federal government, which sees its future in coal, the ACT government hopes to source 90 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020. It will do this through a series of auctions – 40MW of large scale solar already completed, an initial run of 200MW of wind, and around 50MW of other large scale solar projects including storage, and 23MW of waste-to-energy projects.

The ACT government raised the prospect of winning tenders going to other states if the price was cheaper, although it did profess to have a strong “local content” component of the tender………….

January 16, 2015 Posted by | ACT, South Australia, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Hottest daytime temperatures on record – Victoria in 2014

heatVictoria experienced hottest daytime temperatures on record in 2014, BOM annual report reveals, ABC News By Loretta Florance 5 Jan 15 Victoria recorded its hottest year on record for maximum daytime temperatures in 2014, the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) annual report has revealed.

The state also recorded the second warmest year on record for mean temperatures, and the third warmest for minimum temperatures. The mean maximum temperature was 1.53 degrees Celsius above average, the Bureau of Meteorology found………

climate modelling showed that an El Nino effect on both the atmosphere and the ocean might progress over the summer, which would mean warmer temperatures in Victoria.

“We know that the year an El Nino event gets going tends to be the warmer years, so globally you’d expect 2015 to be at least as warm as 2014 if not warmer – and 2014 globally is actually looking like it’s going to be the warmest year on record,” he said.

“For eastern Australia, you tend to have the warm conditions persist through the financial year, so at least until the middle of next year, is what you’d be expecting for average conditions.”

January 7, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victorian election: Labor will re-introduce emissions reduction target, and promote wind and solar energy

ballot-boxVictoria election 2014: Labor promises to reintroduce emissions reduction target ABC News, 25 Nov 14 Victoria’s Opposition has promised to reintroduce a state-based emissions reduction target if it is elected on Saturday.

The pledge is part of of the state Labor’s newly-released environmental platform.

The Opposition said it would bring back the target, which was introduced in by Labor in 2006 before being wound back in 2009 after the federal renewable energy target was extended.

The Victorian Coalition Government removed the state’s target of 20 per cent by 2020 from the Climate Change Act in 2012

report by the Climate Council released earlier this month found that Victoria and New South Wales had the worst approach to renewable energy in the country.

Labor environment spokeswoman Lisa Neville said she wanted Victoria to play a leading role in tackling climate change…….

Ms Neville said Labor would also establish a $20 million fund to encourage investment in renewables.”[The fund] will co-invest with the private sector to drive wind and solar energy, and new technologies,” she said.

“We’ve also said that we’ll use the planning laws to actually encourage and promote renewable energies like wind farms in Victoria.”……..

November 26, 2014 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Senator Christine Milne calls for a gradual, planned, phaseout of Victoria’s coal power

Milne,-Christine-13Greens call for an end to Vic coal power, Herald Sun  AAP NOVEMBER 20, 2014  GREENS leader Christine Milne has called for a phase out of coal-fired power in Victoria but says it doesn’t have to affect jobs.

THE Greens are leading a push to close Victoria’s coal-fired generators and rehabilitate the sites in a gradual phase-out that they say will leave communities better off.

        “There are 485 jobs that could be created straight away from the rehabilitation and decommissioning of mines,” Australian Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters on Thursday.”A lot of the jobs of people working in electricity generation are transferable to constructing and maintaining renewable energy systems as well.”The Greens have pinpointed the closure of the Hazelwood and Anglesea power stations, which they say are among the dirtiest in Victoria.Senator Milne said there was already an oversupply on the Victorian grid and the phase-out would have no effect on supply.”The Australian Energy Market Operators are saying that there is too much energy in the system,” Senator Milne said.”My question for Denis Napthine is: is AEMO wrong when they say there is 2200 megawatts excess capacity in the system?”…….
          Senator Milne said the closure of coal-fired power was inevitable and it should be a gradual phase-out rather than a rapid closure when the sites are no longer viable.”With huge excess power supply and last century technology they will become junk assets,” Senator Milne said.”After the fires in Morwell, Denis Napthine really needs to look at the impact of coal-fired power not just on the atmosphere but on the health of people.”


    November 22, 2014 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

    In Victoria’s State Election, Renewable energy a key issue in Macedon

    ballot-boxState election: Renewable energy a key Macedon issue, say environmentalist Matt Crossman 11/11/2014 A blanket ban on wind farms is out of step with community views, according to environmentalists who believe renewable energy will be among the issues to decide the marginal seat of Macedon in this month’s state election.

    The Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group (MRSG) and Friends of the Earth released a report on voters’ views at the site of a community-owned wind farm near Daylesford last Thursday.

    The report included results of a community survey, which found that 86 per cent of Macedon respondents supported community wind farms similar to those at Hepburn Wind.

    Almost 90 per cent of the 700 people surveyed believed communities should be able to develop their own wind facilities.

    A total of 97 per cent of respondents preferred renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.

    And 80 per cent of those aware of the state government’s anti-wind farm laws supported their repeal. The laws, introduced in 2011, banned wind farm projects in the Macedon Ranges, Otways and Dandenongs. Continue reading

    November 12, 2014 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Casltlemaine’s remarkable launch of a solar energy revolution

    text-community-energyRenewable energy: power to the people, SMH, November 3, 2014 Michael Green Chewton’s primary school, student population 40, perches on a hill above the houses of the small central Victorian town, which borders Castlemaine. Before the year is out, its red tin roof will be home to solar panels facing east and west, positioned to best offset its demand. The school is crowdfunding for a renewable energy system, by way of a new scheme called the People’s Solar.

    “Our savings won’t go back into the big bucket,” says principal Julie Holden. “They won’t be used for staffing and books.” She’s promising to fund environmental initiatives by students around the town instead, as well as more energy efficiency improvements for the buildings.

    Modest though its goal sounds, Chewton Primary is one front in a revolution. Continue reading

    November 4, 2014 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Renewable energy is cheaper: union recommends switching to Powershop

    a-cat-CANI switched to Powershop recently,  I had several satisfactory years of fully renewable energy with AGL.  But now I am especially glad about the switch.   Apart from Powershop being cheaper and more efficient – it IS dedicated to renewable energy. And alas, looks as if AGL has now gone well and truly over to the dark side.  (See the article further down this page.)



    logo-Powershop-1ETU branch urges members to back Powershop  JOHN CONROY OCTOBER 28, 2014

    The Electrical Trades Union – Victorian Branch (ETU) has announced that it will be recommending an electricity offer with new Victorian market entrant and renewable energy backed electricity retailer Powershop to its members.

    ETU State Secretary Troy Gray said: “We are urging our 20,000 strong membership in Victoria to switch to Powershop to show their support for the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and Australia’s renewable energy future.”

    “For us it was a no brainer. Powershop has been ranked the greenest energy company in Australia by Greenpeace, they are backed by 100 percent renewable energy generator Meridian, they are the only energy company to put up a fight to defend the Renewable Energy Target and the jobs and investment it creates and they are 100 percent carbon neutral too.”

    “Our research indicated that companies, like Powershop, who support the RET, are 20-30 per cent cheaper than those who oppose it. The Warburton Review of the RET failed to make the case that the RET drives up power prices and with Powershop we know that our members can back renewable energy and the RET and save money.

    “Importantly, by encouraging our members to switch to Powershop, we can also help break the cycle of the big three energy companies (AGL, Origin and Energy Australia) ripping off our members with rapacious deals and self serving energy policies.”

    “For too long, our members, and other consumers across Victoria, have been in the grip of an oligopoly that has kept them at arms length from their own energy usage data. The emergence of Powershop, enabled by the RET, has brought unprecedented levels of innovation and choice to a broken market.”

    Powershop is backed by Australasia’s largest renewable energy company, NZ-based Meridian Energy. It launched on the Victorian market in February 2014 and has recruited over 20,000 customers to date. Powershop says it is a modern power company that’s designed from the ground up with the sole purpose of empowering consumers and saving them money.

    The company has been working to make the case that renewable energy reduces the cost of electricity for consumers. When Renew Economy reviewed submissions to the RET review from energy companies in June 2014, Powershop was found to be “the only retailer to call unequivocally for the current (renewable energy) target to be retained.”

    The ETU will not be receiving a payment from Powershop related to this offer to its members. ETU members switching to Powershop through this offer will each receive a sign up credit payment.

    October 29, 2014 Posted by | business, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Victorian communities at Dartmoor and Drumborg declare themselves ‘gas field free’.

    Residents to declare Dartmoor and Drumborg in Victoria ‘gas field free’  CIMARA DOUTRÉ WEEKLY TIMES NOW OCTOBER 17, 2014  

    TWO Western Victorian communities will today declare themselves ‘gas field free’.

    A number of minor and micro party politicians will attend the events at Dartmoor and Drumborg.

    It takes the number of Victorian communities to have declared themselves as gas field free to 31.

    Dartmoor farmer Michael Greenham said the response to invitations was heartening.

    “Unfortunately several of the major party representatives for Lowan, South Coast and Western Victoria are not able to attend, but some minor party and independent candidates will be there,” Mr Greenham said.

    “In talking with them, everyone is on the same side of the see-saw on this issue of shale gas fracking — it’s just a matter of how far along the seat they sit.

    “Our communities just want to make sure prospective parliamentarians keep moving down our ‘total ban’ end, to ensuring there is no budging when the heavyweights of the unconventional gas mining companies start jumping up and down on the other end. “

    The Victorian Government has a moratorium on all onshore gas exploration and fracking in place until July next year.

    This week, Energy Minister Russell Northe unveiled a new website to allow landholders to search for mining licenses that cover their property.

    October 18, 2014 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Victorian Labor pledges to fund renewable energy and to ensure a Renewable Energy Target for Victoria

    ballot-boxVic Labor to fund ‘new energy’ technologies JOHN CONROY
    OCTOBER 07, 2014   The Victorian Labor opposition has identified renewable energy as a key growth sector in a new jobs plan.
    Labor’s Back to Work policy released yesterday commits the party to “Establish a $200 million Future Industries Fund to drive the six high-growth sectors.” This fund will support “new energy technologies.”

    The party also announced a $200 million Regional Jobs Fund that will support job-creating projects, including “companies investing in renewable energy.”

    Friends of the Earth welcome the focus on renewable energy in the lead up to a state election on November 29.

    “Renewable energy is a high-growth, job-creating sector globally. Victoria’s economy can benefit from the shift to renewables, but only with political leadership,” said Friends of the Earth renewable energy spokesperson, Leigh Ewbank.

    The Back to Work policy announcement comes a week after Labor candidate for the hotly contested seat of Ripon, Daniel McGlone, supported a Victorian Renewable Energy Target. Mr McGlone told The Maryborough Advertiser:

    “Daniel Andrews has made a commitment that should the RET be scrapped at a federal level Labor will revist the VRET and re-instate it,” he said. “I’m obviously going to be deeply in favour of that.”

    Yes 2 Renewables say credible energy policy must include a state target for renewable energy, saying the renewable energy sector was languishing due to uncertainty around the federal government’s RET.

    October 8, 2014 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Melbourne and Moree get new solar businesses and employment openings

    Spanish renewable energy firm sets up Melbourne-based subsidiary, THE FIFTH ESTATE 23 September 2014 Spain’s Elecnor Group has ignored the current political climate in Australia’s renewable energy sector and launched an infrastructure subsidiary based in Melbourne. ……..

    Elecnor Australia’s first project is the $164 million solar photovoltaic farm in Moree, New South Wales for the Moree Solar Farm Company Pty Ltd, part of Fotowatio Renewables Venture. The joint venture originally included Pacific Hydro, which announced in August it was withdrawing from the project due to the policy-driven uncertainties impacting the renewable energy industry.

    The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has contributed $101.7 million towards construction and operation of the project, and $47 million has been provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

    Covering 191 hectares, the farm will comprise 232,960 panels with a forecast annual output of 150 gigawatt-hours direct into the main energy grid, enough to power about 15,000 homes. It is expected to be complete and commissioned by the second quarter of 2015.


    In a media statement, Elecnor said Australia will be a base for it to expand operations in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on developing business infrastructure and renewable energies………

    The Moree project has already created a number of positions to be based at the town, with the firm earlier this month advertising for an assistant project manager (engineer), a construction manager, six technical engineers as sub-contract supervisors, mechanical and electrical engineers, a civil engineer, two draftpersons, accounts and administration, purchasing and logistics.

    September 27, 2014 Posted by | business, employment, New South Wales, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Victoria’s Planning Tribunal gives go ahead for wind farm

    windmills-and-hayVCAT approves Berrimal Wind Farm changes 15 Sep 2014,

    Victoria’s planning tribunal has given the green light to changes to a renewable energy company’s plans for a 24-turbine wind farm in the Buloke Shire.

    Acciona’s Berrimal Wind Farm had the support of the Buloke Shire but needed approval from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to make the amendments to its original planning permit.

    The project is located between Wedderburn and St Arnaud and is expected to generate 72 megawatts of electricity.

    Buloke Shire’s chief executive officer, John Hicks, says the $150 million project will benefit the municipality in a number of ways.

    “That will provide six ongoing jobs for maintenance and looking after the turbines, plus the economic development that’s available to other people in the shire because of the added business,” he said.

    “There’s also the benefits of rates coming into the shire which relieves the burden on other ratepayers.”

    However, Acciona says all its projects, including the Berrimal Wind Farm, are on hold because of the uncertainty caused by the Federal Government’s review of the Renewable Energy Target.

    September 16, 2014 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

    Victoria’s Liberal government systematically destroying renewable energy

    Liberal-policy-1Napthine government accused of attacking renewable energy incentives August 31, 2014  State political editor for The Age. The Napthine government has been accused of systematically destroying renewable energy as green groups prepare for a ground offensive targeting key electorates ahead of the November 29 election.

    A report by Environment Victoria claims the government has made 25 attacks on clean energy, including “extreme” restrictions on wind farms, removing the 20 per cent emissions reduction target from the Climate Change Act, cutting and restricting the solar feed-in tariff, scrapping a commitment to replace street lights with energy efficient light bulbs, cancelling the solar hot water rebate and opposing the carbon tax.

    Since the November 2010 election, the environment has remained on the periphery of state politics. In the latest Age/Nielsen poll, it ranked sixth on a list of nine key issues for voters, behind health, education, jobs, financial management and public transport.

    But with the Abbott government considering breaking an election pledge by scaling down Australia’s renewable energy target, the state government is believed to be examining various options for an environment policy to counter voter concerns.

    attacks were announced to the public before the 2010 election, and it is difficult to see how they have benefited the people of Victoria.”

    The antagonistic claims follow a submission to the federal review of Australia’s renewable energy target by the Napthine Government. It argues the renewable energy target – ensuring that at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity is derived from clean sources – should be scaled back and suggests gas-fired power and power generated using waste wood from native forest logging should be counted……..

    Mr Wakeham said renewable energy had increased its share in spite of state government policy, largely because of the federal renewable energy target, something which the state government’s colleagues in Canberra want to destroy.

    Environment Victoria is preparing to target key marginal electorates – including some of the crucial “sandbelt” seats on the eastern side of Port Philip Bay – using hundreds of trained volunteers.

    Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham accused the government of running an agenda to destroy clean energy because it was “joined at the hip” with coal companies, risking billions of dollars of investment.


    “Most of Victoria’s policy agenda for a cleaner and more efficient energy mix has been deliberately dismantled over the past four years,” Mr Wakeham said. ”

    September 2, 2014 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment


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