Australian news, and some related international items

Huge Melbourne rally kicks off Australia’s marches for climate action

climate Melbourne 15

Thousands gather at Melbourne CBD rally ahead of Paris climate summit, The Age, [excellent photos and video] November 27, 2015 -Chloe Booker, Timna Jacks, With Tom Cowie and AAP

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Melbourne’s CBD to demand world leaders take strong action to protect the planet at the Paris climate change conference.

The so-called People’s Climate March was one of hundreds of rallies being held around the world in the lead up to the crucial meeting. Members of The Cat Empire performed for the crowd, which included Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.

 Organiser Victoria McKenzie-McHarg estimated the crowd was at least 60,000 strong. “This absolutely is the largest climate change rally we have ever seen in Australian history,” she said to cheers from the crowd.  Chanting “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now”, the demonstrators marched from the State Library to Parliament House.

A sea of placards stretched down Bourke Street from Spring Street to Swanston Street and along Swanston Street from Bourke Street to La Trobe Street. There was a stand-off between banked-up traffic and protesters at Exhibition Street as frustrated drivers honked their horns and the crowd erupted in cheers and shouts.

Stunned diners observed the march from outside Bourke Street cafes, and some heckled the demonstrators. Sections of the crowd were more like a party, with some dancing and clapping to a marching band dressed in green-glittered uniforms, while others swayed to the strumming of a guitar. ……..

Andy Parsons, an Environment Victoria volunteer who attended both rallies, said environmentalists supported the right of Aboriginal people to live independently.”The Aboriginal people lived sustainably for thousands of years. Us white people could learn a lot from them,” he said.

Aboriginal man Robbie Thorpe said he saw a parallel between the “genocide” of his people and what he called the  “ecocide” of Australia’s natural environment. “We are the custodians of the land and the language. Only we know how to talk to our land. Without the Aboriginal people the land can’t survive and without the land, we can’t survive.”

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

Iluka Resources to subdivide West Victoria land with radioactive trash tomb

radioactive trashMiner Iluka Resources gets Horsham Council approval to subdivide Douglas mine land Horsham Council has approved an Iluka Resources’ application to subdivide land at its Douglas mine in western Victoria.

The approval is subject to a range of planning and environmental conditions.

“The mineral sands miner said it did not need some parts of the site, including Pit 19 where radioactive mining by-product was buried.

The council’s planning committee has been reviewing the application for the past month and it has now been approved with conditions. Future activities on the land deemed sensitive will trigger an environmental audit and previous use of the land would be disclosed to any future buyer.

The conditions require a plan which clearly outlines land previously used for mining purposes and the disposal of radioactive by-product.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wastes | Leave a comment

Kerang, Victoria, gets economic boost from Lalbert solar farm

victoria-solarLalbert solar farm near Kerang tipped to boost jobs as Solar Choice secures investor for $550m project  ABC News, The company behind one of the largest solar farms in Australia says it expects the project to create up to 150 jobs for northern Victoria.

Construction of the $550 million solar farm on a 526 hectare property at Lalbert, west of Kerang, should start midway through next year, after the company Solar Choice secured an investor to finance the project.

The farm will have a production capacity of 350 megawatts and has the potential to power about 220,000 homes…….

Gannawarra Shire’s Roger Griffiths said the farm was another step towards developing Kerang’s future as a centre for renewable energy investment.

“What this does is just offers that bit of diversity, it props up our rate base and it provides a lot of other benefits right throughout the community,” he said.

“So we’re more than happy to have it on board and fingers crossed that everything runs smoothly and we see a booming new industry in and around Kerang in the next five to 10 years’ time.”

October 18, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | 1 Comment

Victorian Energy Compares electricity prices

text-Please-Notepower-bill-comparison-site-launched-20151016-gkaoee.html October 17, 2015 Marc Moncrief  Consumers disgruntled by their electricity providers can access an updated independent price comparison service backed by the state government.

The Victorian Energy Compare website allows users to use their own smart meter data to compare offers from electricity providers. It also compares offers from gas retailers and estimates the net position of any solar credits a home might have.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio​ said that, while there were other sites that compare electricity deals, they limited the offers they displayed to companies that pay.

“Unlike other websites that compare energy offers, this government website includes every single tariff,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“No other price comparison web site does that.”

She said that, particularly for an essential service like electricity, it was vital that consumers had access to every deal to be able to make informed decisions.

Karl Barratt, EnergyInfoHub project manager at the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, said it was “the only independent price comparison site” in the state.

“Because it’s such a complex system in Victoria, I think it’s groundbreaking that we have this available,” he said.

“The others are private operators. They have a relationship with the retailers. The private comparators will only show the narrow range that they are paid to show you.”

The launch follows the release earlier this month of a code of conduct for websites that compare utility offerings after some high-profile companies fell foul of the consumer affairs regulator.

Popular sites iSelect, Compare the Market and Energy Watch have all been pinged in the past by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for misleading their users.

October 18, 2015 Posted by | business, Victoria | Leave a comment

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


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