President’s Report 2021

MDThis year, like the last, brought daunting challenges for many at a personal level. And, as in 2020, at national level it has been profoundly disappointing to see the many prescriptions for a clean energy based Covid economic recovery passed over yet again, in favour of fossil fuels and unproven CCS technology. After so many years of inaction on climate the Prime Minister's declaration of a net zero 2050 target, with no evident modelling or legislation to support it or drive it – just in time for the Glasgow COP26 – is profoundly anti-climactic. That much of the inaction is being justified as being in the interests of regional communities, is also very galling, given the many regional communities that like ours, are keenly embracing climate action and renewable energy.

However, at the local level, BREAZE Inc has some significant achievements to celebrate. In March this year City of Ballarat councillors unanimously endorsed an aspirational community-wide target of net zero emissions by 2030. This ambitious target is one long advocated for by BREAZE Inc. Ballarat now joins a growing number of regional communities pursuing ambitious emissions reductions targets. Climate think tank, Beyond Zero Emissions, has a page on Zero Carbon Communities which lists many of the others: https://bze.org.au/get-involved/zero-carbon-communities/

The 2030 community-wide target, Zero Emissions Ballarat (ZEB), is currently being progressed by the City of Ballarat via a Steering Committee comprised of members from the Regional Sustainability Alliance Ballarat (RSAB), and includes a BREAZE representative. It is expected that a contractor will be appointed soon by Council, to undertake a Draft Plan for driving the target. Once complete, the Draft Plan will be the subject of a public consultation process. Members are urged to participate. If you are interested, follow BREAZE social media for updates on the community consultation process.

A major achievement for BREAZE Inc in 2021 has been its selection as lead partner in the Grampians Community Power Hub (G-CPH), which is being delivered by Sustainability Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government. The role of the G-CPH Project Control Group – which includes BREAZE Inc. volunteers, Peter Boadle, Paul Duggan, and myself; Hepburn Branch partner representative, Hepburn Wind Manager, Taryn Lane; Sustainability Victoria's Regional Lead for the Grampians, John van Rooden; and the Hub's newly appointed Project Manager, Sowmya Nargaraj – is to identify potential community energy projects across the 11 local government areas of the Grampians Region. The G-CPH team also includes part time Communications and Administrative Officer, Sam Rodgers, already  known to many BREAZE members as the host of Smart Living Ballarat. The broader goals of the Community Power Hub program sit closely with those of BREAZE – to facilitate the uptake of renewable energy across the community to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build social licence for renewables. The 2021-2022 G-CPH is very grateful to have the support of three members of the previous Ballarat CPH Project Control Group: Ross Irving, Ian Rossiter and Peter Reid, who have generously continued to share their expertise with those of us who are still learning the ropes.

The third achievement for BREAZE in 2021, is the successful delivery of the Grampians Renewable Energy Program, in collaboration with DELWP, which saw the implementation of many of the projects to come out of the Ballarat CPH Pilot of 2017-2020. This program, part of the Victorian Government's Covid economic recovery strategy, was administered by BREAZE Inc Board member, Peter Reid. In collaboration with other volunteers and the staff of regional not-for-profits, Peter oversaw the installation of 384.16kW of solar on 105 properties across the Grampians region, and a 27.6kWh battery at Ballarat General Cemetery. A Bank Australia Impact grant provided additional funding that assisted the installation of solar across the community centre and 37 cottages at the Old Colonists' Association retirement village in Ballarat. With the addition of Solar Victoria subsidies, BREAZE Inc. project coordinator, Peter Reid, ultimately delivered 127kW over and above the contracted figure, a terrific outcome for the program.

The fourth significant achievement for BREAZE was another Social Renewables/Social Solar project funded via DELWP's New Energy Jobs Fund, with additional funding from the BREAZE Public Fund and Pinarc. This project saw solar and battery installations across all four sites owned and operated by Pinarc, a Ballarat based disability services provider. The final result, 75.72kW of Solar PV and 39.8kWh of battery power in total, was again over and above the initial target deliverable, thanks to the efficient project management of Peter Reid. The energy costs savings that will flow from these installations will enable Pinarc to invest more in their core services. 

Despite the many constraints of the Covid pandemic, BREAZE also continued its delivery of the Smart Living Ballarat (SLB) talks program, online via Zoom. Under the coordination of Ellen Burns, and more recently Sam Rodgers, who hosted the monthly talks covering a wide range of subjects – from sustainable fashion to Ballarat Council's recently launched circular economy plan. Despite growing Zoom weariness the SLB talks program has continued to draw in many BREAZE members and friends.

During 2021, the BREAZE Inc Board has also continued to make submissions to various authorities on topics related to our mission. These have included submissions to the City of Ballarat on: the community wide zero emissions target; elevating climate action and environmental matters in the upcoming Council Plan; and the Lake Wendouree Lighting Plan. Our thanks to those members who have continued to advocate for the environment and for climate action, via submissions and questions to Council, and letters to the editor. This year, thanks to Brett McDonald and Radio 3BA, BREAZE Board members also participated in a monthly talks slot on Ballarat Today, on the fourth Friday of the month – topics covered included climate change and health, electric vehicles, bipartisanship and climate change and environmentally sustainable design.  Certainly, speaking up for the natural environment has never been more important than it is now. The collective efforts of the community in this regard have arguably been validated with the elevation of environment in the draft Council Plan to goal 1: An environmentally sustainable future.

This year is also significant for the departure of Peter Reid from the Board. Peter has been an inspirational and dedicated volunteer at BREAZE for many years now. On behalf of the BREAZE community I thank him for his generosity as a mentor to many of us and for his service to BREAZE. 

While the scale of the global problem facing us makes our achievements seem miniscule, I believe we should all take heart from the fact that what we do is being replicated around the world by many millions of citizen groups working at the local level, like BREAZE. Thank you for your membership and support.

All the best

CHARITYMary                                                          

Dr Mary Debrett
President, November 2021                                                                 

 

 The principal objective of BREAZE is to protect the natural environment and increase sustainability within the region by promoting renewable sources of energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. BREAZE aims to facilitate and educate the wider Ballarat community towards a goal of zero emissions by 2030. BREAZE  became an incorporated body in 2007.