President's Report May 2020

Photo on 19 1 20 at 2.20 pm 2As we enter the third month of Victoria’s COVID-19 shutdown, BREAZE continues to deliver our monthly sustainable living series, Smart Living Ballarat (SLB) via the SLB Facebook site. In April, Ballarat Permaculture Guild founder, and owner of Chestnut Farm Cooperative, Steve Burns, gave a live-streamed presentation on how we can live a more sustainable and frugal life while ‘stuck’ at home.  The video of Steve’s talk is still available for those who missed it. For the next SLB talk on May 20, BREAZE Treasurer, Peter Reid OAM, will talk about Green Energy. Visit the SLB Facebook page to register.

Meanwhile the energy wars continue. In  Canberra in late April, Minster for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor forecast a ‘gas-fired’ economic recovery from the COVID-19 downturn, presumably on the back of falling local gas prices.  His comments appeared in the media around the same time that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced the country was on track to be sourcing 75% of our electricity from wind and solar within five years. And so energy policy continues as a game of political football even as COVID-19 wreaks economic havoc across the nation. Despite Taylor’s claims that gas is needed to ‘firm up’ the system due the variation in wind and solar, AEMO identified pumped hydro, batteries and “demand-side participation” – schemes that offer energy users incentives to scale down consumption when required – as ways of doing this.

Ross Garnaut, presenting in the online Stimulus Summit run by the Smart Energy Council and Renew Economy on 6 May, observed the economic downturn is hurting the fossil fuel (FF) industry far more than the renewables sector. While energy use has fallen worldwide during the pandemic, coal, with its high base costs, has been hardest hit, while the renewables sector has expanded its market share as that of the FF sector shrinks. Garnaut’s takeaway re the impact on coal: ‘the natural thing is for early closures.’ (The Age, May 6, 2020).

The PM’s economic ‘snapback’ has been derided as naively over-optimistic and also for implying economic recovery means going ‘back’ to bad old ways. With unemployment hitting record highs and business reeling under the stress of low-to-no income, we need inspired economic intervention from government at this time, not an era of austerity as they try to balance the budget. Fortunately, although the federal government remains seemingly addicted to fossil fuels (FF), considerable knowledge and energy is currently being committed to planning a green ‘recovery’ or ‘new deal’. Pointing to the historically low interest rates, Garnaut made a convincing case for a green recovery powered by renewables, echoing the thesis of his book Superpower.  

For anyone who is interested, there has been a stream of free webinars on the topic – one of the few benefits of the pandemic being that those with high-powered expertise are now holed up at home like the rest of us and thus more available to share their knowledge and insights.

News of relevant upcoming webinars will be posted on the BREAZE Facebook  site so check in regularly if you are interested.

Presentations from Smart Energy Council’s Stimulus Summit will be available on their website. Climate Works CEO, Anna Skarbek another Summit participant, began by emphasising the importance of keeping global warming to 1.5ºC rather than 2ºC then outlined that technological progress over the last five years meant that net zero emissions by 2050 was now readily achievable in all industry sectors—electricity, buildings, transport, industry and agriculture/land—if we took ‘strong action’ now. She ended with the warning that this is the ‘transformation decade,’ and that the window for action will not stay open. In similar vein, Eytan Lenko, CEO of Renewables Think Tank, Beyond Zero Emissions, who also participated in the Summit, presented on research into ‘green jobs — The Million Jobs Plan—giving a breakdown of estimated job creation potential across: renewable energy and transmission; building/construction (eco retro-fitting and new builds to eco standards); modernising and expanding manufacturing; green mining; recycling and the circular economy; electrification of transport; land restoration and carbon farming, and community led initiatives. The last was allocated 100,000 jobs — so thinking caps on please BREAZE community. 

Anna Skarbek’s final words were that we are in ‘a make or break moment’, and that we ‘must push’ those in power to take the strong action needed. 

So that is our challenge for this time—how to push those in power. 

At BREAZE we are continuing our advocacy for climate action and renewable energy, and our fund raising for Social Solar. This month our Social Solar program is funding the installation of rooftop solar on the Community House at the Charles Anderson Grove Retirement Village, which is run by a local not-for-profit association. You can donate to our Social Solar program via our One Dollar One Watt campaign or the Donate buttons on our website or Facebook page.

As Victoria’s COVID-19 protocols are loosened please continue to take care and stay safe.

All the best                                                      

Mary                                                       

Mary Debrett, President,  May  2020