The pastPhoto on 19 1 20 at 2.20 pm 2 month has been a good one for BREAZE. The announcement of the state government’s injection of $450,000 into rooftop solar for not-for-profit enterprises across Ballarat was very much welcomed. These funds, along with another $650,000 for solar on the EGHS hospital carpark at Ararat, have meant that various projects the BREAZE-hosted Ballarat Community Power Hub had already identified and assessed as ready to go pending funding, can now be implemented. Great to see money going where it is needed, reducing emissions and serving social justice. For further details on the projects see Juliana Addison’s media release. As a job creation initiative to help the COVID recovery, project timelines will be accelerated, with a December deadline for all of them. It means the members of the CPH Project Control Group—Jane Lean, Peter Reid, Ian Rossiter and Ross Irving from Sustainability Victoria—who have already put in countless hours of volunteer labour, nurturing these projects, will be overseeing their completion. On behalf of the BREAZE community the board thanks them for their generous commitment to the cause—social justice and zero emissions. We will be releasing more information about these projects as each progresses over the next few months. 

On 30 May BREAZE board published an Open Letter in The Courier. Signed by six leading figures from across different sectors of the Ballarat community, the board took this initiative with the objective of shifting the conversation on climate action away from the overtly political lines that have dominated in Australia to date. We thank those who signed the letter for their courage and commitment in taking this public stance. With media coverage of COVID-19 turning to talk of a renewables-led recovery and with the commencement of the Bushfires Royal Commission bringing further focus to climate change, it seemed an opportune time for publication of the Letter. The Courier also carried an article by Rochelle Kirkham on the thinking behind it, which is posted on the BREAZE Facebook page. 

On the policy front, last month saw the release of the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion paper: A framework to accelerate low emissions technologies. While the discussion paper lists 140 low emissions technologies and makes many acknowledgements of the important role that renewables is set to play in the nation’s future the role already highlighted for gas remains problematic, particularly due to fugitive emissions. Writing in Renew Economy (2/6/20), Michael Mazengarb cites a CSIRO study that found fugitive emissions of methane of only 3% of gas extracted would erase any benefits of gas was deemed to offer as a transition fuel from coal. The discussion paper also fails to acknowledge the need to set a target of zero emissions by 2050. BREAZE will be making a submission.

Our May e-newsletter included details of four recently established Action Groups – Advocacy, Community Forum, Sustainable Living and Social Solar - that offer BREAZE members opportunities to get involved in BREAZE activities. These groups will continue the work BREAZE has been doing since its inception in providing community information and education, advocating for and delivering renewable energy projects along with initiating opportunities for community climate action. Each of the Action Groups has a BREAZE Board member as contact person. Please forward any questions, ideas or thoughts you have about what each should be doing, to that person. In coming months we will be providing more information about meeting times (most likely via Zoom) and planned activities for these groups.

May also saw the release of the Grampians Roadmap to Net Zero Emissions (GNet). The document can be downloaded from the GNet site - https://www.gnet.org.au/roadmap-to-zero-page The Roadmap explores three potential paths: Business as usual, a Local action path and a Collaborative action approach. In its conclusion the last emerges as the only viable approach if we are to achieve the zero target in time:


‘Building on Local Action by working with governments, industries, and agencies outside the Grampians, it can bring the region’s emissions to zero by the year 2044. Driven especially by the potential for leadership in renewable and alternative energy, agriculture and land use, this approach can deliver year 2050 emissions that are reduced by 124% on their 2018 levels. In other words, the Grampians could serve as a global leader, by transitioning to an innovative Net Zero Emissions economy.’

The report, prepared by the Grampians New Energy Taskforce, draws on the research work of climate think tank, Beyond Zero Emissions, and the Strategy Policy Research consultancy group.

More good news is that the City of Ballarat has appointed two Sustainability Officers: one for managing the Urban Forest Plan and related issues—Daniel Siemensma; and the other to manage the implementation of the City’s Carbon Neutrality Net Zero Emissions Action Plan—Ching Tiong Tan. With a PhD in Environment and Development, expertise in assessing emissions and mitigation, and having served as a climate change consultant, Tan seems eminently qualified for the position

Please be aware that last month’s Smart Living Ballarat talk on Green Energy by BREAZE Inc. Treasurer Peter Reid, which was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control, will run this month on 17 June via the Smart Living Ballarat Facebook page. We ask that you register to attend this free event.

With the pandemic still very much present across Victoria, the BREAZE board continues to meet via Zoom and is happy to consider any representations from the BREAZE community. Many thanks to those who have donated to our social solar program. Please be aware you can do this via our website or via the BREAZE Facebook page. And do stay safe as restrictions continue to ease in our new era of ‘Covid-normal.’

 
All the best


Mary

Mary Debrett
President, June 2020

 

 

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The BREAZE Public Fund is a public fund listed on the register of environmental organisations under item 6.1.1 of subsection 30-55(1) of the income tax assessment act 1997.

This report highlights our achievements for 2019. You can find out a lot more about BREAZE in our annual report, which includes, our mission, history and financial statements, along with details about our various activities:

  • Our Smart Living Ballarat talks program, 
  • World Environment Day activities, 
  • New Bushfire Reality-Climate Adaptation Forum, 
  • Green Drinks Program,
  • Community Power Hub 
  • Social Solar projects, 
  • Media coverage.

 pdfBREAZE Annual Report 2019

Set in the heart of Victoria’Screenshot 2020 05 22 14.31.53s growing wind industry, Ballarat has much to gain if current calls for a green recovery from the economic devastation of COVID-19 are heeded.

The economic ‘snapback,’ pitched by PM Morrison takes the wrong direction—as does Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s recent enthusiasm for a ‘gas-fired recovery’. Yes the economic cost has been high, evidenced by over 600,000 unemployed, with many businesses left struggling to cover rent and debts with little or no income. But we must move forward—not back—and decarbonise the economy, cutting carbon emissions and investing in and incentivising renewable energy infrastructure. As Climate Works CEO, Anna Skarbek observed in the online Stimulus Summit this month, ‘this is a make or break moment.’ The cruel reality is that we have only one decade in which to keep global warming to 1.5C. The golden opportunity is that Australia is ideally placed to make a prosperous renewables-based recovery that addresses both crises. Both South Korea and the EU have already committed to green new deals—the World Economic Forum endorsing the latter as the “cornerstone” of Europe’s pandemic recovery” and forecasting ‘a competitive and inclusive 21st century, climate-neutral future.’ Global financial institutions are also turning their backs on fossil fuels, 133 according to analyst Tim Buckley, with 10 in the last two weeks. And last month, oil and gas multinational, Shell, committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.

Read more: Timing is everything: building a better energy future


IMG 6197 Socially distanced BREAZE Board members, Peter Reid and Mary Debrett were delighted to be with, Juliana Addison, Member for Wendouree, on 21 May, for her media announcement of $450,000 of State funding for community power projects across Ballarat from the BREAZE-hosted Ballarat Community Power Hub (CPH). Child and Family Services Ballarat was also a recipient.

L-R – Juliana Addison, Peter Reid, Treasurer BREAZE and member of the CPH Project Control Group, Mary Debrett, President BREAZE, and Wendy Sturgess, CEO Cafs. 

See the media release below for details.

Read more: State government injects $450,000 into social renewables in Ballarat

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

Photo on 19 1 20 at 2.20 pm 2

While the federal government’s wage stimulus package in response to the coronarvirus pandemic is set to end in September, given the state premiers are setting their own rules there remains no definite timeline for the current shutdown. There has, however, been much conjecture that this pause to ‘business as usual’ offers an opportunity for action on climate change. Any ‘kickstart’ to the economy to deal with the anticipated ‘COVID-19 recession’ should surely begin with transitioning the nation’s electricity infrastructure to renewable energy sources and building battery storage capacity across the regions, along with installing rooftop solar on all government buildings and schools—to better protect us all from blackouts during storms or bushfires and to lower carbon emissions.

Such projects could be developed alongside other initiatives to decarbonise the economy: policies to incentivise the establishment of parts manufacturing for the renewable sector; a nationwide network of EV highways to drive the uptake of electric vehicles by removing range anxiety; policies to encourage business and municipal governments to transition their fleets to EVs; and the manufacture of cost efficient Australian-made electric vehicles. Fast-tracking our transition to electric vehicles – cars, buses and trucks — would also address concerns around the imminent shortage of oil.  Electrification of the railways is another major project that would yield both economic and environmental benefits.

Apart from the lack of political will, which the federal government’s current shift towards Keynesian interventionism may have shaken, there remain key obstacles to decarbonising the economy that politicians with appropriate resolve could remove by: 1.) greenlighting development of the renewables sector with a coherent, nonpartisan climate policy, thereby creating the requisite business certainty to attract investment and entrepreneurs; 2.) addressing bureaucratic blocks impeding the development of a national smart grid; and 3.) funding research and development into decarbonisation as a priority for the CSIRO.

But with parliament not sitting again until August, and former Fortescue head Nev Power at the helm of the COVID-19 Coordination Commission—the group that the PM has said will “cushion the economic impact” of the pandemic—there seems little reason to hope for a green revolution. That leading business executives rather than our elected leaders are managing this emergency and the nation’s economic recovery from it, appears a concerning retreat from democracy.

Unfortunately, as is often the case in wartime, much of the mainstream media appears to be neglecting its role of holding truth to power, of scrutinising elites, perhaps like many of us too disturbed and distracted by events unfolding in these extraordinary times—of conflicting messages and warnings, horrifying statistics, and fears of hospitals and medical staff being pushed beyond their limits.

And so, under cover of the kerfuffle of their COVID-19 media announceables, governments are escaping mainstream media scrutiny regarding climate and the environment — more bad news I’m afraid

Recently, in the aftermath of the 2019/2020 bushfires the federal and Victorian governments agreed to extend logging industry exemptions from Conservation Laws, risking further extinctions of native wildlife. And similarly the federal and NSW governments weakened environmental protections with an agreement to facilitate the purchase of replacement habitat—offsetting—in lieu of habitat protection, thereby enabling miners to pay government to locate equivalent replacement habitat, leaving koalas—which some naturalists deemed ‘functionally extinct’ after the 2019-2020 bushfires—likely homeless for some time. 

Recently too, the NSW government approved extension of a Peabody owned coal mine under one of Greater Sydney’s reservoirs, while in Victoria, the Andrews government announced onshore gas exploration will resume—both moves apparently made under financial pressure from the federal government. And finally, this month we learned the Great Barrier Reef has experienced its third mass bleaching event in five years, and the worst yet, with February 2020 recording the highest monthly sea surface Reef temperatures ever.

Bad news aside, it has been said the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a kindness pandemic as people begin to appreciate the fundamental essentials of life, and the work of those who deliver them – medics, cleaners, supermarket staff. It would certainly be wonderful if this new caring society survived the pandemic and turned its attention to the environment. Then, maybe even if the business leaders currently making decisions about our nations’s future ignored that other emergency—the climate crisis—a new engaged and kinder public focused on a better world might force a change of direction, perhaps even drive non-partisan climate policy?

Whether you take the glass half full or half empty approach, one thing remains certain, climate activists were never more important and valuable than they are now.  So please, BREAZE community, look after yourselves and stay safe.

Meanwhile, in this time of social distancing the BREAZE Board continues monthly meetings online, making submissions and advancing our Social Solar program, in the interests of our 2030 zero emissions target. 

All the best

Mary

Mary Debrett, President,  April 2020

 

 

Photo on 19 1 20 at 2.20 pm 2The BREAZE Board has decided to take a conservative approach to the Coronavirus pandemic, in line with advice regarding social gatherings and maintaining social distancing. Our monthly talks programs—Smart Living Ballarat and Green Drinks—will not be going ahead in their usual physical locations. However, whenever possible, BREAZE Talks Coordinator, Paul Duggan will be live-streaming the Smart Living Ballarat talks advertised in our 2020 program, via the SLB Facebook page. Audience members will be able to post questions for these talks online as they happen. In the spirit of the BREAZE mission of sustainable living and a zero emissions target we urge you to continue to participate in these shared experiences albeit as a virtual audience. Green Drinks has been cancelled for the duration of the pandemic. 

 Recent commentary has understandably, drawn comparisons between the official response to the coronavirus pandemic and the disengaged response to the climate crisis. While the immediate risk to human life posed by COVID 19 is obviously perceived very differently to the slower moving, changing climate, nevertheless, with the devastation of this seasons's bushfires and glaciers now collapsing it is clear that calamitous and sudden changes to the environment also pose immediate and sudden risk to life. We mustn't let the current health crisis distract governments from the climate emergency and the need for action. They need to multitask. It has been heartening to see medical scientists treated and respected as experts in this health emergency. It would certainly be good if this current respect for science translated to an equivalent respect for climate scientists and our environmental emergency once the pandemic is past. At present media and public focus on COVID 19 makes it too hard for climate action to cut through. This was something Zali Steggall acknowledged today when she announced that she was delaying tabling her bill for a National Climate Act in federal parliament.  If you haven't yet signed the petition to support the Act please consider doing so today. There is a link on the BREAZE website. We can only hope the current public health emergency will establish useful precedents for making the case for a  climate emergency in due course.

Read more: President's Report 17 March

breaze logo145xSummary of event status

BREAZE and affiliated groups

  • Smart Living Ballarat - No physical event - where possible will be streamed on the Smart Living Facebook
  • Green Drinks - Cancelled until further notice
  • Repair Cafe - March Cancelled - following months under review
  • Buninyong Community Collective - still operating, reviewing operating procedures and risk review
  • Boomerang Bags - no Tuesday workshops until further notice
  • Biodiversity Forum - not scheduled, awaiting Covid19 updates

Also cancelled due to Covid19

  • 21 March - Action Day Camp St, Ballarat Action Climate Co-Op (BACC), a group affiliated with School Strike for Climate Australia,
  • 25 March – Wheeler Centre Talk at the BMI – ‘Everyday Climate Action’. The Wheeler Centre’s events page notes that bookings will be automatically refunded.