Published 15 June 2017, The Courier, Ballarat
Is our energy transformation about to happen? Committee for Ballarat believes we are at a positive tipping point, especially in our region. We are witnessing the harnessing of wind, solar and waste for alternative energy across Victoria and the investment will continue with the state government’s reverse auction process, which will be underway by the end of 2017. Householders know only too well how costs for electricity and gas have been rising but now businesses are being hit with huge hikes as they approach energy contract renewals.
So it is a business issue and not solely an environmental issue to be dealt with – and urgently. Business around the world is taking it up, from Denmark to Canada, India, China, Sweden, Brazil, Germany and France. Governments are changing policies rapidly to set renewable energy (RE) targets with ambitious timelines because RE costs are diving down as demand grows. States are going it alone (in Victoria and South Australia) and, in America, city mayors are leading the commitment to renewables, even as the President attempts to renegotiate the Paris climate accord.
It is also increasingly a community issue as dependence on the national electricity grid becomes riskier and local solutions emerge as viable. Micro-grids offer new solutions with an interconnected structure to overcome insanities like regions suffering brown or blackouts when demand surges in the capital cities. Why on earth are we acting like ostriches in this country while the world around us continues to implement change? The Regional Development Australia report on energy vulnerability in the Grampians/Central Highlands region shows the need for focus on the long-term.
We have skills, ingenuity and entrepreneurship that can be applied to give communities and businesses energy security and affordability into the future. Telstra is investing in a solar plant in Queensland because it sees opportunities both for itself and the locality around the plant. Innovation and convergence is underway and should be encouraged by implementing sound, scientifically-based policies.
At a conference in Canada last month, I encountered truly inspiring people from around the world who are doing things differently. Leaders from local governments, the private sector and not-for-profits were involved in seeking ways forward to a reliable, renewable and fairly distributed power supply.
CSIRO Chief Economist Paul Graham recently outlined the scope of and the possibilities for a renewable energy future with reliance on solar PV, wind, natural gas and storage. Not only is this feasible due to the reducing costs of RE, it is actually being applied on a local scale across the world. One example is the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto which invested $117,000 and achieves annual savings of $31,000.
Now we have the Finkel Report which the Federal Government is considering. Committee for Ballarat, along with major business organisations, urges politicians at all levels of government to agree on a settled policy framework quickly, as recommended. This will give much needed certainty to the market, especially as it includes timeframes for coal-powered generation companies as the transformation continues.
We are at a crucial point which needs bipartisanship by our decision makers. If you need any further convincing then just ask any person under forty years old who has a far bigger stake in how we attempt to transform our consumption habits through renewable resources and energy efficiencies.
Or you could follow the lead of the largest investment bank in the world, Black Rock, in ditching coal investments in favour of renewables.
Chair, Committee for Ballarat