Ben Courtice

Port Augusta solar power plant in South Australia

The federal government's National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy, which was announced last year, was given provisional approval by state governments at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April, subject to further negotiation on details, including the emissions targets. What does this mean for renewable energy and climate action, key issues affected by Australia's coal-dominated electricity grid?

As a kid, the way I was taught about Indigenous people was terrible. For one thing, the understanding of the Indigenous economy and technology was non-existent.

I had this picture of people living in homes basically made of a bit of bark and maybe grass and sticks leaned up against a tree trunk. The impression was they spent their time wandering around and occasionally spearing a kangaroo or goanna for dinner.

Over the years I picked up bits and pieces of a more realistic and less insulting picture of Indigenous life, but it wasn’t really until I read Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe that it all fell into place such that I can maybe imagine in some detail how people lived.

Seven years after he launched a ground-breaking study showing how Australia could re-power with 100% renewable energy by 2020, Malcolm Turnbull, now Prime Minister, has announced a “National Energy Guarantee” (NEG) policy that will have no renewable energy target.

In the three months to June, Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reached a record level, with the annual emissions on track to surpass the previous peak in 2009, according to the latest National Energy Emissions Audit published by The Australia Institute.

Many environmentalists were disappointed, if not outraged, at Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, released on June 9, which sought to stabilise the existing electricity market.

At the same time, the failure of the privatised and deregulated electricity grid led NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham to call for its nationalisation as the only way to solve its intractable problems.

Victoria’s Labor government voted down the “#MetreMatters” bill on May 10 which would have required motorists to give cyclists at least 1 metre of space when passing. Earlier in the day, Greens MPs had moved the bill in the upper house, where it passed with the support of Coalition MPs.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), electricity supply will be threatened as early as next year by “shortfalls in gas”, or failing that, households may face cuts to their gas supply

With the passage of the Climate Change Act (CCA) that mandates a target of zero net emissions by 2050, Victoria is formally in the leadership among state and federal governments. 

“How can Shadow Minister for Renewables David Southwick continue to hold his title while opposing investment in wind and solar?” asked Friends of the Earth renewables campaigner Pat Simons after the Victorian Liberals declared they would abolish the state renewable energy target if elected.

Protesters gathered outside his Caulfield offices on February 14 with a banner reading “Shadow Minister against renewables” and also outside state Opposition leader Matthew Guy's office in Bulleen. 

Conservationists say the Strzelecki Ranges hold “one of the most important koala populations in Australia”, after completing surveys that may suggest a population of several thousand koalas across the region.

Surveys conducted in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges and South Gippsland over 2013–2016 indicate a population of almost 1000 koalas in the 10,500 hectare area surveyed, koala expert Dr Steve Phillips told Green Left Weekly.

One outcome of last year's inquiry into the Morwell Mine fire in Victoria's Latrobe Valley was the discovery that the default plan for “rehabilitating” the mine would be to let it fill with water naturally, perhaps to become a recreational lake. The hitch: it would take more than a hundred years to fill naturally and the water quality would be terrible due to pollution from coal seams.

ENGIE, the French company that owns two of Victoria's coal power stations, announced on November 2 it will close the oldest, Hazelwood, by March, and is selling the other, Loy Yang B. The power stations are in the Latrobe Valley, east of Melbourne.

Proceedings in the latest in the United Nations’ ongoing conferences on Climate Change — the November 7–18 COP22 that just concluded in Marrakech, Morocco — were disturbed by the news of the US election result.

A belligerently anti-environmental president is set to take office in the world’s greatest greenhouse polluting nation at the same time a shaky international climate treaty is being pieced together that will need US involvement to be effective.

Hysterical anti-renewable headlines aren't necessarily a surprise from the Australian and other News Ltd publications. But the cynicism of the attack on South Australia's renewable energy industry in their pages is still astonishing. On July 25, the Australian published Matthew Warren of the Australian Energy Council — a peak body for “major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses” — blaming renewables for “higher costs and increased risks around reliability” in South Australia.
Volunteer conservationists forced a last minute stay of execution for a section of forest near Toolangi that they had shown was home to the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum, which VicForests contractors were due to clearfell within days. Despite finding evidence of the possum in mid-April, posted as a video on facebook, “citizen scientists” monitoring logging operations were alarmed on May 4 to find the Imperium logging coupe where the possum was found was due to commence logging any day.
The fault in the out-of-service Basslink power cable connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia has reportedly been found, and repairs are expected to be completed by June. Meanwhile, a battery of diesel generators has been deployed and a mothballed gas power station re-opened to supplement the state's dwindling hydro-electric dams which are below 14% capacity.

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