Communities take lead on renewable energy as big projects stall

By Giles Parkinson. RenewEconomy, March 10 2015

The market for large-scale renewable energy projects may well be at a standstill in Australia, but at the community level, things are happening quickly.

Dozens of projects have emerged as state governments tap into local ideas, offering grants for innovative projects that allow solar and other renewables to be developed at a local level, for innovative financing packages, and even the development of localised smart grid.

10 million solar roofs

Byron Bay first regional Australian city to commit to zero emissions

By Oliver Milman. The Guardian, March 9 2015

Byron shire says it aims to be a 'zero emissions community' within 10 years by upgrading public transport, improving agriculture and retrofitting buildings. 

Byron Bay has become the first regional Australian city to commit to cutting its carbon emissions to zero. Photograph: Byron At Byron/AAP

Byron Bay has become the first place in Australia outside the major cities to commit to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to zero over the next 10 years.

Zero Carbon in 10 Years

Byron Shire talks zero emissions within 10 years.

Click here to view the Prime Seven News bulletin.

Launched in Brisbane: ZCA Land Use report

The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry report was launched at the University of Queensland in Brisbane in December 2014. The research report delves into the realm of trees, fires and cattle - the land use sector. This is the only sector that can take us to below zero emissions, through carbon sequestration. 

A keen audience of farmers and cityfolk heard from keynote speaker Senator Larissa Waters. "It's wonderful that we're having a report that is brave enough to raise these sorts of issues and tackle them at their source," said Senator Waters, referring to climate change, future food production, land clearing, biodiversity loss, financial strain for farmers and suicide rates.

Left (L to R): Researcher Andrew Longmire, Senator Larissa Waters, David Hood, Dr Maria Hernadez-Soriano, Dr Shahla Hosseini Bai, farmer Rob McCreath and BZE CEO Stephen Bygrave. 



Australia’s coal and gas exports are being left stranded

By Stephen Bygrave. The Conversation, 21-11-2014

The 'Fossil Economy in a Changing World' report can be downloaded here

Australia’s official forecasts for expanding fossil fuel exports don’t match up with what’s needed to avoid severe climate change. Jeremy Buckingham/Flickr, CC BY

In the last week the US and China announced goals to reduce emissions by 26-28% and cap emissions by 2030 respectively. India also signalled its aim to end coal imports within 2-3 years.

These are telling signs of a move away from fossil fuels by some of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, including countries that are key importers of Australia’s coal and gas.

Land Use report launched in Melbourne

To a packed house,our researchers Andrew Longmire and Dr Chris Taylor explained the findings of the report, which provides a number of ways to bring land use emissions down to zero.

John Pettigrew, former director of SPC Ltd. and current President of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group, gave the keynote address. John had to destroy his 10 000 peach trees due largely to the impacts of climate change.



John pointed out that farmers had adapted to many changes in both technique and technology, and are far more capable of change than they're sometimes considered to be. Change may be met with reluctance, however farmers often came to rely on the new techniques they pioneered - reducing water use is a good example of this.

Land Use Melbourne launch panel

Launch discussion panel L to R: Andrew Longmire, John Pettigrew, Dr Stephen Bygrave, Prof. Craig Pearson, Prof. Kate Auty, Dr Chris Taylor.

A panel of experts including: Professor Craig Pearson (The University of Melbourne), John Pettigrew, Professor Kate Auty (Former Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria), Andrew Longmire and Dr Chris Taylor took questions from the audience.

Some of the points raised were:

  • Native wet forest is vital for carbon storage & as water catchment - plantations don't provide as much water
  • 5 million tonnes of carbon lost to ocean annually in soil. Australian soil found on Heard Island (Antarctica)
  • Many more opportunities on clean & green agriculture, & we're smart enough to do it
  • Climate deniers on the land a tiny minority
  • Australian farmers can enhance value of products with sustainable agriculture and charge a premium
  • You can listen to a podcast of the event here.

    The Land Use report can be ordered at our online shop, or downloaded free here.


    Agriculture and forestry: hidden emissions, solution in plain sight

    By Stephen Bygrave. RenewEconomy, 23-10-2014

    The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report can be downloaded here

    Agriculture and forestry activities cover most of Australia, but increasingly, no longer our national consciousness. With most of our population now living in the cities, the remainder of the continent is often forgotten. The vast space between our coastlines is not empty, however. In fact most of it is farmed and managed for a wide variety of commercial purposes.

    Beyond Zero Emissions has been working for several years on a major research project to look at reducing greenhouse emissions from the Land Use sector — agriculture and forestry. The result, released this week, is the Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report.

    The report shows a surprisingly high emissions profile for the Land Use sector, a sector that will be most impacted by climate change. But well-understood and already widely practiced strategies can move the sector a long distance towards the goal of zero emissions, helping to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

    The research proceeded from an initial investigation into where emissions in the sector come from, and at what magnitude. It turns out that various activities on the land including farming, forestry, and land-clearing, account for a huge proportion of our national emissions. This is masked in our national accounts, which splits the sector and offsets its emissions against reductions from revegetation of land.

    By including all emissions from farming and land-clearing for agriculture, we derived a figure of 33 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions coming from land use practices.

    The largest contributor was land clearing and re-clearing, followed by enteric fermentation (the production of methane by ruminant animals’ digestive systems, mainly cattle and sheep).

    The report also found that carbon stocks in native forests are systematically underestimated by a factor of up to four or five, so that the climate impact of native forest logging is much higher than previously thought. If the report had been able to include an adequate appraisal of emissions from clearfell logging, total land use emissions would be higher still.

    Native forest logging at Toolangi in Victoria's central highlands. From

    High-speed rail: Australia could build network for $30 billion less, according to Beyond Zero Emissions

    By James Law. From

    IT could be faster than flying, good for the environment and be our next great “nation-building exercise”. But does Australia have the wherewithal to make an idea as big and expensive as high-speed rail a reality?

    Climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions will present a report in Brisbane tonight that advocates for Australia to take up this major infrastructure challenge.

    Its research finds that a high-speed rail network on Australia’s east coast could be built for $30 billion less than previous projections and the system would be faster, cheaper and cleaner than air travel.

    A model system … Japan’s famous bullet train with Mt Fuji in the background. Source:

    The freedom revolution to kill power bill confusion

    By Stephen Bygrave. From Climate Spectator, July 22 2014.

    With the amount of rhetoric flying around regarding electricity bills and energy in recent years, you’d be hard pressed to find any points of clarity amongst the noise. For the average punter with little knowledge about energy and politics, the public discussion is bewildering, however much their electricity bill may concern them.

    Let's take a selection of assertions that have been made in the “expert” and partisan commentary on the energy market to illustrate some of these points:

    • Everyone acknowledges that we need to use more clean energy, but the Renewable Energy Target is too high.
    • The carbon price is destroying the economy and raising your electricity bill, but repealing it may not lower bills.
    • Power bills went up because your neighbours installed solar, but if you install solar, your power bill will go down.
    • Solar isn't reliable because the sun doesn't shine at night, yet the energy grid can't accommodate all the solar power being generated.
    • Clean coal is ready to roll but nowhere to be seen. Wind turbines, which are now quite visible in a number of locations, are sadly unreliable.
    • Wind turbines may make you sick, yet fires in coalmines are nothing to worry too much over.
    • Gas is low emissions, clean and cheap yet gas bills have started to rise sharply.
    • Fracking is needed for energy security, yet state governments have enacted moratoriums against it.

    However, it's the simple truths that manage to cut through all the noise.

    One simple truth is that renewable energy has led to lower wholesale electricity prices. This occurs due to a well-researched (but little reported) dynamic in energy markets known as the Merit Order Effect (see this video that explains it clearly). Perhaps the reason it hasn't caught on is because there's little or no evidence that lower wholesale prices have been passed on to consumers in the form of lower energy bills. Certainly, there has been little reporting of the effect.

    We have on the other hand seen many (misleading) appeals to a supposed public good, blaming solar homeowners for everyone else's rising electricity prices.

    All this hasn't stemmed the flood of homes embracing solar. There's well over a million households in Australia now generating their own solar electricity.

    Now, as gas bills begin a sharp climb that could emulate the previous rise in electricity bills, those solar panels on your neighbours' house will look even more enticing.

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