Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why power bills are rising

The Brisbane launch of the Beyond zero emissions plan to transition Australia to 100% renewable energy by 2020 was a really interesting event with an almost full house of around ~800 people.

What was also interesting were the comments made by John Daley, the Grattan Institute's chief economist. From an economists point of view he described the BZE plan as requiring a lot of money but "doable". In conversation after the event he told me that the advantage of the plan was that it took a technological approach, asking: could current technology switch us over to 100% renewable energy by 2020? And if so how could it be done? Instead of immediately getting mired in questions about what conventional wisdom said was politically palatable and politically affordable.

John also gave a clear description of why we are currently experiencing steep power price rises, which unfortunately isn't well understood, but as a hint, it has little to do with government greenhouse policy.

Over the next 7 or 8 year we can expect power prices and therefore power bills to double, even if we take no action on global warming, because (as also reported in the courier mail):

"It is a not-well-understood political fact that within the next six or seven years that is likely to double as a result of investing in transmission because of rising airconditioner use and as gas prices are likely to double as Australian gas prices achieve parity with world prices," Mr Daley said.
The cost of transmitting electricity is about half of your electricity bill and the increased use of appliances like air conditioners (which can use several kilowatts of power) means that peak daily demand for power is increasing. To prevent brownouts you need enough wires to meet peak electricity demand and so lines companies are spending billions of dollars upgrading transmission lines, which of course, we have to pay for. There is also a sad piece of irony that a robust response to climate change (like the BZE plan) would also involve massive increases in energy efficiency, lowering peak demand and therefore decreasing the need for some grid upgrades and actually put some downwards pressure on prices (at least in this area).

So there you have it, power prices are rising because of infrastructure investments in an upgraded and expanded grid and the rising prices of fossil fuels.

PS: ENERGEX is starting up "Energy conservation communities" in an attempt to reduce peak demand. My guess is they think it will be cheaper to reduce household power usage at peak times than continually add more wires to the grid. If you live in the Centenary Suburbs (and surrounds) and have aircon or a pool filter you can sign up and they'll give you some goodies. See their website (linked above) for all the details.

3 1/2 wagons of coal

That's how much coal it takes to completely obliterate all the yearly C02 savings from the QLD government Solar Kindies scheme.

Now the Solar Kindies scheme, which puts solar on kindergartens, is a positive thing and parents and kindy teachers will feel justifiably proud that their premise's are being powered by renewable energy, but how much difference will it really make?

According to Dr Guy Pearse's talk at the University of Queensland tonight, about 42 coal trains arrive at QLD ports for export every day, that's one just over every 30 minutes. Each train has up to 100 wagons of coal, so in the time it has taken me to write this post, the greenhouse gas savings from the Solar Kindies scheme have already been wiped out by QLD coal exports.

What does this mean? Well it shows that if we are really serious about dealing with climate change we need much bigger solar programs and much bolder government action. It also means that at some stage we are going to have to think about the massive amounts of C02 emissions we are exporting to places like Japan and China with our coal exports.

PS: This doesn't mean that individual action, or small actions to reduce emissions are meaningless. A tonne of C02 saved here is as important as anywhere else in the world (after-all, the atmosphere doesn't care who emits the C02, the impact is the same) and a tonne of C02 not emitted is a tonne of C02 warming we won't have to deal with in the future.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sustainable Jamboree E-bike Bulk Buy Update

From Garry Willett

"I have some GREAT NEWS!. The electric bike bulk buy programme has been "zipping along".... So much so that the 50 bikes are being ordered as I type. this means the price of $1,600 is confirmed, which is great!
We did not quite get to the maximum number of 50, however ,Glow Worm have decided to order them anyway. This means that we have been able to extend the bulk buy programme until November 6, so you still have time, if you would like to purchase a bike.

Because the order needed to be placed the boys have had to take a guess at the number of Sprints and Torq's to order. Those that have already decided on their bike of choice and pre paid are assured of receiving their preference model. As we move closer to the end date and people take up the remaining bikes, it will be a case of what ever is left. Naturally, those that order right at the death, run the risk of not getting their first choice. Anyway, lets hope we will have enough to supply everyone. Orders over the last few days have been terrific, Two orders of three bikes and another of two., plus a few singles.

I'm really looking forward to arranging an ebike ride, where we can all come together to celebrate our new found mode of transport.

Just a bit of house keeping:

Glow Worm have had to change their bank details on the order form, so I have attached the correct version. Also all documents are now available as down load from

Sustainable Jamboree will be hosting an electric bike forum on Saturday 23rd from 1.00pm to 2.30pm. I will present and have the eZee Sprint on hand for test riding. Please come along and bring friends. Very Informal and a good opportunity to have a burn around the Mount Ommaney Library. if you own your own helmet, please bring it with you."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Walter Taylor Ward: Public and active transport candidates forum

Its on at the same time as our monthly meeting but there is a Public and Active transport candidates forum on Wednesday 20th of October for the upcoming Walter Taylor ward council by-election this Saturday. Hopefully if you live in Walter Taylor (which covers a number of suburbs including Indooroopilly and parts of Kenmore, Chapel Hill and Kenmore Hills etc) you'll be aware of the by-election and no doubt aware of the less than ideal transport situation in these suburbs.

Here are the details for the event:

RAIL back on track is hosting a candidates forum for the Walter Taylor by-election. It's a rare opportunity to call candidates from all sides of politics to account for the state of Brisbane's public transport, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

Time: October 20, 2010 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: Indooroopilly Bowls Club
Corner of Allwood and Clarence Roads Indooroopilly
Organized By: RAIL back on Track

Monday, October 18, 2010

TTKD October Meeting - 'The Future of Food'

The upcoming Transition Kenmore meeting is a movie night:

"The Future of Food" is an in-depth investigation into unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled US grocery stores for the last decade. From Canada, across the US and into Mexico, this film gives farmers, whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by the new technology, a voice. The health implications, ecological damage, government policies and push towards globalisation and monopolisation all play a part in this story, and are the reasons why many people are alarmed about the introduction of genetically altered plants into both the environment and the food supply. The Future of Food effectively explains how genetically modified organisms are being cleverly crafted as the response to the coming global food crisis, in effect marketing GM food as the second 'green revolution'. It clearly and simply explains the forces that have already changed what is eaten in the US, and how Australia's food supply could potentially become part of this politically and economically driven movement. This film also explores organic and sustainable agri-food solutions as a real and very possible solution to feeding the world's people".

Join us on Wed 20th 7;30pm
Uniting Church Hall 982 Moggill Rd Kenmore to watch the movie

Our facilitator will be Louise Orr

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Australia should look to its food security, before all the farm is sold

Growing food and Landshare is our new initiative partly driven by reports such as this.

Australia is rapidly losing control of its food resources. The purchase of AWB - the former Australian Wheat Board - by the Canadian company Agrium, now approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, is the tip of an iceberg where large segments of food processing and marketing have been sold offshore.Production is now the last bastion of predominantly local ownership in the food chain. But with increasing interest by foreign companies - and governments, including China's - quality farmland is also a target.

In short, Australians are in danger of becoming servants, not masters, of their own food resources.

This is not an alarmist view. In a US report last year titled The Great Land Grab, the Oakland Institute said oil-rich, arable-poor Middle East and wealthy Asian countries "are seeking to acquire land as part of a long-term strategy for food security". Purchases in South America, the subcontinent and Asia have begun.

Australia and New Zealand are high on China's list. In June, a Tasmanian real estate agent reported strong interest from China in northern Tasmanian dairy farms. Immediately afterwards, the Chinese government-controlled Bright Food Group bought New Zealand's third-largest dairy processing company, Synlait, which has 15 independently owned farms, after being beaten by a Singaporean company for CSR's Sucrogen sugar and energy business.

When overlaid with other food resource acquisitions, such trends should ring alarm bells in a country that has lost control of most of its food marketing and processing. But overseas purchases of rural property and food-related companies for less than $231 million do not need Foreign Investment Review Board approval.

Almost all rural land and associated farm businesses can be bought by anyone, anywhere, any time. Unlike media, telecommunications, transport and defence equipment, rural land and food production - or food marketing and processing for that matter - are not part of a "prescribed sensitive sector" for foreign investment. Perhaps they should be. In a world becoming increasingly concerned about food security, Australia's abundant, highly productive farmland is ripe for the picking.

Already, interests as powerful as the Sultan of Brunei, the Swire family of England (a major shareholder of Cathay Pacific) and Count Carl Gustav Wachmeister of Sweden own significant rural properties here, as do many other companies and individuals. Even if such purchases remain isolated, there is always the prospect of foreign companies with major stakes in Australia's food marketing and processing buying farmland.

There are precedents. Gordon Edgell, who started growing asparagus near Cowra in the 1920s, developed an iconic food production and processing company that is now owned by the US giant JR Simplot.Australia's biggest meat processor, Australia Meat Holdings, with 10 abattoirs and five cattle feedlots, is owned by the Brazilian company JBS, the world's largest meat processor. Two of the other top three meat processors, Cargill Beef (in the US) and Nippon Meat Packers (in Japan) are beef producers. Nippon operates the largest cattle feedlot in Australia near Texas, Queensland, and a grass-fed operation on King Island; Cargill owns the Jindalee feedlot near Wagga Wagga. All its grain comes from Cargill's oilseeds and grain supply business, and the company owns 40 per cent of Allied Mills, Australia's largest flour producer.The largest shareholder in the nation's biggest cattle producer, the Australian Agricultural Company, is the Dubai food group IFFCO. Consolidated Pastoral Company, formerly owned by the Packer family, has 16 cattle stations in northern Australia, and is now controlled by the British investment group Terra Firma.

Three of the four biggest dairy processors - National Foods, Fonterra and Parmalat - are owned by Japanese, New Zealand and Italian companies respectively, leaving Murray Goulburn Co-operative as Australia's remaining representative in dairying's big league. The tuna industry has taken a similar route. Safcol, which began in 1945 as the South Australian Fishermen's Co-operative Limited, is owned by the Tropical group of companies in Malaysia. Greenseas was bought by Kraft Foods in 1961 and subsequently by HJ Heinz in 1974.

Approval of the AWB purchase is yet another loss of local control in the food chain. It follows last year's sale of ABB Grain, the former Australian Barley Board, to another Canadian company, Viterr. In a little over a decade since they were both privatised, these two once-dominant grain traders have gone offshore. AWB bought the rural services company Landmark from Wesfarmers in 2003, meaning that one of the remaining big two pastoral houses (the other is Elders) is now foreign-owned. Apart from a lot of top farmland, there isn't much left.

Paul Myers is a former editor of The Land and was founding editor and publisher of OUTBACK magazine.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beyond Zero Emissions Brisbane Launch

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday 27 October, 6-8pm

Plaza Terrace Room, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Cnr Merivale and Glenelg Streets, South Bank, Brisbane

The event is free but you must register online beforehand.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Emergence - how life creates radical change

I wanted to share my thoughts with you on an article that a friend recently gave to me on 'emergence' - of community, of connection, of ideas and of movements. I think it really captures what Transition Towns is all about and why we are all involved. The article was written by the founders of the Berkana Organisation, who work with and for communities all over the world. Transition Towns also is about communities working with and for each other, encouraging and supporting people to live more sustainably. How we can actually achieve that is something that I know I for one am grappling with, constantly searching for answers.

Emergence happens when individuals connect with other other individuals in the same locale, sharing knowledge and ideas and forming new ways of doing things. If those new ways and thoughts stayed in that locality, then it would be hard to discern that change. When individuals share their knowledge and their ideas with other like-minded individuals in other communities, and they too begin to change, suddenly a pattern emerges, and a whole new movement has arisen.

Transition Towns is a model of an a emerging movement. A loose network of connected communities, full of people with the same hopes and desire for change. It is up to us to keep sharing our knowledge and stories, within our diverse communities and other networks, and forming new connections, until gradually these ideas become new ways of doing things.

If you're interested in reading about the 'Lifecycle of Emergence' here is the link:

I hope this article inspires you as much as it did me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

update on ebikes buying group

I ordered an ebike as promoted at our recent meeting, and the scheme is going ahead with a delay until 6 November to get the numbers up. But the good news is the supplier in an email I received today has decided to guarantee the fully-discounted price even if they don’t make the target of 50.

Here’s a pointer to the Sustainable Jamboree web page with more detail on the bulk buy.

TTKD Growing Food & Landshare Initiative -plenty of interest so far

Transition Kenmore recently announced the Growing Food & Landshare Initiative where we will match people who have spare land with people who want to grow food.

Interest has been steadily rolling in from people who want to share their land and those who'd like to make use of it. Thanks to everyone who has gotten in touch to date. So if you have been thinking about getting involved but weren't sure if there would be somewhere for you to get your hands dirty, it already looks like that isn't going to be a problem.

Want to get involved? Here's the details again:

TransitionTown: Kenmore District (which covers the Pullenvale Ward) would like to engage with people interested in exploring the possibilities of:

1.Landshare and setting up an online Landshare register

2. Co-ordinating people who are already growing food and have a surplus, no matter how big or small.

3.Co-operatively selling food through the local Moggill Markets in the first instance then onto a wider local food supply network.

Who should register interest?

Anyone interested in growing food.
Anyone with land they are happy for others to use with a written agreement as to the terms of that use.
Gardening Mentors: people in the area who have experience in growing food and are willing to share that knowledge.

Register your interest by sending us an email: transitionkenmore"at"

"From little things, big things grow" - Lets start growing!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Green Idea and Drinks - 7th Oct at The Apple Tree

A reminder this Thursday (the 7th) is our monthly Green Ideas and Drinks get-together.
It is a great opportunity to get to know new people, hear what others are doing, and be inspired!
See you there for a Sip and Chatter about all things Green.

When: Thursday 7th August....from 6:30pm
Where: The Apple Tree
The Courtyard: 2060 Moggill Rd Kenmore

Green Ideas and Drinks is a relaxed way to introduce your friends and neighbours to the ideas of transitioning to a lower carbon lifestyle.
Green Ideas and Drinks occurs on the first Thursday of each month. So come down, say Hi and share you Green Ideas. - 10/10/10 Global Work Party (this weekend)

"With your help, 10/10/10 is going to be the biggest day of practical action to cut carbon that the world has ever seen.
We're calling it "A Day to Celebrate Climate Solutions"--together we'll get to work in our communities on projects that can cut carbon and build the clean energy future.

But we won't stop there--we'll be using the day to pressure our leaders to Get To Work themselves by passing strong climate policies promoting clean energy and reducing emissions.

Thousands of people around the world have already registered their plans, including bike repair workshoppers in San Francisco, school insulating teams in London, waste-land-to-veggies-gardeners in New Zealand, and solar panel installers in Kenya."

This weekend marks the global day of action for, a worldwide grass roots network working towards getting carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back to 350 part per million, considered to be a safe amount for maintaining a climate similar to the one we have now.

The emphasis of the Global Work Party is to get to work in your community doing something that reduces carbon emissions and by doing so show our leaders that we're taking action and you should be too. Currently there are an incredible 6174 events planned in 184 countries, including a number in Brisbane (click the link for information about all the listed events and how you can get involved/ RSVP).

Popular events for Brisbane include, setting up community gardens and permablitzing gardens, planting trees, picking up rubbish and cleaning up creeks and making energy efficiency improvements.

Here are some of the event being run by the community climate network members and friends

  • UQ Gets to Work! - UQ Climate for Change will be having (environmentally friendly) bbq on campus and helping people to create plans to cut their carbon footprint by 10%.

Hopefully you can make it to one of these events, if you can't consider doing something around your house, plant a tree, sign up for green power, look into getting solar hot water etc and "get to work".