IMAGINE…and we did!

Australia’s first completed community-owned solar farm is now a reality at Tathra on the NSW far South Coast, helping to power the Tathra treatment plant. The 30kW solar farm is an initiative of community climate action group Clean Energy for Eternity, Inc and consists of 120 panels of 250W capacity arranged to form the letters of IMAGINE. It is clearly visible from the air on the approach path to Merimbula airport.

The installation is expected to generate an average of 40 MWh annually over its 25 year lifetime.

It will be officially opened on Tuesday, March 24 at 10.00am.
As CEFE President Dr Matthew Nott explained:

“In 2006 over 3,000 Bega Valley residents formed an IMAGINE human sign on Tathra Beach.”

“Shortly after CEFE was formed and adopted its 50/50 by 2020 target as an aspiration for local communities like Tathra. That is, 50% reduction in energy consumption and 50% renewable by 2020.”

“A local solar farm was seen as key strategy for reaching that goal, along with solar bulk buy programs and putting solar PV on community buildings”

“We are proud of what we have achieved in our local area over the last eight years– over 30 surf clubs, RFS sheds and community buildings now equipped with solar PV.”
“And now, finally, we have our IMAGINE solar farm.” Continue reading IMAGINE…and we did!

20081123 Clean sweep of beaches

Coastal communities are embracing green change, writes Carolyn Boyd (Sun Herald)

LIVING in a coastal community and having young children has spurred Matthew Nott into action on climate change. The orthopedic surgeon from the tiny community of Tathra on the NSW Far South Coast is the driving force behind a move to introduce clean energy to the Bega Valley.

The movement started out relatively small – raising $20,000 to install a wind turbine and solar panel on the roof of a surf club. But now, under the banner of Clean Energy for Eternity, the group’s aims have grown and Nott says the next step is raising about $8 million to build a community-owned solar energy farm.

The Federal Government has committed $100,000 for a feasibility study into the project and has promised another $1 million.

Nott wants to establish a model other communities can follow. “We want to set ourselves up as a centre of excellence for renewable energy,” he says.

The Tathra community has already won plaudits for caring for the environment. Last year, it beat more than 100 other entrants to win Keep Australia Beautiful’s NSW Clean Beach Challenge.

When the award was announced, judges called Tathra Beach “the pearl of the South Coast”, adding “Tathra has some fantastic community involvement in some great environmental outcomes, including the dune restoration and bush regeneration, which has taken place right along Tathra Beach”.

The median house price in Tathra is $375,000. Property available ranges from a basic three-bedroom house for $265,000 to a 19-hectare eco-getaway with an innovative, two-bedroom, corrugated iron home that runs on solar power and has a separate studio with bathroom. The asking price is $1.38 million.

Real estate agent at Marshall and Tacheci, Robert Tacheci, says the stretch of coast between Bermagui and Tathra is attractive because it has a raw beauty and is home to a community that is environmentally conscious and has diverse cultural interests, including art and music.

“I think the community goes with the area,” he says. “That you’ll find the people who’ll go for the area tend to have that taste because it’s one of the last little unspoilt bits [along the coast].

“If you were to follow the Princes Highway up and down the coast from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ve actually got this little bit that was somehow bypassed. That seems to have left an area that people are really drawn to for that reason.”

Further north, at Batemans Bay, the local Coastwatchers Association successfully pushed for the 85,000-hectare Batemans Marine Park, where the commercial fishing practices of trawling, long-lining and dredging are banned.

The group’s next campaign is convincing government and landholders that the region’s forests should not be woodchipped.

In Batemans Bay, the median price of houses is $312,500 and as the economic downturn bites, many properties on the market are subject to substantial discounting.

Coastwatchers president Mark Flemming says he is not opposed to development but would rather housing was built on already degraded farming land set hundreds of metres back from the water and off coastal dunes.

Flemming welcomes moves by developers to recognise better environmental principles in housing design.

“There’s no doubt that using intelligent design at subdivision stage is a really good idea,” he says.

“We think a subdivision should be designed so that those sort of issues can be taken into account, [including] north-facing blocks.”

20080101 Surf clubs champion clean energy

a219854c44The Tathra Surf Club’s switch to renewable energy in 2006 received great support from the community of this town on the NSW south coast. The wind turbine and solar panels installed on the roof save the surf club nearly $1000 per year in energy costs, are a highly visible demonstration of how renewable energy works and save our atmosphere about three tonnes of CO2 each year.

The installation was part of the LifeSaving Energy campaign by Clean Energy for Eternity, a community group on the NSW south coast.

According to Matthew Nott, spokesperson for Clean Energy for Eternity, the project received a lot of positive feedback. “What this project has done is show people how easy it is to install renewable energy onto a rooftop. The technology is ready to go and the equipment was installed quickly and easily.”

In fact, the project went so well that Matthew started thinking of an ambitious campaign – to switch every surf club in Australia to renewable energy.

“It makes for a strong statement – 305 surf clubs in Australia set up with renewable energy,” says Matthew, “And I wonder how many surf clubs there are on the planet?”

Clean Energy For Eternity first plans to switch all seven surf clubs in south east NSW to renewables by the end of 2008, before going national with the LifeSaving Energy campaign.

To raise money for the project, Matthew’s team started the LifeSaving Energy Big Swim, a series of 7-kilometre swims around south east NSW. The first Big Swim across Lake Jindabyne raised $20,000, just enough to install 2kw solar panels and a 400w wind turbine on Jindabyne surf club.

More Big Swim fundraisers will be held throughout 2008 in NSW, each linked to one lucky surf club. A Big Swim in the Bega River is even raising money for a wind turbine for Tathra Primary School (“This 7-kilometre swim is on the June long weekend in water that may be as cold as 10 degrees!”)

And Matthew has much bigger ideas in the pipeline.

“I am looking forward to working with Surf Life Saving Australia to set up a national LifeSaving Energy Big Swim, with surf clubs in each state holding a Big Swim on the same day to raise money for surf clubs. That will have some impact.

20070120 Tathra SLSC gets SMH coverage

lifesaving_energy_small_01Wendy Frew Environment Reporter Sydney Morning Herald

SURF clubs, best known for saving lives, are now saving energy. The Tathra club, in a campaign it hopes to take national, will today unveil a $20,000 renovation that includes a wind turbine and solar power panels.

The refit will greatly reduce the club’s greenhouse pollution and cut its electricity bill by an estimated $1000 a year.

The joint venture, between a local group, Clean Energy for Eternity, Bega Valley Shire Council and the Tathra Surf Club, is to be a model for Australia’s other 304 surf clubs.

Already Bega Valley Shire Council has committed funds for a similar project at the nearby Pambula and Bermagui surf clubs, and Sydney surf clubs have phoned the organisers for information.

“The aim of the project is to provide the club with all its energy needs from renewable resources,” said Matthew Nott, a local doctor and the founder of Clean Energy.

“The flow-on effects are twofold: by using sun and wind power we are freeing up money for the club to spend on life-saving equipment, and at the same time using the turbine and solar modules to educate people about the potential of these clean energy sources.”

Bega Valley Shire Council provided $10,000 towards the Tathra refit, and the club received a $4000 Federal Government rebate. The balance of funds came from the local community.

The far South Coast branch of Surf Life Saving NSW has backed the project, and four more South Coast clubs intend to install renewable energy systems.

“I think it is one of the better conservation ideas to come up, and I can’t see any problems with getting other clubs on board,” said the branch president, Dave Pheeney.

Tathra Surf Club has been fitted with a twin-blade wind turbine two metres in diameter and one-kilowatt solar modules on its roof. The system is connected to the electricity grid. Whenever the cells and turbine generate electricity, it is put into the grid, in effect winding back the clu

20111011 Debate on carbon tax in Bega

11 Oct, 2011 08:21 AM

1478045LAST week’s public meeting to discuss carbon tax and its alternatives appeared to attract only carbon tax supporters.

Bishop George Browning chaired the Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) meeting at St John’s Church hall and said this was an issue which confronted everybody.

Bishop Browning said economic problems facing the world had been caused by people living beyond their means and leaders must face up to the consequences or will he pay the price.

“We have to work out what sort of society do we want to live in” he said

The Bishop said that gambling was a huge problem with Australians betting and losing twice as much as people in other OECD countries, and 40 per cent of those were problem gamblers.

“We need to do something about this and about other issues that affect us all. I cannot bear to think that the children of today will pay the price for what my generation hasn’t done. Churches and religion must contribute to the solution. We have to find a level of co-operation now between political parties and the community,” he said.

Dr Matthew Nott from CEFE said the proposed carbon tax looked like becoming law but the alternatives had to be considered, such as the Opposition’s Direct Action and the NSW Government’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme.

Under a carbon tax, it is proposed the 500 most polluting companies will be taxed and this may mean they will bring in measures to reduce emissions or pass some of the costs on to the consumer.

From the moneys the government will raise, half will be spent compensating households and the other half on renewable energy, Dr Nott said.

The Direct Action policy covers an emissions reduction fund, the replenishment of soil carbons, tree planting and funding for more solar homes.

All these schemes would be paid for by the taxpayer.

With the tree planting many of 60 million trees would have to be planted in marginal land where water will become a real problem, Dr Nott said.

He said the basic difference between the two schemes is that with the carbon tax scheme the polluters were paying whereas with the Opposition’s Direct Action scheme it would be “bureaucrats making the decisions and taxpayers footing the bill”.

The NSW Government commissioned Frontier Economics to look at the economic impact of carbon tax and Premier Barry O’Farrell said that, based on the report, 31,000 jobs would be lost in NSW.

Dr Nott said that was not the impression he got from reading the report.

Admittedly jobs would be lost in the Hunter and other coal mining regions but the report also said that three regions of the state would benefit from the carbon tax and south-east Australia was one of them.

Dr Nott said the NSW Government’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement scheme was a great success.

Member for Bega Andrew Constance said he recently had an audit at home and had found out numerous ways to save electricity including turning his refrigerator down to a lower level.

“We have learnt to change our water use, now we must learn to change our electricity use.”

Mr Constance said the NSW Government was against the carbon tax because there would be such a flow-on effect on families, and despite what had already been said there would be a great loss of jobs, and he was not aware where the jobs in the south-east would come from.

There would also be a loss of capital investment, he said.

The NSW Government was also not being compensated as the Victorian Government was with the introduction of carbon tax and would be $867 million in the red.

Mr Constance said the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme had been successful but that would not continue once the carbon tax was introduced.

He also queried why those at the meeting who seemed to be very concerned about pollution weren’t backing the Wolumla residents who were fighting to stop a pollution landfill at Wanatta Lane.

The meeting was then opened to questions and Mr Constance fielded queries from people angry at the time it was taking for the NSW Government to make a decision on the Solar Bonus Scheme.

He was told that hundreds of jobs were being lost because of the tardiness of his Government.

He said that it was being reviewed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and he was sorry that it was taking so long but it had to be done thoroughly and the review would be finished by March, 2012.

Bishop Browning said that he was “disgusted” at the way such a vital issue at what to do about climate change was being so politicised.

“I saw a letter in a local paper which talks about “Gillard’s science”.

“It’s not Gillard’s science, it’s all our science.

“The major problem with the way the carbon tax and climate change issue was publicised was that everything was so adversarial,” Bishop Browning said and received the loudest applause of the evening.

 Constance slams carbon tax

18 Oct 2011 bega District News

MEMBER for Bega Andrew Constance says the Federal Government?s carbon tax will hurt families and seniors, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and a force a sharp jump in power prices in NSW.

“Labor’s carbon tax will be a disaster for NSW families and seniors,” Mr Constance said.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals have done everything possible to stand up for families and seniors but unfortunately Labor has chosen to side with the Greens to impose a great big new tax on everything.”

NSW Treasury analysis has found the carbon tax will cost at least 31,000 jobs and deliver a $3.7 billion annual hit to the state’s economy.

It will also force up electricity prices for NSW households by up to $498 a year.

Businesses will pay $927 to $4191 more a year, depending on usage.

“The Federal Government has betrayed families, seniors and small business by imposing this carbon tax after promising not to do so,” Mr Constance said.

“Labor’s carbon tax will result in the loss of more than 18,500 jobs in the Hunter region alone and 7000 for the Illawarra.

“This will affect the South Coast.”

Mr Constance said these regions in particular can’t afford to shed jobs.

“After 16 years of Labor’s economic mismanagement, the NSW economy is already struggling and my government is kick-starting it; the last thing this state needs is a big new tax to hamper growth,” he said.

“Power prices are expected to rise by at least 15 per cent under Labor’s carbon tax.

“The tax would also reduce the dividends from NSW electricity generators by about $45 million this financial year, rising to $290 million in 2014-15.

“The NSW Government will off-set the impact of Labor’s carbon tax by increasing mining royalties but ensure companies are no worse off.”

Three questions for Mr Constance

At the recent carbon tax information session at St Johns Church in Bega, Mr Andrew Constance was very keen to avoid a debate. I think participants and audience showed great respect for his wishes.

Since that meeting however, Mr Constance has been quoted in an article in the Bega District News titled “Constance Slams Carbon Tax”. In that article, Mr Constance has made several statements that I feel need to be challenged.

The Frontier Economics report, commissioned by the O’Farrell government states that “the adverse affect of the carbon tax will be modest”. According to the report, the economy will continue to grow and jobs, incomes and standards of living will continue to rise.

Mr Constance says the carbon tax will result in the “loss of thousands of jobs”. He correctly refers to job losses in the Hunter and Illawarra, but I have questions about his comment that “NSW Treasury analysis has found the carbon tax will cost at least 31,000 jobs.”

The Frontier Economics report predicts jobs and productivity growth in nearly all regions in Australia apart from the Hunter and Illawarra.

If you take account of  jobs growth in the renewable energy sector and billions of dollars in compensation for polluting industry (which the Frontier Economics report does not) then there will be 400,000 new jobs created by 2020 in NSW alone, according to federal treasury modelling.

Mr Constance says the carbon tax “will also force up electricity prices for NSW households by up to $498 a year” and that “Labor’s carbon tax will be a disaster for NSW families and seniors.”

Ben Phillips is the principal research fellow at the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra. On ABC radio last week he was quoted as saying that the average Australian household will be $2.50 per week better off under the carbon tax after all costs, compensation and tax breaks were taken into account.

I have three questions for Mr Constance. How do you arrive at the “31,000 job loss” figure given that the modelling you quote describes a net increase in employment? Could you explain what you think the cost to households will be once compensation is taken into account? If you have a more cost effective solution to climate change, could you tell us what it is?

Mr Constance, I think you should reconsider your opposition to the carbon tax. Modelling commissioned by your government demonstrates that the proposed carbon tax will have a positive impact on jobs and output in SE NSW. The benefit is clearly spelt out on page 35 of the Frontier Economics report, ‘Carbon Price Modeling’

Matthew Nott