June 23, 2017: In The News This Week

I’d like to draw your attention to two articles that appeared in the press this week.

Southern Highlands Solar Challenge

Some of the Challenge Team working at the Welby Garden Centre

Some of the Challenge Team working at the Welby Garden Centre

The first is specific to our local community, the Southern Highlands of NSW, but readers anywhere are invited to help if you can. As outlined in this article from the Southern Highland News, I am involved with helping a wonderful local organisation called Challenge Southern Highlands raise money to install a 12kW solar power system on their roof. This is intended to be a community funded solar project run through Repower Shoalhaven but we need to raise $10,000 to get it off the ground (literally).

Challenge does fantastic work in our community helping people with disabilities find meaningful work and greater independence. This solar system will save them about $1000 a year for the first ten years and then much more after that. Those numbers are calculated at today’s electricity prices so the more grid prices increase, the more money they will save. We all know where electricity prices are headed so the savings should really stack up and that money will be put to good use helping people who need it most.

So far we have raised about $7000 so we only need about $3000 more. Climate Action Now Wingecarribee has very kindly offered to match all donations up to a total of $5000. In other words, for every $100 you donate, CANWin will match it with $100.

If you are willing and able to contribute to this excellent project helping people in need and reducing carbon emissions you can find details of how to make a donation at the following link. http://canwin.org.au/entry/2017/05/04/give-the-gift-of-solar/

If you want you donation to be tax deductible it needs to be by cheque, otherwise you can simply make a bank transfer. Thanks for giving it your consideration.

The Man Most Likely to Change The World

If you read the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday you might have come across this article from Good Weekend entitled ‘The Man Most Likely to Change the World‘. If not, I encourage you to click on the link and check it out. It’s a positive and encouraging look at a man with a strong moral compass plus the brains, motivation and financial backing to be a force for good in the world.

James is an American lawyer based in London who, with the help of his financial backers, fights and wins big law cases for his client… the Earth.

“Corporations speak in the grammar of money,” writes Thornton in his book. “If you want them to take [environmental] laws seriously, then you make them pay a great deal of money for violating them. Then, suddenly, they’ll wake up to it.” 

Winning cases was a lot of fun, he admits, “but the main ambition was to use [them] as leverage to force the government to start enforcing the law again … If unchecked, governments will always drift towards what companies want, because companies are fantastically more powerful than citizens.”

I’ve highlighted the last part of the quote above because it summarises very succinctly why I have been feeling frustrated for the last thirty years. Why is it that our elected representatives almost always seem to act in the best interests of the companies that contribute to their political campaigns rather than the people who vote for them? Because companies are fantastically more powerful than citizens.

It feels like such a relief to hear someone to state the simple truth of the matter and to know there are smart and determined people like James Thornton prepared to make a stand for what is right.

The article goes on to give some very interesting insights into the changing face of global geo-politics and Australia’s place in the world.

“They (China) are installing more renewable energy than anyone else,” Thornton says, “and they are moving to peak coal [in terms of consumption] – they predict by 2035, but it may be earlier. Some smart analysts think they may have already hit the peak.”

This has big implications for Australia as a resource exporter. “It’s brilliant,” says Thornton happily, “because Australia won’t be able to sell so much coal to China and can move to building a cleaner, first-world economy, instead of remaining a third-world extractive one. Australia has assumed that India and China will go on eating coal forever, but both countries are almost in a race to reduce dependency on fossil fuel.”

Adani’s proposed giant Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, strongly supported by both a Coalition federal government and Labor state government, is a crazy idea, says Thornton: “If it is ever built, it will be the biggest subsidised white elephant in the world.”

So Australia should be looking at other forms of energy? “Let me tell you how much they should be doing that,” says Thornton. “Saudi Arabia has just invested hugely into alternative energy even though they have loads of oil, which is cleaner than coal. They are looking at becoming producers of solar energy. Australia is bigger and has even more sun – it could be doing that, too.”

But what of President Donald Trump’s threat to take the US out of the (Paris) accord? Not such a bad thing, according to Thornton. “If America had kept a seat at the table, they would have kept trying to water down resolutions, making life very difficult for the other 194 signatories. Now China becomes the world leader on climate change and US economic interests will be hurt.”

The Paris accord has been criticised as too little, too late and some analysts have calculated the chance that climate change will cause a “rolling collapse” of civilisation at 50/50. Thornton, though, is an optimist. “Even if they’re right, that’s a 50 per cent chance of survival,” he says, “and we are doing something about it.” He is inspired by a marine biologist who noted the loss of 90 per cent of the world’s sharks: “She said, ‘Great news! Ten per cent are still there and if we stop murdering them, numbers will come back.’ “

It’s a good article that left me feeling energised and hopeful. Here’s the link again if you’d like to read it. http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/james-thornton-saving-the-planet-one-court-case-at-a-time-20170601-gwic7f.html

I’m Glad I Switched

In our Newsletter a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how we had just switched over to a new, ethical energy retailer called Energy Locals. One of the reasons for that was their offer to lock in their pricing for the next year without locking me into a contract. For the next twelve months I’ll be paying 23c/kWh and 85c/day (plus GST) which is less than I was paying PLUS I’ll be getting 10c/kWh for any solar power I export to the grid.

Over the last couple of weeks we (here in Australia) have all been hearing about energy price increases of up to 20% by the big companies like AGL, Origin and Energy Australia. So naturally I’ve been very happy that I made the switch to Energy Locals. I think it’s not too late to take advantage of their price lock before the end of the financial year so, if you’re worried about your electricity bills going up I encourage you to consider switching to Energy Locals.

…. and you could use the money you will save to make a donation to Challenge Southern Highlands’ solar project.

Thanks again. Andy.

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