Energy Futures Forum a success in Seymour

Published by BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group. View the original article.

The Energy Futures Forum organised by BEAM and Yes 2 Renewables was held in Seymour on the 16th of November. It has helped broadened the debate about energy issues in the Mitchell Shire region with over 50 turning up for an informative day.

The Energy Futures Forum held the the VRI Hall in Seymour attracted over 50 people.
The Energy Futures Forum held the the VRI Hall in Seymour attracted over 50 people.

Energy has become a hot topic for the community with a wind farm proposed for the region. The 15-turbine Cherry Tree Range wind farm is currently before VCAT with a decision expected at any moment. The proposal for a wind farm on Cherry Tree Range is a local manifestation of the energy choices we’re now facing. Will we remain hitched to fossil fuels, pollution and climate change, or will we shift to renewable energy with the benefits of jobs and drought-proof income for regional Victoria?

The audience was highly engaged in the subject matter and expressed positive feedback about the quality of the presenters. The positive tone and evidence-based presentations of the Energy Futures Event was a contrast to the emotive, fear-laden anti-wind farm meeting in Trawool last year.

The presenters and organising reps

From left to right. Gwenda Allgood, Leigh Ewbank (Y2R), Cloe, Doug, Trent and BEAM president Richard Telford
From left to right. Gwenda Allgood, Leigh Ewbank (Y2R), Chloe Aldenhoven, Doug Hobson, Trent Hawkins and BEAM president Richard Telford. Missing – David Robinson who must of headed off early to catch the train.

Trent Hawkins

Trent Hawkins explained how to reduce energy use in the home and cut emissions to zero.

By retrofitting our homes: insulating them, reducing drafts and double glazing we can have a big impact. He announced that we Victorians use eighty times more energy heating our homes than cooling them, using mostly gas.

One surprising suggestion for many was to stop using gas and replace this energy with electricity – with a preference for rooftop solar. Cooking without gas makes sense when using efficient electric induction cooking technology.

Chloe Aldenhoven

The risks of Coal Seam Gas production was highlighted in Chloe Aldenhoven’s presentation, where she explained the processes used in this energy and water intensive process to extract gas that is also highly damaging to the environment. Farmers and environmentalists have worked together to try and prevent further expansion of this industry.

The primary reason for the development in this sector is the high international gas prices – three times higher than our domestic prices, making this method financially attractive. By entering this market Australian gas prices are set to skyrocket in the coming years.

David Robinson

There is great potential for community owned solar in Seymour. David looked at several sites around town using satellite images explaining that ideal places would use energy during the day when it is being created. He pointed out that community owned buildings, like the Seymour Sports and Aquatic centre, were the best places to install community solar with benefits for the Shire with reduced renewable energy costs and an income for local investors.

Gwenda Allgood

DSCF6212-225x300
A fantastic spread of fresh home made goodies were available for the break with MP Rob Mitchell and Leigh Ewbank.

Ararat councillor Gwenda Allgood spoke about her positive experience with the Challicum Hills wind farm out near Ararat. She stated, with hand on heart, that there were no objections to the wind farm and that it had full community support. Benefits included annual payments to a community fund of around $50,000 and that the wind company was the largest individual rate payer in the shire.

When concerns were raised about noise by a member of the audience she invited them for a personal tour of the site and to speak to people down the main street.

It is interesting to note that anti-wind farm groups were not active in this area when the proposal was put forward.

Gwenda revealed that a larger 100 turbine wind farm is proposed nearby that has seen 22 landholders express interest, and was excited about the prospect of more turbines in the area.

BEAM life member refutes noise complaints about Wind Turbine, having slept under them at 5 different sites.
BEAM life member Bob Tomkins refutes Wind Turbines being noisey, having slept overnight under turbines at 5 different sites.

Doug Hobson

As a wind farmer Doug Hobson spoke about the Waubra wind farm. He has 8 turbines on his property and lives about 2.5 km from the closest ones. He and his family experience no adverse health affects. Doug obtains an income from the turbines that helps to offset the highs and lows of farming – like the recent frost that have damaged his crops.f

When a member of the audience brought up the concern of fire risk from turbines, Doug responded by saying that he has been in the CFA for around 30 years, has had a turbine related fire, never seen sparks coming from turbines and puts the risks very, very low when compared to any other sources.

See and interview with Doug below:

Strengthening ties

We made some good contacts from the event with interest from local sustainablility groups including Shepparton based Beneath the Wisteria, the Bendigo Sustainability Group and theMacedon Ranges Sustainability Group. We look forward to strengthening these connections.

Suzanne Miller, CEO, Nexus Primary Health made a brief appearance to the audience raising the issue of the affect that climate change is having on health, and that adopting renewable energy is part of the solution in reducing our use of highly polluting and environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

GVCE representative Liam, talks to local resident John about the LIEEP program.
GVCE representative Liam, talks to local resident John about the LIEEP program.

Liam from Goulburn Valley Community Energy (based in Murchison) make an announcement at the forum about the LOW INCOME ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECT (LIEEP). In this program, they will perform energy efficiency assessments with people on low incomes; advising them on how they can improve the comfort of their home, reduce their home energy usage and cut costs. In many cases they will provide them with assistance in realising these savings.

Visit their site to find out more and register your interest. GVCE will target just 2750 low income and disadvantaged households throughout eight municipalities in Northern Victoria – including the Mitchell Shire.

Thanks

We’d like to thank two anti wind activists for coming to the event and hope that you got a lot out of the day. It was great that you both stuck around to talk. Thanks to councillor Sue Marstaeller and Federal Labor MP Rob Mitchell for making the effort to come along.

As you may well imagine, putting this event was a huge task with many people involved.

Thanks to the Y2R team, headed by Leigh Ewbank with support from Janine Brownen – All rounder/support, Tsu-Mei Liew – Photography, Ben Courtice – Collecting donations and yarning, and Anthony Gleeson – AV support. The event was filmed and we are hoping to make this footage available in the near future.

The BEAM team included support from Phil Bourne – MC and local food for presentors, Paul Macgregor – Media releases co-orindator and venue, Linda Kennedy – food co-ordinator and media contributor, Peter Lockyer – signage and media contributor, Sarah Durrant – media contributor, Richard Telford – Media liaison and promotion. There were also many other BEAMers who helped out with preparing food and helping out on the day. Many thanks to all involved for helping make this such a great day.

Email: leigh.ewbank@foe.org.au if you’d like to hold an Energy Futures event in your town.

3 thoughts on “Energy Futures Forum a success in Seymour

  1. It was a joy to be a part of this day. Not everyone there was ready to embrace the idea of wind energy, but they were given a chance to air their views which were listened to respectfully. Each of their concerns was addressed, again with respect, by people who had actually experienced wind power first hand.
    As a climate activist, I decided a long time ago, that I wasn’t going to get stuck on all the ‘doom & gloom’ of climate change. I decided to focus on positive solutions & as I acquired knowledge of this, I felt I had a responsibility to get involved in groups like 100% Renewable Energy, Quit Coal & Y2R.
    When the focus is on the positive at any event, I have always found that the sense of hope is palpable. This again proved to be the case in Seymour.
    Great work BEAM’ers

  2. It is to be hoped that the attendees at Seymour and also readers of this blog have taken full notice of Trent Hawkins’ recommendations about the scope for their domestic energy infrastructure to make a big difference!

    There are two elements to this logic.

    1. Homeowners may now install a large rooftop solar system at moderate cost and use the available electricity to run not only their lighting and appliance requirements but also their heating, cooling and cooking loads.
    Because this energy comes straight out of the sky at no cost, this results in a huge drop in the local electricity bill.
    Heating and cooling can be done by an efficient heat pump so it is possible to stop using gas for heating and cooking!
    There is a vast array of electrical cooking appliances available so the gas cook-top and oven can be abandoned – with due ceremony of course.

    2. Since it is now clear that the political classes are not willing (or able) to deal with the looming climate change disaster, homeowners can make a big difference by shifting from gas and coal based electricity to free electricity from the sky via their rooftop solar installation.
    The climate change solution can come from the ground up at low cost.
    The politicians can be ignored.

    Item 1 reduces the local power bill.
    Item 2 reduces the climate impact of energy consumption.

    If the rooftop installation is big enough, it will not be necessary to carry out energy conservation measures.
    You can leave lights on if you feel like it because your energy comes, emissions free, from the sky at no cost!

    This is not just a “pie in the sky” hope or opinion.
    I have been doing this for the last five years.
    No power bills, no heating bills, no cooling bills!
    No problems.

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