Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Feed in tariff needed to boost solar power

Our solar photovoltaic array at the rear. The solar hot water system is in front.

Here is a copy of a letter I have just sent to Peter Batchelor, the Victorian Minister for energy and resources, about the importance of introducing a feed in tariff for solar power in Victoria.

Feed in tariff legislation is in the process of being enacted in South Australia and Queensland. We need this in Victoria too..

If you have time, it would be worth sending in a letter of your own to your state politicians too.

TO: The Honourable Peter Batchelor

Minister for Energy and Resources
Level 20, 1 Spring St
Via email

CC: Hon. John Brumby
Premier of Victoria
C/o Department of Premier and Cabinet
1 Treasury Place
Via email

CC: Robert Clark, Shadow Minister for Energy & Resources
Via email

March 19, 2008

Feed-in Tariffs for renewable energy generation

Dear Mr Batchelor,

We have been operating a grid interactive solar photo voltaic array on our house in Surrey Hills since 2002, over which time we have saved approximately 15 tonnes of CO2 emissions. You can view details of the house and the solar system here.

We welcome the commitment of the Victorian state government to introduce a fair price for solar electricity generated on rooftops and fed into the electricity grid. We believe that a move toward renewable energy is an essential means of addressing climate change, and solar photovoltaic (PV) micro-generation has an important role to play in boosting Victoria’s renewable energy share.

By offering a premium price for electricity generated on rooftops and fed directly into the grid, feed-in tariffs recognise the wealth of benefits which arise from the adoption of this technology. These include:

  • environmental benefits from reduced emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants
  • network benefits from reduced transmission losses and generation closer to the source of consumption;
  • supply benefits from producing clean power for the grid during peak load times on very hot days
  • economic benefits through lowering of peak wholesale electricity prices
  • social benefits via diversified electricity generation and job creation.

However, for a feed-in tariff to create the level of take-up required to achieve these benefits, it is essential that it is paid at an adequate rate, for a long enough time, and on the total production of the solar system. I call on the government to mandate a feed-in tariff at:

  • 60 cents per kWh;
  • for at least 15 years; and
  • paid on the entire output of a system via gross production metering

A feed-in tariff set at this level will provide the necessary incentive for individuals to invest their personal finances into solar PV systems, safe in the knowledge that the price paid for electricity generated will adequately pay back this investment over the next 15 years.

Feed-in tariffs have been remarkably successful in over 40 countries internationally, and an adequate feed-in tariff in Victoria has the potential to build an industry in sustainable solutions to climate change, provide an alternative to polluting brown coal, and position the state as a leader in renewable energy in Australia.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing Victoria. I trust that you as the responsible minister (and the Premier and my local elected representative) take this issue seriously and ensure that this policy measure delivers a major expansion of renewable energy leading to real reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.

Can you please advise us whether you support introduction of a feed in tariff, and if so, when it will be introduced?

Yours sincerely

Peter Campbell and Dr Lena Sanci

Additional information

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Preliminary submission to Electoral Representation Review for the Boroondara City Council

This is an excerpt of my submission to the Preliminary submission to Boroondara City Council Electoral Representation Review conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).

Matters relating to the number of councillors

The population within Boroondara is likely to further increase as more medium-density housing becoming available. I therefore believe that an increase in total councillors from ten to eleven or twelve is warranted to cater for future population growth within the council area.

Based in the figure of 121,000 voters among the 154,450 people in Boroondara, twelve councillors would have approximately 10,000 voters per each, a figure that is in accord of other metropolitan municipalities.

This figure would be equivalent to that for Glen Eira (10,701), greater than Stonnington (8,895) and less than Whitehorse (11,229).

I don’t believe that concerns expressed by the VEC regarding having an even number of councillors to a problem as the mayor could have a casting vote in the event a motion was supported by six councillors and opposed by the other six. In addition, the likelihood of such tied votes frequently occurring would be fairly low.

Matters relating to the electoral structure of the municipality

I believe that candidates elected by proportional representation to multi member wards would be more representative of voter’s choices. For example, 26 percent of voters in a ward with three candidates can elect a candidate, whereas in single member electorates 51 percent of votes are required after preferences. Proportional representation across multi-member wards throughout the Council area would therefore make it more likely that candidates with strong community support will be elected.

Multi-member electorates also give residents the opportunity to choose which of their ward councillors to interact with, and may provide more diversity of councillors (e.g. gender, ethnicity) to residents.

Single member electorates facilitate special interest groups (which may have significant financial resources) fielding several candidates and directing preferences to get their preferred candidate elected. Voters are often largely oblivious to such machinations and preference deals, so the allocation of their preference when voting may not reflect their intentions, largely due to lack of detailed information about candidates and a lack of understanding about the electoral process.

I believe the current ward boundaries in Boroondara are too small and not based on significant local demographics such as communities of interest. In addition, the largely arbitrary boundaries of the current small-area wards risk actually dividing local communities of interest. For example, many people within Boroondara would use and have views about Camberwell Junction and its infrastructure (such as public transport), yet the current ward boundaries place it within a single ward.

In addition, some of the current wards contain only small shopping centres while others contain larger ones that generate more traffic. I believe that larger wards encompassing greater diversity of facilities such as shopping centres, recreational facilities and public transport will provide better overall coverage of community interest in and concerns about these facilities.

The model I favour is four three-councillor wards with Camberwell Junction as the focal point. Each of these larger wards (North East, North West, South East and South West regions) would contain a mix of large and small shopping centres, numerous recreational facilities and a diversity of voters, ethnic groups and communities of interest. Camberwell Junction is a regional transport, shopping and services hub, so it is appropriate that all wards have an interest in its function, development and management.

Care should be taken to ensure that the South East area ward contains both the appropriate number of voters and area, as its outer boundary would be diagonal rather than rectangular. Alternatively, if this ward ended up smaller than the other three, its number of councillors could be reduced to from three to two.

While ordinal ward names may convenient, I suggest the following ward names would better reflect Council and community heritage. Information on the names was sourced from the Boroondara Council History of Ward Names.

North East: Cotham Maranoa

  • Maranoa takes it name from the native plants garden established by John Middleton Watson on land he bought in the early 1890's. He continued to buy land in the area most of which later became Beckett Park. He began to create gardens on one side with Australian and New Zealand indigenous species. Maranoa is derived from native words in Queensland, meaning flowing, alive or running (for a river)
  • Cotham was a settlement from the early 1850s, near Wellington Street east of Denmark Street where the two roads from the river crossings met. The roads then diverged and travelled to settlers along the river or along the Main Gippsland Road due east. It was soon overshadowed by the larger Village of Kew, also established in the 1850s just north along the road to Bulleen, later called High Street. The Main Gippsland Road was generally known as the White Horse Road after the hotel in the Box Hill district, but on the Kew side of Burke Road it retained its name as the Cotham-road, the road to Cotham.
North West: Studley Glenferrie
  • Studley is associated with John Hodgson, the Kew pioneer responsible for the establishment of the Studley Punt in the 1840s. The punt took traffic across the river into land, which was part of his squatting run known as Studley. The road to the punt where a bridge was later erected was known as the Studley Park Road.
  • Glenferrie was the name of Peter Ferrie's property on the Glenferrie Road/Toorak Road hill in the 1840's gave its name to the road that led to it. The name is also used for a railway station and for local businesses and a hotel.
South East: Lynden Maling
  • Lynden takes its name from the road and park through long time farming land generally known as Highfield. The first subdivision occurred after the First World War, through a property belonging to the Boyd family, and named after trees.
  • Maling Takes its name from the road beside the Canterbury Railway Station, which ran through a large property owned by the Logan family. The name was given to honour long term Councillor and three times Mayor John Butler Maling in 1899. The area is now recognised and protected by Council as an important tourist precinct.
South West: Gardiner
  • Gardiner takes its name from John Gardiner, the first white settler in the Boroondara parish. At the end of the 1830's John Gardiner lived close to the top outlet of the creek named for him, stretches of which had other names until the 1850's.
*** End of Submission ***

Monday, March 03, 2008

Solving transport challenges rather than just building roads

I have been perplexed by successive Victorian governments fixation on building roads and freeways and not providing more rail transport. In this regard, the Brumby Labor government is no different from its predecessors.

It seems to me that that both the government and Vicroads have made incorrect assumptions that cars, trucks, roads and freeways will meet most of our transport needs now and for the future.

I wonder if they listen to the radio reports every morning of the congestion and delays on all freeways as increasing numbers of commuters try and get to work along "freeways" blocked with congestion by single occupant cars whose drivers obviously don't believe they have adequate public transport options available to them. 30-minute delays over the last 10 to 15 kilometres are common in the mornings, and very slow speed due to congestion are now chronic over similar distances in the afternoon and early evening.

The government must be aware of this very real problem, yet their answer seems to be "we need more freeways, tunnels and links" - as the Brumby governments terms of reference seem to suggest for the Eddington report - which seems to be focusing on reasons why building an east-west tunnel link between the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways should proceed.

I have just read recent reported comments by Transport Minister Lynn Kosky in this article, including:

"We are working to find ways to meet increasing demand for public transport services," Ms Kosky said.

The Government had just ordered 18 new six-carriage trains that would carry 14,500 more people during peak times — "equivalent to more than 12,000 cars and more than six freeway lanes of capacity".

So they do know that trains are much more efficient than cars for mass transit. They would also know that car transport produces around 8 times more carbon emissions (using dwindling oil reserves) compared with urban rail transport.

However, just buying more trains and trams will not solve the problem for those who don't have easy access to local rail tranport, as this map below illustrates.

Melbourne railways map

We don't have enough train lines. No new heavy rail lines to the suburbs have been built in Melbourne since the Glen Waverly line was completed in 1930, yet there has been massive population growth in south eastern, northern and western suburbs. Whole new suburbs and regions exist with no access to rail transport. No new significant rail lines are planned in Melbourne.

Those that have been planned, and even committed to in the past, such as the Doncaster and Rowville lines, are apparently on hold or shelved. Recent plans to extend the Epping Line to the new sustainable suburb of Aurora have not been delivered.

During this time, freeway constructions include:
  • Eastern freeway (and extension to Springvale Road, following by an extension through to Ringwood and Eastlink)
  • The South eastern freeway - since widened and connected to (and incorporated with) the Monash freeway
  • Monash freeway (and extensions/bypasses to the Princes Highway now past Pakenham)
  • The Western Ring Road
  • Eastlink (about to open) connecting Ringwood with Frankston
  • The Mornington Peninsula freeway (in two sections)
  • The Western freeway
  • The Calder freeway
  • The Tullamarine freeway
  • The Princes freeway to Geelong
  • Citylink connecting the Tullamarine, Monash and West Gate freeway via bridges and two tunnels.
Several interchanges have also been upgraded at great cost. This list is not comprehensive, but it does make clear that activity and funding for roads and freeways has greatly exceeded that for rail over the last seventy years.

Over recent times the government has chosen to spend money on large projects such as the Southern Cross station upgrade, on ticketing systems that don't work properly, and on employing ticket inspectors, none of which have actually provided better, more frequented integrated public transport. One has to question these priorities.

Here are my suggestions for getting urban transport solutions back on track:
  • Set up an new transport authority to evaluate, promote and implement the best transport solutions for sustainability and mass urban transit. This authority should include proper public consultation during their strategy development and planning processes.
  • Ensure funding for public transport is equivalent to or greater than that for roads.
  • Mandate provision of rail or light rail transport and cycle paths with all future freeway road constructions
  • Include carbon emission costing for all transport related infrastructure expenditure.
  • Keep public transport operation or management public. Public ownership and government accountability for service delivery are essential to ensure that public transport is integrated and efficient, rather than just run for "profit" under secret contracts with public subsidies.
  • Build a rail link to Melbourne airport. Thousands of taxies carry travellers to and from Melbourne every day.
  • Investigate options for an inner urban metro system
  • Resurrect and build stalled rail projects such as the Epping line extensions to South Morang and Aurora, the Rowville and Doncaster lines and the Alamein line extension to service Chadstone.
  • Integrate cycle paths with train networks by mandating construction of cycle paths along railway easements and provide for carriage of bicycles on trains.
  • Our politicians should use some of their travel allowance to visit Los Angeles to see how badly an extensive freeway system much bigger than Melbourne's cater to mass transit needs
Like most of the challenges that confront us in the 21st century, it seems the solutions are already available for moving towards sustainable living, but the political will to embrace them is lacking.

As oil reserves diminish our very expensive freeway system could at least end up providing fast and efficient bicycle transport!


Previous posts on transport