Tag Archives: WarrandyteCAN

Will Coronavirus cure our Affluenza?

AUSTRALIA’S PER CAPITA carbon footprint is usually among the largest in the world, though over the last three months the Coronavirus lockdown has caused a dramatic reduction.

With the easing of restrictions, our carbon emissions will rise again substantially.

Yet there is growing recognition that we should treat recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, wasteful consumption and unsustainable growth, and make our society cleaner and greener.

This issue is especially important given the need to drastically reduce our emissions by 2030.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2019, to prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year to 2030.

Emissions reduction is of course dependent on making an effective and urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Government spending aimed at achieving economic recovery should be directed at investments that facilitate that transition, while at the same time creating jobs and business opportunities.

Reducing emissions is also closely tied with reducing consumption — a crucial issue for affluent countries like Australia, whose consumption of resources far exceeds what ecologists regard as sustainable.

To reduce consumption, we need to make lifestyle changes.

And on this topic, I can recommend a favourite book that I re-read recently: Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss (Allen & Unwin, 2005).

Affluenza (subtitled When Too Much Is Never Enough) is about overconsumption and waste in the Australian context, and causes us to question our expectations, the way we live, and how much we consume.

The book’s central premise is that Australian society, like other rich societies, has become addicted to overconsumption driven by aspiration, resulting in high levels of personal debt, overwork, stress, obesity, hoarding, and extensive waste.

The book examines overconsumption in its many forms, such as:

Buying more food than we need, which then gets thrown out.

Our demand for increasingly larger houses since the 1950s, while the average number of occupants has decreased.

The purchase of household goods that we don’t really need.

The popularity of large 4WDs despite the safety hazards they pose and their poor fuel economy.

According to the authors,

“People afflicted by affluenza have an insatiable desire for more things.

Although our desire might have no bounds, our capacity to use things is limited: there is only so much we can eat, wear and watch, and a house has only so many rooms we can usefully occupy.

The difference between what we buy and what we use is waste.”

In regard to food waste, for example, the authors refer to a, then recent, survey showing that Australians threw away $5.2 billion worth of food and drink in 2004.

The situation has not improved since then.

The most recent Rabobank Food Waste Report has found that Australians wasted $10.1 billion on food in 2019, up from $8.9 billion in 2018, making Australia the fourth-worst food waster per capita in the world.

The authors do not advocate that “we should build humpies and live in self-satisfied deprivation”, which they say would misconstrue the purpose of their book.

As they explain.

“It is not money and material possessions that are the root of the problem:  it is our attachment to them and the way they condition our thinking, give us our self-definition and rule our lives.”

Affluenza challenges us to think about and avoid overconsumption, of which we’re all guilty to a greater or lesser degree — a very timely challenge in the wake of the Coronavirus upheaval as we return to the “new normal”.

Jeff Cranston is a member of local climate change action group WarrandyteCAN.

If you’d like to become a climate change hero, join them.

They are on Facebook at:
facebook.com/warrandytecan

Manningham declares a climate emergency

MANNINGHAM CITY Council unanimously approved the motion to declare a climate emergency at their January 28 Ordinary Council Meeting (OCM).

This motion brings Manningham Council in line with more than 1,000 councils across the planet, and over 85 councils in Australia who have been declaring climate emergencies since early 2019.

The global political movement to recognise the threat of climate change and take action against it began in April 2019 with Scotland and Wales becoming the first countries to declare a climate emergency.

During the January 28 OCM, Councillor Mike Zafiropoulous tabled Notice of Motion 1/2020 and outlined the need for this action.

“As councillors we have a responsibility, not only to address the local concerns of residents through core issues such as waste collection, planning permits, road maintenance, et cetera — but also broader issues such as the climate emergency we are facing,” he said.

Later, Cr Zafiropoulous went on to talk about the evidence.

“The scientific evidence on this issue is overwhelming and the consequence of no action is catastrophic, not only for Manningham, but for the whole planet.”

Cr Andrew Conlon, who seconded the motion, spoke specifically of the increased impact Warrandyte faces.

“Without climate change, Warrandyte is already in the most prone, most at risk areas in terms of population, terrain and fuel, in the world.

“So it would be ignorant of us to basically put our heads in the sand and not acknowledge that we can do more and that we will do more in the years to come.”

An amended motion, introduced by Cr Sophy Galbally, to add the words “climate emergency” specifically to the clauses of the motion being discussed, triggered a 30-minute debate into the definition of the words “serious” and “emergency”, highlighting concerns surrounding the bureaucratic implications of the use of the word “emergency”.

In his closing remarks, Cr Zafiropoulous spoke about the popularity and symbolic nature of the term “Climate Emergency” and the importance of Council to follow a global trend.

“…to be consistent with other organisations initiating such action, I think it is much better to use the term Climate Emergency in the motion… I think it strengthens the motion if we include it there.”

In attendance at the OCM were representatives of WarrandyteCAN who have been lobbying Manningham Council on the issue since August 2019.

In late September, members of WarrandyteCAN met with the then Mayor, Councillor Paula Piccinini and Mannigham Council CEO Andrew Day to discuss the issue, following the matter up with letters to other councillors in support of a climate emergency declaration and implementation of a structured emergency action plan.

Subsequently, WarrandyteCAN had a meeting with Cr. Zafiropoulos.

“WarrandyteCAN is very grateful for having been given the opportunity to present our case to the Council, and we highly commend the Councillors for passing this landmark resolution,” said WarrandyteCAN President, Jeff Cranston.

The passing of Notice of Motion 1/2020 not only means Mannigham recognises the threat of climate change to the municipality but empowers council to prepare a response in its 2020 Environment Report by including a Climate Emergency Response Plan.

 

War, climate change and our future

ON MAY 8 1970, Melbourne witnessed a then unprecedented event: a demonstration of around 100,000 people in Bourke Street against the Vietnam War.

In all, some 200,000 people protested throughout Australia that day, sending a powerful message to the government that the tide of public opinion was turning against Australia’s involvement in the war.

Nearly 33 years later, on February 14 2003, there were again massive protests throughout Australia – and elsewhere in the world – against the proposed invasion of Iraq.

Estimates of the numbers at the Melbourne rally alone ranged between 100,000 and 200,000.

I remember marching down Swanston Street to Federation Square and being stunned by the vastness of the crowd.

Fast forward to 2018, and we’re now facing a crisis of a very different kind.

A crisis that can fairly be regarded as the greatest in human history – climate change.

Throughout the world, average surface temperatures are rising.

Globally, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001, with 2016 ranking as the warmest on record.

This is one aspect of what we call “climate change”, but the term also refers to a broader range of changes that are happening to our planet.

These include rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic, and shifts in flower/plant blooming times.

They also include weather events of increasing severity and frequency, like cyclones, droughts, and floods.

The effects of climate change are everywhere to be seen:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is dying largely as a result of increased water temperatures due to global warming.
  • Low-lying nations, particularly small island states, face inundation as a result of rising sea levels.
  • With increased temperatures and frequent heatwaves worldwide, there is increased evaporation of water which provides fuel for storms, exacerbating extreme weather events like cyclones or hurricanes, especially in tropical regions.
  • The melting of the cryosphere (frozen water in the polar ice caps and elsewhere) means that we’re seeing not only sea level rises, but also the exposure of dark ocean waters, which absorb more sunlight than ice – heating the ocean more and speeding up a relentless cycle of melting and heating.

The international Paris Agreement, supported by world scientific opinion, has recognised that the situation we face is one of urgency:  we need to take drastic measures to limit average global temperature rises to a maximum of 2oC (since the start of industrial times) — and pursue efforts to limit the average increase to 1.5°C — if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of dangerous climate change.

Given the great weight of scientific opinion and that our planet’s future is at stake, it’s not unreasonable to expect our politicians to show strong national leadership on the need for urgent, effective action on climate change.

However, leadership has been sadly lacking on this issue.

Instead, the climate crisis has become mired in short-sighted political expediency, climate denialism, and party politics — including the destructive Liberal Party in-fighting that recently caused the (second) downfall of Malcom Turnbull.

In the absence of proper political leadership, the pressure for urgent climate action needs to come from the community.

The People’s Climate March in Melbourne in November 2015 was attended by an estimated 60,000 people.

But we should be seeing far bigger demonstrations in our streets calling for urgent climate action, on the same scale as the one against the Iraq War in February 2003, if not larger.

For various reasons, however, this has not yet occurred.

Climate change has crept up on us gradually, especially over the last 50 years or so.

The adverse effects of climate change are worsening, but they’re occurring intermittently over an extended time-frame of years and decades.

Most of the time, our weather conditions appear normal and the urgency of the climate situation is not readily apparent to many people in the community.

Unlike the threat posed at times by war or terrorism (for example, by the looming invasion of Iraq in 2003), climate change does not present the same sort of imminent and tangible threat that people feel they can do something about, such as by taking to the streets in protest.

Part of the problem in getting people to accept the need for urgent climate action arises from the process of psychological denial, whereby people choose to deny the existence of unpleasant realities in spite of the evidence.

Likewise, the climate change problem is so huge that many people feel overwhelmed and powerless to do anything about it.

So they “switch off” and opt to do nothing at all.

The key challenges for the climate action movement are to engage with the community to a far greater extent, and to understand and overcome the barriers to widespread popular support for urgent climate action.

The proposed Carmichael (Adani) coal mine and rail project represent an excellent focus for community engagement.

In the face of the climate emergency due to the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, the federal and Queensland governments are ardently supporting and facilitating the Adani mine, which will be the world’s biggest coal venture.

WarrandyteCAN condemns the recklessness of both these governments, and urges everyone to do what they can to support the Stop Adani campaign.

WarrandyteCAN would like to know what readers of the Warrandyte Diary think about climate change and asks them to take part in the following poll:

Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.


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Reduce your electricity costs

NOTICED the hike in electricity bills and the confusing world of solar? The Diary’s DAVID HOGG offers a comprehensive analysis of the current state of play and proves there are ways you can save and reduce your bills.

A COUPLE of years ago, WarrandyteCAN conducted a major initiative to attempt to get an electricity retailer to provide competitive pricing for Warrandyte residents.

Alas, the task was too difficult and has become even more so since then, with new retailers springing up and a price war that is centred around how big a discount they’ll give you rather than on the bottom-line price you’ll pay.

The discount means nothing unless you know the price. The newer retailers tend to come in with low prices to corner the market, then raise them considerably during or after the first year.

At that same time they introduce a new product that is still competitive, but leaving their existing customers stuck on the old and now-expensive product. So, last year’s bargain is not necessarily this year’s continuing good price.

As with car and house insurance, it really pays to shop around every year. Few can be bothered to do this.

Perhaps the biggest killer in your electricity bill is the so-called service or supply charge which can vary between retailers from $1 to $1.50 per day, which means you can be paying over $500 a year before you’ve consumed any electricity at all. The other charges relate to the electricity you actually use.

Most Warrandyte residents will by now have smart meters. These are now read online and are available for you to read online through the portal at myhomeenergy.com.au.

The best tariff, which hopefully most readers are on, is the “Time of Use” also known as “Peak/Off-Peak” tariff.

This provides for peak time electricity at anywhere between 25 and 45 cents per kilowatt hour, and offpeak rates from 12 to 20 cents. The peak tariff applies between 7am and 11pm AEST weekdays only, so your weekend electricity is at a much cheaper rate. Note, however, that your meter does not know Daylight Saving, so currently the cheap rate runs from midnight to 8am.

Nearly all retailers offer a discount, but again beware: with some retailers the discount applies only to the consumption but not to the service charge, whereas with others it applies to the whole bill. Most retailers give the discount off the bill in question, but a few treat it as a discount for prompt payment and apply it to the next bill. With the latter, you’ll find it difficult to get the last discount back if you change retailers. I have developed a spreadsheet with the latest tariffs, discounts and billing methods for each supplier and it is interesting to note the differences in prices.

The government website energymadeeasy.gov.au suggests that the average yearly consumption of electricity by a family of four people in postcode 3113 is 6617kWh per year. Using this, and making various assumptions… that you have no solar panels, you are on the peak/ off-peak tariff, no concession, have overnight electric hot water heating, maximum discounts and consume 2558 kWh per year peak, and 4059 kWh off-peak, then as at December 2014 your annual total electricity bill would be with each retailer as
indicated in the table below left.

Looking at this table, you may consider changing retailers; but there are pitfalls. Even though our meters are no longer “read” by a meter reader, Ausnet Services (previously SP-Ausnet) still use a notional “date of next meter reading” at three-monthly intervals, and your change of retailer does not take effect until the next quarterly date.

Add to this a couple of weeks for paperwork to progress through the system, and a further 10-day cooling-off period, and it can be anything from one to four months before you will actually change. By then, the prices may have changed again.

This is a volatile market. It may also be worth researching whether your prospective new supplier’s customer service desk speaks a language you understand.

Some retailers may lock you into a two or three year contract. This is not a problem as the fees for breaking the contract are small, usually in the range of $20 to $40.

Tips for non-solar users:

If your retailer is one of those in the bottom half of the table, or if your bill is considerably higher than in the table, ring them and tell them you’re considering changing supplier. Ask if you’re on their best plan and suggest that they offer you a better deal. They may well do this.

Your retailer may give you a slightly bigger discount if you elect to pay automatically by credit card or direct debit, or if you elect to receive your bills by email, or if you are an RACV member.

If you are a concession card holder, tell your retailer and you’ll get a useful government rebate.

If your washing machine, clothes dryer or dishwasher has a “delayed start” function, consider running it after midnight or before 7am during the week.

If you have a pool pump, put it on a timer and operate it at night for filtering.

Do not be persuaded to change to a “Flexible Pricing” tariff in which you have three rates – Peak, Shoulder and Off-peak – with some seasonal variations and differences at the weekend, unless you have really researched your usage. I have yet found an instance where “Flexible Pricing” would be cheaper than “Peak/Off- Peak” in a residential situation.

Think very carefully before you consider putting in solar panels; you’ve missed the boat. They’re paying you 6.2 cents for the electricity you sell them and charging you 18c at night and 30c or more during the day to buy it. It will cost you $6000 to $10,000 for a 4kW system installed, and you’ll be saving some $400 to $600 per year in bills at current rates with no guarantee of future pricing, making a 10 to 18-year payback period.

For concession card holders, there are two Victorian government concessions that apply. These have both been quietly watered down in the past 18 months. The “Annual Electricity Concession” now gives you 17.5% discount off the consumption and service components of your bill after discounts have been applied and any solar credits deducted, and excluding the first $171.60 (the Carbon Price Threshold) of billing in any year. The “Service to Property Concession” is only good for grey nomads or those who are away from their property for most of a billing period, and pegs the service charge for that bill to be no more than the consumption charge.

Now we’ll look at the rates for those with solar panels, and here is a right old muddle. Those people with foresight who installed their panels before 2012 receive the premium feed-in tariff (PFIT) for electricity they export to the grid at the rate of 60c per kWh guaranteed until November 1, 2024. Those who installed panels in 2012 receive the transitional feed-in tariff (TFIT) at 25c per kWh until the end of 2016.

Those who installed after 2012 would have benefitted from the falling price of purchase and installation, but get bugger all for their electricity export, currently 8c per kWh (FIT) dropping to 6.2c from January 1 next year.

Some retailers claim that they “top up” the government rates by an extra 6 to 10 cents, but often this is a smokescreen. The catch used to be that you get the promised discount off the whole bill, “not just the consumption like other retailers but with us, madam, it’s off the whole bill so it includes the service charge as well”.

Yes, but what he fails to tell you is that the “whole bill” also includes your solar credit which they’ll deduct before they apply the discount, so you’re not getting the implied benefits at all. Recently they’ve changed tack. The latest scam is that the discount plan offered by some retailers (three at the current count) in advertisements does not apply to customers with solar power; they get a very reduced discount on their consumption or none at all.

I have run the spreadsheet again for those with solar export. Again it makes various assumptions – that you own a 4kW solar system, it generates 5300kWh per year of which 1800 is used in the home and 3500 exported to the grid, you purchase 1817 kWh peak and 3000 off-peak from your retailer, and other assumptions as before. Then at January 2015 your annual total electricity bill would be with each retailer in the table below right.

Tips for solar users:

Most of the tips for non-solar users above apply.

If you are on the PFIT or TFIT, try to run as much as possible at night or weekends. It’s better to export during the day and get paid 60c or 25c and then buy it back at night at 18c. The reverse will apply when your tariff expires at the end of 2024 or 2016 respectively; then you’ll be better using your solar to power the house during the day If it’s not in the fine print, check whether they are giving you the promised discount on everything you buy from them, or whether they are deducting your export refund first.

Check that the discount you expected actually applies if you have solar.

Finally, remember that this is a rapidly changing market, and that prices and tips quoted here can be out of date very soon. It pays to compare prices annually.