Geelong agrees on need to fast track for renewable energy

Attendees at a sold-out forum this week on Geelong’s energy needs were unanimous in calling for an urgent transition to renewable energy sources.

The Geelong Energy Futures Forum was held in response to proposals to build floating gas terminals in the Geelong area.

Viva Energy and Dutch company Vopak, base their proposals for terminals in Corio Bay and nearby Avalon Beach on a supposed shortfall in gas supplies for Victoria.

State Government initiatives to replace old gas heaters with more efficient reverse cycle electric heaters, together with the rapid uptake of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power raise questions about whether a gas import terminal will be required.

Respondents to a survey held after the Forum were also 100 percent behind wanting all levels of government to prioritise the transition to renewable energy sources.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio, who opened the forum, said “renewable energy is the bedrock of our move to decarbonise Victoria.”

Evidence of this is the growth in renewable energy output and jobs in the renewable energy sector she said. Last year 30 percent of all such jobs nationally were in Victoria. The Big Battery to be commissioned by year-end in the Moorabool Valley near Geelong will be the largest renewables battery in the Southern Hemisphere.

As backdrop to the Minister’s comments and those of other speakers, independent energy consultant Ian Dunlop said that a 1.5 degree C global temperature rise will occur before 2030, and a target of net zero emissions by 2050 is totally inadequate.

“We have the technology and solutions (to move to renewable energy) which now offer enormous social and economic benefits,” he said.

Simon Holmes a Court, senior advisor at Energy Transition Hub, Melbourne University recommended a two-step plan which called for the electrification of everything followed by the decarbonisation of the generation of electricity. This would account for 80 percent of the country’s present emissions which, since 1990 have increased by 40 percent.

Addressing concerns about the impact on jobs of a move to renewable energy in Geelong, Ms Imogen Jubb of Beyond Zero Emissions drew on data from 130 member communities across Australia, to say that 1.8 million jobs would be needed in the foreseeable future to enable a transition to renewable energy. 

She said between 16000 and 20000 jobs would be created in the Geelong region in the transition to clean energy.

Additionally households can save between 50 and 80 percent of their energy costs be retrofitting home s to improve energy efficiency (annual saving of $1500-$2480 per household), whilst also creating local jobs to undertake this work.  This money can then be spent in the wider economy, boosting economic activity.

Colin Long of the Victorian Trades Hall Council called on employers not to pretend to workers that there was a future in fossil fuels and to engage with workers in the transition process to renewables.

On the ground 19 percent of Geelong dwellings now have solar and of these about 25 percent also have batteries said Dan Cowell of Mondo Energy. These domestic initiatives are complemented in the corporate world by Deakin University with its 7 megawatt solar farm and Barwon Water’s target of 100 percent renewables. 

There was consensus among the Forum speakers that there were many renewable energy initiatives underway but that they needed to be part of a larger plan.

Speaking for the panellists Simon Holmes a Court said “it’s time for the community to get political about the move to renewable energy.”

About Geelong Sustainability

Geelong Sustainability is a dynamic and passionate community group focused on sharing information, building community resilience, advocating for the environment and supporting effective action for a low carbon future.

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