Notice: Climate Action Blue Mountains is no longer an incorporated association, as of 1 April 2016. The committee took the difficult decision in 2015 to disband the formal organisation and pursue local climate action initiatives through other existing bodies, in particular the Blue Mountains Conservation Society. We encourage all existing supporters and interested individuals to join with the Consveration Society, Transition Blue Mountains and other local groups to pursue local action for a safe climate. We plan to maintain our Facebook page as a means of sharing information and promoting local climate action initiatives.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Climate Action BM (aka Katoomba Climate Action Now) over the years and helped make our campaigns, initiatives and events a success.

Thank you for your understanding.

Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

Join us for a Cuppa Sunshine

Katoomba Cuppa Sunshine PromoYou are invited to join us for a Cuppa Sunshine this Saturday 23 August to celebrate solar and ensure it has a bright future.

When: 3pm, Saturday 23 August
Where: St Hilda’s church hall, 68a Katoomba St, Katoomba.
What: a cuppa and chat, writing a letter to our cross bench senators about solar power.
RSVP: On Facebook or below

Climate Action Blue Mountains is hosting a Cuppa Sunshine afternoon tea because Australia’s best solar policy, the Renewable Energy Target, is under threat right now and ensuring the cross-bench senators don’t allow it to be cut is one of the best ways we can secure a renewable energy future.

Cuppa Sunshine is an initiative of Solar Citizens, an independent, community-based organisation bringing together millions of solar owners and supporters to grow and protect solar in Australia.

This week, hundreds of people are gathering all around Australia to put ol’ fashioned pen to paper and show our cross bench senators just how deeply Australians care about a strong solar future.

There’s no question that the future of solar in Australia hangs in the balance – at the whims of a handful of politicians in the Senate. It’s up to us to make sure those senators stay strong and protect the most important policy for the solar in Australia, the Renewable Energy Target.

RSVP for the Katoomba Cuppa Sunshine

Big Solar Poll results presented to MPs

Update: news of our visit to Louise Markus published in the Gazette – leave a comment to show your support the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The Big Solar Poll results are in! An army of volunteers conducted an impressive 12,000 conversations  in local communities across Australia, revealing 94% support for building large scale solar power stations, despite only 64%
saying they were aware of big solar plants being built elsewhere around the world.  An overwhelming 95% of respondents agreed with government funding of big solar via a mechanism such as the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Read the full report: 12,000 Voices for Big Solar.

As its contribution to the Big Solar Poll, Katoomba Area Climate Action Now volunteers conducted more than 330 conversations across the Macquarie electorate:

  • Over 83% of respondents indicated support for building big solar
  • 86% supported government funding to help build it.

The results were presented to Federal MP for Macquarie, Louise Markus, on 25 May 2012. Our media release to the Blue Mountains Gazette is reproduced below. A full copy of the local report, including a selection of comments from survey respondents, can be downloaded here:


KatoombaCAN presents local Big Solar Poll to Louise Markus

KACAN Secretary, Noni McDevitt, and KACAN President, Sue Morrison, presenting results of the Blue Mountains Big Solar Poll to Federal MP for Macquarie, Louise Markus, at her Windsor office.

Members of a local climate action group have called on Louise Markus, Federal MP for Macquarie, to support the establishment of a renewable energy fund that will help finance the growth of renewables in Australia.

Legislation to establish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will soon go before Federal Parliament. The Coalition opposes the $10 billion fund, which would provide loan guarantees and competitive interest rates as a catalyst for increased private and community investment in renewables.

President of Katoomba Area Climate Action Now, Ms Sue Morrison, told Ms Markus the local community overwhelmingly supports government initiatives that will result in a transition away from coal and gas-fired power stations to big solar power and other renewable sources.

“We conducted polling across the Macquarie electorate over the past couple of months to find out what people know about big solar power and whether they support initiatives aimed at overcoming the existing financial barriers to construction of large solar power stations in Australia.

“We talked at length with more than 330 people from a range of demographic and socio-economic groups and more than 83 per cent said solar power plants should be built in Australia to take advantage of its abundant sunshine and open space.”

Ms Noni McDevitt, who undertook polling in upper mountains villages, said just over half of those polled were aware of concentrated solar thermal power plants being built elsewhere in the world, but many were unaware that molten salt storage tanks can store heat for power generation overnight.

“More than 40 per cent of people were unfamiliar with this 21st century solar technology and many commented the government should be doing more to educate people about renewable energy options.”

Ms Morrison said more than 86 per cent of those surveyed supported the government’s proposed fund to kickstart big solar in Australia, provided it was well managed and projects were well thought out and commercially viable.

“With current subsidies favouring fossil fuels and powerful vested interests entrenching the existing energy mix, it’s very hard for solar power to get a foothold in Australia.

“Australia is being left behind, with countries like the U.S., Germany, China, India and Spain racing ahead with solar techologies.

“It’s time to level the playing field and provide investment funds for solar power stations that will ultimately lower the cost of electricity for all Australians relative to our increasingly expensive and declining fossil fuels.

“Renewable power will also result in creation of thousands of jobs in regional areas currently suffering from a decline in manufacturing industries or over-reliance on mining for new jobs.”

“A site has already been identified near Mudgee which could support a community-owned solar thermal power plant as an alternative to the expansion of coal mining on the edge of our precious World Heritage Area.”

Find out more about the Big Solar Poll:

Big Solar Q&A

Katoomba Area Climate Action Now is part of the national grassroots Big Solar campaign. Together with similar groups across Australia we will be polling local residents over the next two months to gauge the level of support for big solar. Poll results will be presented to local MP Louise Markus. Get in touch here if you want to help with the campaign locally or watch out for us at your local shops or markets.

Q:  Can solar provide ‘baseload’ power?

A:  YES it can! Concentrated solar thermal plants have already been built in Spain, Italy and the United States with sufficient heat storage (using molten salt) to provide the equivalent of overnight “baseload” power. Storage technologies are still undergoing further research and development and will rapidly improve as solar power generation expands globally.

In any case, the concepts of baseload & peaking power are no longer relevant for a 21st century power grid – we need despatchable power from a flexible, smart grid that utilises clean energy sources with declining cost curves (rather than continuing our dependence on fossil fuels that will only go up in price).

Q:  Can solar power provide all our energy needs?

A:  In theory, there is sufficient solar energy falling on the Earth’s surface to supply global energy demand many thousands of times over and Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world.

In practice, however, Australia’s electricity needs can best be met by a combination of improved energy efficiency, better demand management and deployment of a range of renewable energy technologies including solar, wind, biomass and hydro power. At least two independent studies have demonstrated via modelling that Australia’s National Electricity Market could reliably be powered entirely from renewable energy, given the right policy settings and necessary grid improvements.

During a recent cold snap in Europe, Germany (with 20% of its electricity already coming from renewable sources) propped up nuclear-powered France, whose old outdated and costly reactors were unable to meet the increased power demand and where peak prices sky-rocketed to record levels.

Q:  Can solar power plants be built at the necessary scale and speed to meet our energy needs?

A:  In a recent Quarterly Essay, Andrew Charlton suggested that to meet just one third of Australia’s electricity needs from solar photovoltaic (PV – the kind you get on household rooftops) would require commissioning of a solar PV plant the size of the proposed Moree Solar Farm (150MW) every week from 2015-2020. Germany has demonstrated this is entirely possible!

More than 7,500MW of solar PV was installed in Germany in 2011 (over half of that in just 3 months) – equivalent to 50 Moree Solar plants – in addition to the 7,400 MW installed in 2010.[1] Germany’s total installed solar PV capacity is 30,000MW, supplying up to 4% of its total electricity (similar capacity installed in Aust would allow us to retire four large coal-fired power stations, equivalent to 15% of our total electricity generation).

India plans to install 20,000MW of solar by 2020 and China recently increased its solar target to 15,000 MW by 2015 (from a baseline of only 1,000MW installed at the end of 2010). In Australia, solar PV installed capacity was 1,031MW as at Aug 2011, more than half of which (538MW) was installed in the first eight months of 2011. With only 6% of Australian households having installed rooftop solar PV, there is considerable scope for further expansion.

In Spain, the 20MW Gemasolar concentrated solar power plant is now generating power for 25,000 households, while tenders have recently been called for construction of a 50MW solar power plant to provide electricity for a further 70,000 households, creating 4,000 local jobs.[2]

Breaking: there is an excellent list of solar projects under construction around the world compiled by Giles Parkinson over at Renew Economy today – have a look.

The urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions means that electricity generation from fossil fuels must rapidly be replaced with zero carbon energy sources. Solar power has among the fastest implementation times of any current energy technologies (2 – 5 yrs) – a critical factor if emissions are to start declining before the end of this decade.

Q:  Is solar power too expensive?

A: Experience in Australia and overseas demonstrates the cost of solar power falls dramatically as the industry expands, especially if the right policy mechanisms are in place (including a flexible feed-in tariff for commercial scale power plants, an ambitious renewable energy target and financing mechanisms such as loan guarantees). Solar PV electricity costs in Australia (and elsewhere) are projected to reach retail grid parity within the next 2 to 3 years.[3] Grid parity for concentrating solar thermal is estimated to occur once 8,700MW of capacity is installed globally (slightly less than Victoria’s current stationary energy capacity). In recent months, the U.S., Chinese & Indian governments have all predicted the cost of utility-scale solar will fall below that of coal or gas-fired generation by the end of the decade.[4]

Electricity from fossil fuels has been relatively “cheap” because it doesn’t include the associated environmental and health costs and it is heavily subsidised by governments (e.g. taxpayers will be subsidising Cobbora coal mine near Mudgee in order to provide unsustainably “cheap” electricity despite rapidly escalating coal prices). Fossil fuel electricity prices will only increase further as global demand for coal and gas escalates and Australians are exposed to export price parity for coal and gas.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) recently forecast that Australian electricity prices will rise a further 37% in nominal terms (or 22% in real terms) over the three years to June 2014, largely due to increased transmission, distribution and wholesale electricity costs (the This is for students who are earning their undergraduate degrees. carbon price and Renewable Energy Target contribute only a small percentage to this increased price). NSW electricity prices are forecast to increase 42% in nominal terms, partly due to increasing reliance on gas, which is expected to substantially increase in price.[5]

In contrast, German households are anticipated to be paying only 20% more on their bills by 2020, while expanding the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources to at least 30%, reducing their reliance on imported fossil fuels and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.[6]

Q:  Do concentrated solar power plants take up too much space, use too much water and have too much ‘embodied energy’ (i.e. energy used in construction & operation)?

A: Solar thermal plants can take up less space than current electricity generation infrastructure and its associated fossil fuel mining. Solar plants can be built on degraded grazing land or other non-productive land, in modules of varying sizes (e.g. BZE proposes 75MW – 220MW). BZE’s proposed 220 concentrating solar thermal sites would cover a circle 4.2 km in diameter over an area equivalent to 13.9 A 500MW solar PV farm covering 12 sqkm is proposed to be built in Morocco as part of the Desertec project.[7] In comparison, Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria covers approx. 35.54 and the 1,100MW Collie coal-fired power station in WA covers 47 (equivalent to 4.3ha per MW, compared to 6.5ha per MW for Solar 220).

Given the relatively recent expansion of large-scale solar power there has been limited research on energy payback periods, but analysis of a 17MW solar power tower and a 50MW solar parabolic trough power plant in Spain found energy payback periods of approximately one year (i.e. they generate sufficient energy over one year to compensate for the energy used in their construction, lifetime operation and dismantling at end of life).[8]

Any means of electricity generation will be associated with some environmental impact – it’s a question of which technologies will have the least overall impact on the environment, the climate, human health and global security concerns, for decades to come. Full life cycle analysis of solar thermal power reveals substantial environmental and greenhouse gas benefits compared to the equivalent amount of fossil fuel electricity generation.

Our current reliance on fossil fuel electricity requires mining of coal and gas over vast areas of rural land – much of it suitable for agricultural production – in addition to large industrial plants and associated infrastructure to transport and process the coal and gas. Potentially damaging coal seam gas already supplies up to a third of eastern Australia’s demand for gas, yet there are no detailed Australian studies to determine life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from expanding our use of gas-fired electricity.

All electricity generation requires some water use, e.g. a typical 500MW coal-fired power station uses 8.3 billion litres of water each year. There is scope for reduced water use by solar thermal plants, with the availability and continuing improvement of air-cooling technology. Air-cooled solar thermal power towers only use 341L per MWh electricity produced, compared with 2,100L per MWh for Latrobe Valley’s brown coal generators (according to BZE report). Dry cleaning technologies are still being improved (they currently reduce efficiency of power production), although water use for cleaning of mirrors or solar panels represents only a small percentage of overall water use. In contrast, the electricity and gas sector consumed a total of 328 gigalitres in 2008-09, with future increased water entitlements proposed to be purchased on the open market in competition with agricultural uses.[9]


Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions concludes that with the right policies in place, Australia can develop a renewable energy industry which provides “abundant, clean, cheap energy for all, at a much lower cost than fossil fuels in the near future”.

Useful References


[8] Lechon, Y., de la Rua, C. & Saez, R. (2008) Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Electricity Production by Solarthermal Power Plants in Spain. Journal of Solar Engineering, Vol. 130 (May 2008).

[9] Draft Energy White Paper (Dec 2011).

Big Solar Campaign Launched at Echo Point

KatoombaCAN Launches Big Solar campaign at Echo PtMedia Release: Big Solar Campaign Launched at Echo Point

KATOOMBA, Sat 3 Mar: While recent drizzle at Echo Point slowed production of electricity from the visitor centre’s 10kW solar PV system, a group of hardy local residents braved the weather to launch a campaign promoting large scale solar electricity generation.

Local environment groups are calling on Federal MP, Louise Markus, to get behind the Let’s Build Big Solar campaign as well as supporting the government’s proposed $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will provide loan guarantees necessary to get large scale solar power up and running in Australia.

“Australia is the sunniest continent on earth, so it makes sense that we use this vast resource to provide us with large amounts of safe, clean, renewable electricity,” said Sue Morrison, President of Katoomba Area Climate Action Now.

“The installation of more than 1,000 megawatts of solar PV on household, school and commercial rooftops across Australia has delayed the need for new polluting power stations, but we need large scale solar electricity generation with storage if we want to avoid continuing reliance on polluting fossil fuels”.

Australia’s largest solar power facility is the 3 MW solar thermal concentrator attached to Liddell coal-fired power station near Singleton, where construction is underway to double its solar capacity, but this is tiny compared to concentrating solar power stations in Spain, Germany and California, where molten salt is used to store heat for power production throughout the night.

“We are way behind other countries in taking advantage of our abundant renewable energy sources,” said Ms Morrison.

“Spain’s 20MW Gemasolar concentrating solar power station is already generating 24 hour power for 25,000 households, with construction underway to power a further 70,000 households, creating thousands of local jobs.

“Germany installed more than 7,500MW of solar PV last year alone – equivalent to 50 Moree Solar farms, one of the large scale projects proposed for funding under the government’s Solar Flagships program.

“While the cost of polluting fossil fuels will only rise as global demand increases, renewable electricity gets cheaper as the industry expands – California is already buying solar power at prices which compare favourably with coal and wind.”

Together with similar groups across Australia, Katoomba Area Climate Action Now will be polling local residents over the next two months to gauge the level of support for big solar. Poll results will be presented to local MPs in their electorates and in Canberra.

More information is available from

Energy White Paper Ignores Renewables: Make a Submission

Ferguson “the fossil fool” faces protestThe Federal Department of Resources, Energy & Tourism, under pro-fossil fuels Minister Martin Ferguson, released a draft Energy White Paper in December last year after a lengthy consultation process which commenced with a draft Green Paper three years ago. The White Paper reviews Australia”s energy needs to 2030 and provides a policy framework for future energy development.

Unfortunately, the government has largely ignored the advantages and strong public support for renewable energy while failing to address the urgency of the transition away from fossil fuels. Read a critique by Friends of the Earth here and you can find the draft White Paper itself, including an executive summary here.

It”s not too late to have your say on Australia”s energy future. Submissions are due by 4pm 16 March 2012. Writing your own submission will have more impact – we have prepared some points to use below – but if you really don”t have time, click the blue button to use a ready-made template.

TAKE ACTION: Write a submission OR TAKE ACTION: Use a template

Key points to use in your submission

The Bad

  • Assumes a continued reliance on fossil fuels (supplying a min. 2/3 of Australia’s total energy consumption), thus locking Australia into escalating electricity prices as global demand for coal & gas rises
  • Places too much emphasis on promoting the discovery and exploitation of new fossil fuel energy resources (for domestic use & export), rather than facilitating the development and expansion of renewable energy sources
  • Uses outdated data for renewable energy costs and understates the potential for renewable energy to rapidly become cheaper than fossil fuels as the RE industry expands both in Australia and globally
  • Substantially understates the potential for escalating oil prices in the face of peak oil (prices increased almost 3-fold between 2004 and 2011, yet the White Paper suggests less than a further doubling in price by 2035 and states peak oil is “unlikely to be reached before 2035”); assumes “oil will remain the primary energy source for the transport sector to 2035” (p.31)
  • Ignores the scientific evidence that global greenhouse emissions need to peak before the end of this decade if global warming is to be held below 2 degrees
  • Proposes continued export of Australia”s greenhouse gas emissions via a massive increase in our exports of coal and gas (note also massive increase in uranium exports p. 35); i.e. gas is NOT replacing existing coal-fired electricity, it”s simply adding to total fossil fuel consumption (both in Aust & elsewhere) and making it increasingly unlikely that the agreed max. 2 degree global warming target can be achieved
  • Assumes the availability of carbon capture & storage for continued use & expansion of coal-fired electricity, despite lack of evidence to support Money found the credit card loans IOU and canceled it. its feasibility or cost effectiveness at a national or global scale within the necessary timeframe
  • Assumes substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions for gas compared with coal, despite uncertainty about fugitive emissions and lack of adequate data on life cycle emissions for coal seam gas
  • Does little to change the dominant energy paradigm of over-reliance on large, centralised power stations at the expense of potentially more efficient, reliable & cheaper decentralised smaller-scale energy generation (according to a report by the University of Technology Sydney)
  • Expansion of fossil fuel developments will result in increased water use, with electricity generators able to outbid agricultural users on the open water market (pp. 239-240)
  • Over-reliance on (often flawed) market mechanisms to determine Australia’s electricity generation mix, rather than a more comprehensive and forward-thinking approach which facilitates a rapid transition to renewable energy technologies
  • Dismisses proven, effective renewable energy policies (such as feed-in tariffs and Renewable Energy Targets) as “market distortions”
  • Makes only vague commitments to “investigate possibility of a national energy savings initiative” and “progress work to look at energy efficiency governance structures” rather than giving these issues the clear commitment and priority that is required to reduce overall energy demand.

The Good

  • Acknowledges the importance of existing programs aimed at improving energy efficiency (p.199)
  • Community consultation plans will be required as a condition of grants under the Solar Flagships Program and Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program
  • Energy policy settings will be actively monitored and refined as necessary to meet community requirements, and emphasis will be placed on raising energy literacy amongst consumers.

Useful References

Video: The Power to Change to Renewables Forum

Late last month, Katoomba Area Climate Action Now, Permaculture Blue Mountains and Transition Blue Mountains hosted a great forum on renewable energy. If you missed it, watch the video below – a set of three clear, informative presentations on renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Forum with Dr Mark Diesendorf (University of NSW) John Kaye (NSW MP) and Sue Morrison (Katoomba Area Climate Action Now); talking on the technology, politics and grassroots aspects of investing in renewable energy.

Blue Mountains residents want plan for renewable energy

KACAN ask Louise Markus to unlock renewable energyUpdate: Our media release, below, has prompted a story in this week’s Blue Mountains Gazette, including a response from Louise Markus:

But Louise Markus said the coalition was “absolutely committed to action” on climate change.

“A coalition government will implement a climate change strategy based on direct action to reduce emissions by five per cent by 2020 and improve the environment.

“Direct action on soil carbons is a major part of our strategy supported by other measures such as planting 20 million trees in available public spaces and supporting emerging technologies such as solar fields, geothermal projects or tidal and wave projects that will reduce CO2 emissions and deliver significant environmental outcomes without a new tax burdening everyday Australians.”

Media Release

On Thursday, members of Katoomba Area Climate Action Now handed over the results of over 300 conversations with local people around renewable energy to Louise Markus, Member for Macquarie.

“Today we handed Ms Markus, our local MP, the results of our 304 conversations with people about renewable energy.” said Sue Morrison, spokesperson for Katoomba Area Climate Action Now.

“Over the past 3 months, volunteers from our group held street stalls, visited markets, knocked on doors and approached people in towns from Springwood to Blackheath to talk, listen to and record what they think about renewable energy.”

“96% of the people we spoke to want strong policies to support new jobs and investment in renewable energy and a remarkable 88% want Australia to develop a plan to move to 100% renewable energy.

“We did this as part of the nationwide 100% renewable energy campaign, joining with over 72 community groups in every state and territory to record the thoughts and comments of over 14,000 people.

“What we find when we talk to people and share information is that Blue Mountains residents overwhelmingly want to talk about solutions. They want to get behind a positive vision.

“They are tired of the negativity and bickering by politicians and just want our elected representatives to get on and do something.”

“The coalition seems to keep just saying no to action on climate change and renewable energy. They seem more interested in blocking things than pushing for the investment in renewable energy that people in our area are calling for” said Erland Howden, another volunteer organiser with Katoomba Area Climate Action Now.

So we are asking Louise Markus to tell us what her plan is for how we can get serious renewable energy investment flowing into our area and make it more affordable for all Australians. We want to report back to the people we spoke to telling them what Ms Markus said.”

“We know people are worried about rising energy prices and that renewable energy is the only source of power right now that gets cheaper the more we install it. If Louise Markus was serious about rising energy prices she’d be coming out strongly in favour of renewable energy.”

“It’s time we got on with it and unlocked the potential of renewable energy like solar and wind in our area and we will keep working to see that happen,” concluded Erland Howden.

Download Media Release as PDF  Download the Blue Mountains Report