The other day I went to a Renewables forum in Castlemaine. The local Federal member, Lisa Chesters, spoke followed by the State member Maree Edwards and they both referred glowingly to Renewable Newstead. Naturally enough they were followed by Geoff Park who then had the task of explaining the project. It is in the nature of the project that, at this stage, it is not precisely defined but Geoff’s explanation of three things that it isn’t is extremely helpful.
It’s not about cutting the wires
A fair proportion of the press about us says it is. It is definitely not. Lisa Chesters spoke often of the “power sharing grid” and those wires of the local electricity distribution network are central to the project. The wires in the picture though, those of the electricity transmission network are a different matter.
Paying for these poles, and for the loss of electricity as it passes through the wires, can amount to 15% of the “socket price” on your bill. When locally generated power is shared it has this fraction added to its price. As the Australian energy market transitions towards more distributed generation less and less power will be being delivered from distant locations and the rules will change to better support the power sharing grid.
It is no suprise that working with the local distribution company is so central to the project – Renewable Newstead is squarely in that space.
It’s not about a solar farm
There are not any specific renewable generation proposals in this project. They will come later.
If the project succeeds later developments, of a more concrete nature, will take place in a far more favourable economic framework. For our neighbours at Hepburn Wind generation was not the biggest problem. Bringing their power to market was the hardest part.
It’s not about climate change
Well it is and it isn’t.
It isn’t, because the things I’m writing about here are part of an enormous global transition to renewable energy. Around the world coal fired generation is dwindling and is being supplanted incredibly rapidly by renewable generation. What this leads to is settlement and stability in power prices as the transmission infrastructure, which has largely driven power prices upwards, become less central. This project will translate to better power prices and they make sense regardless of climate change.
It is, because less coal will be burnt and less old carbon will be released into the atmosphere.
Renewable Newstead is not a green flag waving movement. It speaks pragmatic common sense. A memory comes to mind from the earlier days when Home Energy Assessments were rolling out. Jason and I were sitting outside the supermarket spreading the word. We were accosted, by John a local resident, with cries of “bloody greenies”. When Jason explained that, in fact, we were talking about lowering power bills John changed his tune.