Friday 26 January 2018


Late last year Renew Economy's Giles Parkinson pointed out that an increasing number of businesses as well as individuals are turning to renewables to cut their power bills.    "Time for Australia to wake up ....."

UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta plans to build a one gigawatt power system consisting of large-scale solar, battery storage, pumped hydro and demand management for the Whyalla steelworks and other big energy users in South Australia.  He expects this to reduce his company’s energy bills by about 40%.

Other business examples are Nectar Farms’ investment of $750 million in wind and battery storage for a new glass house and energy park near Stawell (Victoria) and Zinc Metals, a North Queensland zinc  refiner, which is turning to solar to cut its power bills.

Parkinson points out that while the cost of solar has fallen by 90% in the last five years and the cost of battery storage is also dropping, the cost of grid power has more than doubled.

He claims this price increase has “little to do with the cost of technologies or the cost of service”.

“It’s more about the greed of the incumbents, the monopoly that own the networks, and the oligopolies that control the wholesale markets and dominate the retail  scene, and the totally inadequate supervision by the regulators,” he said.

“Amid all this, and with the opportunities that abound in Australia with its resources in solar, wind, know-how and smart software, and the opportunity for a major reduction in emissions, what does the consumer get from the politicians and some of the principal regulators?”

He claims the consumer gets “complete and utter nonsense” from both politicians and regulators.
He refers to the Coalition’s war against renewables which “is based on wild myths, ignorance and prejudice”.

The regulators for their part have allowed the National Energy Market to be “rorted, gamed, manipulated, abused and priced to the point of absurdity where businesses are now closing and low-income folk are going without food or other necessary items – and those that can are investing in their own solar power and storage.”

It’s no wonder energy policy is in such a mess.

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 15, 2018. 

Monday 1 January 2018


 In his book What makes us tick social researcher Hugh McKay has a section headed “Why listening is the greatest gift of all”.  In it he says, “In fact if I had to identify one way to make the world a better place, I’d say: Listen more attentively and sympathetically to each other.”

Should we apply this principle more broadly by listening carefully to the non-human voices in our Earth Community?  What might we hear?  Expressions of pain? Joy? Desperation? Loss? How might we respond?  A greater sense of wholeness perhaps?  Maybe feelings of sympathy or inspiration.

One such Voice of the Earth serves to illustrate.

A small planted forest stands beside a grassed area near a home at Waterview Heights. Nature places a forest red gum seed in the open area and new life begins.

Slowly the tree grows, initially in isolation, but later as part of a mulched bed of planted trees and shrubs.  With a trunk maybe 15 centimetres across and a height of seven metres it is doing well and its voice is saying, “You have encouraged me and now I am on my way to help rebuild the natural habitat of the area.  The koalas will love me.”

But – these hopes seem dashed when grubs carve out a comfortable home within its trunk.  Black cockatoos discover them and tear into the tree with their powerful beaks to reach their tasty meals.  A pile of timber chips at its base and a large wound in its trunk are clear evidence of a weakened tree.  Weeks pass and inevitably a strong wind fells it to the ground.

Months pass and although the stump seems dead no attempt is made to remove it.  It is still an important part of this bed of habitat.

And then from the stump new growth comes forth, and a green abundance is soon climbing skywards.

A familiar Voice of the Earth exuberently cries out - “Look at me now! I am alive.  You gave me a chance and now watch me respond.  I will play my part in our Earth Community.”

            Stan Mussared

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 18, 2017.