The below motion I have submitted for the Lane Cove Council meeting for Monday 19th October:
This motion aims to build on the ‘Climate Emergency’ Lane Cove Council declared in September 2019.
The objectives of this motion are to:
- Outline that Council will aim to maximise sourcing energy from renewable generation when it needs to enter into a new energy supply contract in July 2022.
- Outline that Council will aim to reduce and/or eliminate relying on gas as an interim energy source before transitioning to sourcing all its energy needs from renewable generation.
Cost-effectiveness and urgency of renewable electricity
Currently in the wholesale electricity market, renewable electricity is cheaper than fossil fuel, even including the cost of “firming” to cover for gaps in renewable supply (2,3,4,5). Both Sydney and Newcastle Councils achieved substantial dollar savings in transitioning to 100% renewable electricity (6,7). We are now at the right time to commit to 100% renewable electricity.
Lane Cove Council currently has a target 80% reduction in emissions and 0% increase in water use by 2036, as detailed in Council’s recent declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’ in September 2019.
However, electricity is the easiest form of emissions to reduce, with highly cost-effective zero-emissions products in the market. Other emissions will be harder to reduce, so we need changes now on the emissions that we can eliminate.
On 2 October 2018, Origin announced a contract to supply solar power from their 56 MW Moree Solar Farm to 20 Sydney local councils. This is via a group Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) led by the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC). Lane Cove Council did not participate in this exclusive energy supply option as it was focusing on new solar installations in recently completed major projects such as The Canopy and the new Aquatic Centre Grandstand. Council has also achieved a substantial reduction in its energy usage through the program to replace all streetlights with LED’s.
In Councils actions that were adopted in March 2020 to respond to the ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration, it noted that there will be incremental opportunities to further transition to renewable energy supply within our immediate Local Government Area. For example, most Council building that can have solar panels installed have now done so. Therefore, Council has an opportunity to specifically adopt energy sourced from renewable generation when our current electricity supply contract ends in June 2022.
Origin Energy – Northern Territory fracking program
Origin Energy pride themselves on their “good energy” brand and claim to take climate change seriously, however, Origin has plans to start shale gas fracking in the Northern Territory. Fracking the NT would not only be one of the largest potential sources of carbon pollution in the world, but it poses huge threats to the lands, waters and rights of Aboriginal people to make decisions about what happens on their country.
Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”, or unconventional extraction of gas), occurs with the injection of a fluid comprised of water, sand and various chemicals at high pressure into an underground rock formation in order to open fissures, allowing trapped gas or crude oil to flow through to ground level for gas or petroleum production. Fracking has substantially opened up new supplies of gas but has also raised enormous problems. Key concerns include contamination of natural water sources, massive water usage, the spread of carcinogenic chemicals used in the fracking process, earth tremors, and a substantial increase in “fugitive” gas emissions and methane leaks.
The Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory (8) found that life cycle emissions from Origin’s NT fracking would increase Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions by up to 38.9 Mt CO2e (million tonnes of CO2 emissions equivalent) every year.
This would represent 7.3% of Australia’s 2019 domestic emissions (9), or 39% of all of Australia’s transport emissions (9), or more than three-quarters of all generation by NSW coal-fired power stations (10). Other reports suggest even higher emissions figures (11). In any case, the scale of this program’s emissions would undermine other efforts by Australia to reduce its greenhouse emissions to meet its climate obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Some suggest that “natural” gas represents a “transition fuel” away from coal. However, recent research says that gas generally produces similar CO2 equivalent emissions than coal, when “fugitive emissions” and methane leaks are taken into account (12).
Origin Energy’s NT fracking program is also against the wishes and interests of many Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the land (13).
Finally, the Northern Territory has much better economic options available to it using renewable energy (14,15).
Below are some interesting graphs that highlight the fact that Australia does not need to rely on gas sourced from Coal Seam Gas extraction:
- Good Energy
- Environmental Strategy: Our Sustainable City, City of Canada Bay Council (2020), p7 & 32.
- New CSIRO, AEMO study confirms wind, solar and storage beat coal, gas and nuclear, RenewEconomy, 6 Feb 2020
- Australian power prices forecast to fall by 7% by 2022 as cost of renewables drops, The Guardian, 24 Feb 2020
- The cost of generating renewable energy has fallen - a lot, World Economic Forum, 7 May 2019
- How Falling Costs Make Renewables a Cost-effective Investment, International Renewable Energy Agency, 2 June 2020
- 100% renewable energy deal struck for the City, City of Sydney, 22 October 2019
- City awards 100 per cent renewable contract, City of Newcastle, 22 October 2019
- Final Report of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, April 2018, p 228.
- National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: September 2019 Quarterly Update, Australian Dept of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources, Feb 2020.
- List of coal-fired power stations in Australia, Wikipedia, updated 16 April 2020.
- How the Beetaloo gas field could jeopardise Australia's emissions target, ABC, 29 Feb 2020.
- Gaslighting on emissions: IEEFA says burning LNG “worse than coal” for climate, RenewEconomy, 9 March 2020.
- NT Traditional Owners protest against fracking at Origin Energy's AGM, NITV (SBS),1 6 Oct 2019
- NT government backs 10GW solar and storage plant, biggest in world, RenewEconomy, 20 July 2019.
- Sun Cable’s solar and battery mega-project may be first of many, RenewEconomy, 28 May 2020.
Motion on Notice:
- Notes the following:
- Council currently purchases electricity through contracts with Origin Energy through SSROC (Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils). Council supplements the energy it produces from its own solar installations on Council buildings with energy supplied from Origin Energy sourced from fossil-fuel generation. This energy supply contract expires on 30 June 2022.
- Council currently is working towards the 2036 target of an 80% reduction in emissions and 0% increase in water use. Council has undertaken to establish a 2024 progressive target in the 2020 - 2024 Community Strategic Plan (CSP).
- According to the CSIRO, AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) and other sources, renewable electricity costs are now generally lower than fossil-fuel based electricity and falling (2,3,4,5).
- Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019 and intends to take all practical steps possible to reduce its greenhouse emissions.
- The councils of Randwick, Ryde, Inner West, Waverley, Canterbury Bankstown, Canada Bay, Liverpool & Woollahra have recently passed motions opposing fracking and sourcing gas from Coal Seam Gas extraction by Origin Energy.
- Recommends the following:
- That Council commits to securing the maximum allocation from renewable electricity generation at the earliest possible opportunity when it is due to renew its energy supply contract from 1 July 2022 onwards.
- Expressing our support for the traditional owners and communities in the Northern Territory, who have expressed their strong opposition to Coal Seam Gas extraction and fracking due its threats to the climate, and to their lands, waters and rights.
- Requesting that Origin Energy cease all plans to conduct Coal Seam Gas extraction and fracking in the Northern Territory and elsewhere due to its impact on the climate, communities, environment and water, and commit to further investment in environmentally and socially sustainable renewable energy projects.
- That Council considers funding towards suitable projects in the 2021/2022 financial year that will assist in tracking Council’s total renewable energy generation across all its facilities to accurately report what percentage of Council’s energy usage is sourced from local and contracted renewable energy generation.
- That staff report back to Council on the options for achieving this as soon as practicable.