Council passes motion for 100% renewable electricity by 2022

Council passes motion for 100% renewable electricity by 2022

Canada Bay Council has passed Councillor Charles Jago’s motion for 100% renewable electricity. The motion was seconded by (Liberal Councillor) Michael Megna, and passed unanimously. Cr Jago introduced the motion with some minor amendments to the version shown on the agenda paper. The proceedings of Council’s meeting which took place yesterday (23 June 2022) are shown at https://www.facebook.com/canadabay – this includes Cr Jago’s introduction to the motion and the discussion on it.

The purpose of the motion was to reduce Council’s carbon emissions because of the need to reduce climate change, and follows on from Council’s motion declaring a climate emergency in September 2019. In addition, the motion seeks to support companies providing renewable electricity, who have decided not to be involved in the production or use of coal or gas. The logic here is the same as that for the motion passed by Council in April 2018, to give preference to investments with organisations that do not invest in fossil fuels. (Both of these previous motions also passed unanimously).

Yesterday’s motion will take effect following Council’s contracts for fossil fuelled electricity with Origin Energy which expire at the end of June 2022. These are through the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC). A separate continuing contract (also with Origin through SSROC) for renewable electricity covering 20% of Council’s electricity needs will continue until 2030. To implement the motion, Council will need a new contract covering 80% of its electricity needs as renewable electricity.

The text of the motion was as follows:

That Council:

Notes the following:

  1. Council currently purchases electricity through contracts with Origin Energy through SSROC (Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils). Council purchases 20% renewable electricity on a contract which runs to 2030, with an additional renewables tender expected in 2023. Council purchases the other 80% as fossil-fuel-sourced electricity on contracts which expire on 30 June 2022.

  2. Council currently has a target of net zero emissions by 2030, as detailed in Council’s recent Environmental Strategy (1).

  3. 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).

  4. Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019, and intends to take all practical steps possible to reduce its greenhouse emissions.

  5. The councils of Randwick, Ryde, Inner West, Waverley and Canterbury Bankstown have recently passed motions opposing fracking by Origin Energy.

Recommends the following:

  1. That Council commits to securing 100% renewable electricity at the earliest possible opportunity, and by 1 July 2022 at the latest.

  2. That, to the extent possible and in accordance with Council’s resolution in April 2018 to give preference to investments with organisations that do not invest in fossil fuels, Council will give preference to electricity vendors who primarily provide electricity through renewable sources, and avoid vendors that engage in fracking.

  3. That Council seeks to work with SSROC to establish similar policy in its electricity procurement arrangements.

  4. That staff report back to Council on the options for achieving this as soon as practicable.

Background (this was circulated with the Council agenda)

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.

Council currently has a target of net zero emissions by 2030, as detailed in Council’s recent Environmental Strategy (1). 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.

Origin Energy – Northern Territory fracking program

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 through the ground.

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 all 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 proportionally greater CO2 emissions than coal, when “fugitive emissions” are taken into account (12).

Origin Energy’s NT fracking program is also against the wishes and interests of the Aboriginal owners of the land (13).

Finally, the Northern Territory has much better economic options available to it using renewable energy (14,15).

References

  1. Environmental Strategy: Our Sustainable City, City of Canada Bay Council (2020), p7 & 32.
  2. New CSIRO, AEMO study confirms wind, solar and storage beat coal, gas and nuclear, RenewEconomy, 6 Feb 2020
  3. Australian power prices forecast to fall by 7% by 2022 as cost of renewables drops, The Guardian, 24 Feb 2020
  4. The cost of generating renewable energy has fallen – a lot, World Economic Forum, 7 May 2019
  5. How Falling Costs Make Renewables a Cost-effective Investment, International Renewable Energy Agency, 2 June 2020
  6. 100% renewable energy deal struck for the City, City of Sydney, 22 October 2019
  7. City awards 100 per cent renewable contract, City of Newcastle, 22 October 2019
  8. Final Report of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, April 2018, p 228.
  9. National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: September 2019 Quarterly Update, Australian Dept of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources, Feb 2020.
  10. List of coal-fired power stations in Australia, Wikipedia, updated 16 April 2020.
  11. How the Beetaloo gas field could jeopardise Australia’s emissions target, ABC, 29 Feb 2020.
  12. Gaslighting on emissions: IEEFA says burning LNG “worse than coal” for climate, RenewEconomy, 9 March 2020.
  13. NT Traditional Owners protest against fracking at Origin Energy’s AGM, NITV (SBS),1 6 Oct 2019
  14. NT government backs 10GW solar and storage plant, biggest in world, RenewEconomy, 20 July 2019.
  15. Sun Cable’s solar and battery mega-project may be first of many, RenewEconomy, 28 May 2020.

Note: A previous version of this motion contained a provision that for Council to specifically avoid entering any further contract with Origin Energy, for the reasons given in the background above.