Delegates, here is the January MERC Newsletter (there was no December Newsletter in view of the Local Government elections), please circulate the Newsletter to your fellow Councillors and senior staff this week, so they can appreciate and understand the excellent work the Association and you are doing on behalf of your Council and community, with regard to mining and energy related matters.
There has been some significant changes to the MERC delegates list due to election results and some delegates not restanding in their LGA’s. A big thank you to those departing delegates for their contribution to MERC and a warm welcome to their replacement delegates.
Unfortunately no longer delegates are former councillors Peter Shinton (Warrumbungle SC), Owen Hasler (Gunnedah SC) & Jim Nolan (Broken Hill SC) from the Executive Committee and long standing MERC delegates in former councillors Mark Hall (Lachlan SC), Alan Ward (Parkes SC), Ian Davison (Cabonne SC), Joanne McRae & Reg Kidd (Orange CC), Karlene Irving & Heather Druce (Warren SC), Noel Lowry & Robert Khan (Wollondilly SC) that MERC is aware of to date.
Councils are still appointing their delegates in February 2022. If Executive Assistants or delegates could notify the Executive Officer by email (email@example.com) who their delegates to MERC are as soon as appointed, it would be appreciated.
In accordance with the MERC constitution, as a result of the recent Local Government elections, the remaining 3 Executive Committee members of Cr Micheal Banasik (Wollondilly Shire Council – MERC Deputy Chair), Cr Phllyis Miller OAM (Forbes Shire Council – MERC Executive Committee) & Cr Katheryn Smith (Mid Coast Council – MERC Executive Committee) will operate as the Executive Committee until the Annual General Meeting elections are held on 18th March 2022 when the 6 positions on the Executive Committee are up for re-election.
In the meantime MERC is in the safe hands of the aforementioned Executive Committee with Cr Michael Banasik as the Acting Chair of MERC as the most senior person remaining.
COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC
The NSW State Government continues to work very closely with Councils to support communities across the state in response to COVID19 and the changing situations in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Hopefully, in 2022 MERC will be able to resume its’ activities in the normal manner as the level of vaccination rate is reached for the State Government to relax controls sufficiently to enable this to occur. In the meantime, it is assumed that 2022 will have quarterly face to face meetings and Executive Committee meetings by virtual or face to face means.
Next Meetings for the Association in 2022
The AGM and Ordinary meeting will be held in Orange at Orange Ex Services Club on 18th March 2022 with a networking dinner and hopefully (if it can be arranged) a tour the day before. The Executive Committee will have a meeting (by teleconference) on Wednesday 16th March 2022 at 9am & minutes distributed before the meeting on 18th March 2022 (this is tentative and subject to confirmation by the Executive Committee).
RDA Orana Proposal
Delegates on 15th October 2021 considered a membership proposal from Orana RDA to be part of the Orana Opportunity Network (ON2) and participation in the UNSW Research Project on the Economic Impacts of Mine Automation in the NSW Orana Region.
After forwarding the proposal and documentation from the presentation to delegates, the decision has been made to join ON2 for 12 months as a Bronze member, then to reassess the benefits during the period whether to consider continuing as a member. The CEO of Orana RDA is yet to meet with the Executive Officer of MERC to finalise an agreement on what MERC seeks from the membership, to enable a fair assessment of the benefits to occur.
Meanwhile the Orana Opportunity Network (ON2) is organising the inaugural Resources, Energy & Industry Innovation Forum in Dubbo on 17th February 2022. Its focus is to update stakeholders on what is happening in the sector, the outlook for it and the innovations that are supporting sectoral developments in the Orana and Central West region. It is a virtual event with 25 plus guest speakers. Enquiries to RDA Orana for tickets to this event or see the link:
CRC for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC TiME)
MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They have webinars and workshops on their progress with the CRC establishment and their collaboration efforts. As relevant activities present, delegates will be kept informed on them for participation. The latest newsletter on progress with the CRC is outlined in the next paragraph from CEO:
We recently released our Strategic Plan, outlining seven strategic goals critical to successfully transforming our mining economies to deliver a positive legacy beyond the mine. This was complimented by our first Annual Report which highlights our key achievements over the past year and is testimony to the hard work of all of our partners team.
Over the last few months we have started to see a steady increase in key learnings from our inaugural investment in the Foundation Portfolio, with six reports released and others on their way. We also initiated a new project on Understanding Local Readiness for Closure, based around MMG’s Rosebery Mine in Tasmania. Last month we also ran our inaugural CRC TiME Annual Forum which provided a platform for our project leaders to share their progress and key findings and featured leading presentations from industry, government and regional communities. Finally, as we approach 2022 we are delighted to welcome four PhD students to the CRC TiME family. I congratulate them on their scholarships & look forward to their journey.
Exposure Bill for the Mining & Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2021
A letter has been received from the Deputy Secretary, Georgina Beattie from the Mining, Exploration & Geoscience Division, Regional NSW regarding the Exposure Bill for the Mining & Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, outlined as follows:
“The NSW Minerals Strategy committed to review mining regulations, policies and processes to improve transparency, efficiency and community confidence. The review has led to a number of proposed reforms, including a set of legislative amendments to enable more efficient decision-making, streamline and modernise processes, improve clarity, and compliance. The amendments also support the NSW Government’s commitment to establish the new Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund.
A draft of the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 has now been released on the Mining, Exploration & Geoscience website, along with the Explanatory Guide. Feedback on the draft Bill by 21 January 2022 with submissions to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org”
All feedback will be published on the Mining, Exploration and Geoscience website early in 2022. The Bill will be introduced into Parliament in early 2022.
Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund Update
The Deputy Premier announced the creation of the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund in April 2021. The 2021-22 NSW Budget committed to setting aside $25 million each year to the Fund to support the economic diversification of coal mining communities over the coming decades. Coal mining communities will have a key role to play in advising the Government on how to best invest the Fund.
The Fund will support economic diversification in the four coal mining regions. As noted in the Deputy Premier’s media release in May 2021, Expert Panels will be established with representatives from the communities in coal mining regions to input into delivery of the Fund.
The Department of Regional NSW is preparing a suite of amendments to the Mining Act 1992. As part of this package, the NSW Government is proposing to establish under legislation the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund and its statutory expert panels. This will ensure that coal mining communities guide investments supported by the Fund.
Ahead of the Bill being introduced into Parliament, interim expert panels may be appointed for regions where short-term priorities necessitate timely advice”.
LGNSW Special Conference 28th February – 2 March 2022
The LGNSW Special Conference for the debating of motions, trade displays, workshops and conference speakers will be held on 28th February – 2nd March 2022 in the Hyatt Regency, where the Executive Officer of MERC and his partner will attend as a volunteer to assist.
Whilst MERC has been allocated stand no 11, it is in a prominent position, as a 3 metre back board with x 2 metre side panels space, with the provision of bar stool seats and a table with the MERC banner displayed and some promotional handouts available – it will look very professional. This should enable the Executive Officer/delegates to have a professional space to meet with other LGNSW delegates to discuss the benefits as a member of MERC.
Renewable Energy Zones
The Minister for Energy and Environment declared the CWOREZ on 5th November 2021. The declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020. It sets out the intended network capacity (size), geographical area (location) and infrastructure that will make up the REZ. This enables and sets the scope of key legislative functions under the Act, including access schemes and REZ network solutions. For more information about NSW REZs please visit www.energy.nsw.gov.au/renewable-energy-zones or email email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Andrew Bray, National Director Re-Alliance (who has addressed MERC several times about their work and is an organisation that MERC can join), has advised they are conducting a series of Community Workshops to develop community plans they are hosting throughout the Central West REZ region to ensure a strong community voice is heard in the establishment of the Central West REZ.
The workshops will be held in Wellington 9th Feb at 9.30am, Dunedoo 26th February at 9.30am, Gulgong 9th March at 9.30am and a virtual workshop on 7th March at 6.30pm. More details on the workshops and the work that Re-Alliance does can be obtained from the website www.re-alliance.org.au
A REZ is a hub of renewable projects across a region that forma a modern day power station, producing a large amount of energy for the State. The State Government has set them up in the New England, Southern NSW and Hunter/Central Coast Regions.
The REZ’s are receiving a huge interest from renewable energy businesses providing a challenge for the NSW Government to facilitate it and for local communities/Councils to grapple with. Refer article below provided by Warwick Giblin from Oz Environmental providing the details to this situation, suggesting there is an opportunity for MERC to be more involved.
Current MERC process for involvement in the REZ’s is by receiving minutes from each REZ Regional Reference Group meeting and forwarding them to members (which attendances at and the staging of them have been affected by COVID during 2021). MERC does not have members in every REZ that is being established. What Re-Alliance are doing above is what each Council or MERC could do to help the LGA’s within the REZ deal with the community issues of access/infrastructure & to encourage members in the emerging REZ to join MERC.
If MERC is to get more involved in the REZ’s it would need to have a discussion at a future meeting to review the current Strategic Plan actions and how it would like to resource any actions if it were to become more involved in the processes across the whole of the State given the growth of the REZ throughout NSW as outlined in the following article.
Giles Parkinson, 4/2/22 writes in the Renew Economy (www.reneweconomy.com.au) the following article under the heading NSW Swamped by 34GW of wind, solar and storage for new renewable zone:- ”New South Wales has again received an overwhelming response from aspiring developers of wind, solar and storage projects, with more than 34GW of proposals for the South-West Renewable Energy Zone, more than 10 times its likely capacity.
The state government, through its newly formed Energy Corporation of NSW, ran a registration of interest process in October and November for the south-west region, one of at least five REZs planned to help replace the ageing coal fleet over the coming decade.
“There were 49 registrations totalling over 34 gigawatts from potential generation and storage projects – thirteen times the intended capacity for the South-West REZ, which will be no less than 2.5 gigawatts,” James Hay, the CEO of Energy Corp, said in a statement on Friday. This project will bring an economic boost to the region and with interest from a variety of established and innovative technologies including wind, solar, battery and hydrogen projects. It’s not the first time that a request for information for one of the state’s proposed REZs has elicited an overwhelming response, but this is clearly the most dramatic.
The Central-West Orana zone, based around Dubbo and Wellington and likely the first to be developed, received 27GW of proposals when it sought 3GW, while the New England REZ, based around Armidale, received 34GW of proposals for a likely capacity of 8GW.
Other zones are to be created in the Hunter Central Coast region, and the Illawarra region, with more likely to follow to encourage offshore and floating wind farms.
In total, NSW has already received nearly 100GW of wind, solar and storage proposals to choose from, and to help it tailor the roll-out of renewables and storage across the state under its new central planning regime.
Those wanting to be part of the newly formed REZs will bid for access rights, which will more or less guarantee no network curtailment, and may also be rewarded with a minimum guaranteed payment for their output.
The South-West REZ is based around Hay and is located on the lands of the Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta, Baraba Baraba, Wemba Wemba, Wadi Wadi, Madi Madi, Nari Nari, and Yitha Yitha people. It was chosen because of the abundance of potential solar projects in the area, as well as wind, and will be supported by the new transmission line, Project EnergyConnect, that will link South Australia and NSW and pass through the region.
“The number of responses to the ROI reflects the strong level of interest in the South-West and helps ensure only the best projects which benefit the community and maximise local renewable jobs and investment in the region will be picked,” Hay said.
“Timing, capacity, design and location of the new South-West REZ will be considered alongside ongoing consultation with local stakeholders through the South-West Regional Reference Group, project partners and local stakeholders including local councils and First Nations representatives,” he said.
Hay said the South-West REZ is a significant undertaking and will take several years to plan, design and build and will most likely be delivered in stages”.
Rating of Mining Land Relative to Business Rates Update on OLG Guidelines
This item is re-submitted given its importance to MERC members and for the interest of new delegates. The Minister for Local Government, Hon Shelley Hancock, had written to MERC on 25th March 2021, confirming that the NSW Government have accepted IPART’s recommendation that mining rates should be set relative to busness rates, primarily to reflect differences in the cost of providing council infrastructure and services to these properties.
The Minister also indicated that the NSW Government are not contemplating legislating to limit how mining land should be rated relative to business rates by local government, instead Guidelines will be prepared for the local government sector.
In reply, MERC wrote to the Minister offering the expertise of members of MERC to be part of the working party to write the Guidelines. Since then the Local Government Amendment Act 2021 has been passed and some of the changes adopted from the IPART recommendations have been implemented effective from 24th May 2021, with more to come.
In the meantime, the Minister has advised that a Local Government Rating Reference Group has now been established to provide technical input on rating issues and advice how best to meet Council’s operational needs during implementation of the mining rates relative to business rates.
Following an EOI process, an intitial meeting was held on 3rd November 2021, with the Reference Group, where rating professionals from Wollonging City, Wollondilly, Blayney, Singleton, Cessnock and Mid Western Regional Council’s are members of the group. Four of these Council’s are members of MERC so our issues of concern should be raised.
The Minister thanked MERC for bringing this matter to NSW Government’s attention. If there are any queries the OLG Policy Team can be contacted on 02 44284100 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussion Paper on Reliable Energy Supply and Coal Mining Options
At the 15th October 2021 Ordinary meeting, delegates discussed the inadequacies of the existing energy supply networks using examples in Cobar, Lachlan and Warren Shire Councils where the need exists to upgrade existing energy supply assets to provide reliable energy supply to regional industries and communities.
A working party was established consisting of Crs Dom Figliomeni (Wollongong City Council), Mark Hall (Lachlan Shire Council) and Chris Roylance (Forbes Shire Council) and Executive Officer to develop a discussion paper for distribution to delegates. Some excellent details have been gleaned to date and will be distributed to delegates in due course as information and possible action by respective members and MERC, in due course at a future meeting.
The completion of this paper has been affected by the lead up to the December elections and the loss of Mark Hall who was a driving force in the content. It is good to see that Councillors Figliomeni and Roylance are still part of MERC and able to finalise this project paper.
Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues
“Not all Hydrogen is the same – If it’s not green, it’s probably Greenwash!!!” Scott Hamilton writes in the Renew Economy, 4th February 2022, refer www.reneweconomy.com.au the following: “There has been a lot of talk about clean and green hydrogen in recent months. They’re not the same thing.
The Prime Minister spruiked hydrogen in his ‘Australian way’ brochure to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. “Key to this approach is investment in new energy technologies, like hydrogen and low cost solar, to ensure our manufacturing, resources, agricultural and transport sectors can secure their future, especially in rural and regional areas”, said Scott Morrison on 26 October 2021.
But just like ‘oils ain’t oils’ not all hydrogen is the same. The name hydrogen comes from the Greek words “hydro” (meaning water) and “genes” (meaning creator). It was named by French chemist Antoine Lavoisier because when it burns, water is produced. When made with renewable energy, so-called ‘green hydrogen’ enables the production of low-carbon, high-value goods such as ‘green’ steel, fertiliser, and ammonia.
Hydrogen can be made from fossil fuels which contributes to global warming or it can be made from renewable energy and water using an electrolyser producing zero carbon emissions. It is critically important that we can tell the difference and prevent greenwashing.
In December 2020, Hydrogen Australia (a division of the Smart Energy Council) launched its Zero Carbon Certification Scheme for renewable hydrogen, renewable ammonia and renewable metals – a world leading scheme to provide a guarantee of origin for hydrogen produced from 100 percent renewable energy and with zero carbon emissions.
Importantly, the Zero Carbon Certification Scheme does not include hydrogen made from fossil gas or coal and using carbon capture and storage – a production method which former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, now chair of Fortescue Future Industries, describes “a con”.
The Zero Carbon Certification Scheme is backed by some of the biggest renewable hydrogen companies in the world, the German Energy Agency, State Governments of Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Indeed, Canberra is at the forefront of this work. The first project being certified under the scheme is the ActewAGL renewable hydrogen refuelling station in Fyshwick.
Leading environmental consulting firm Point Advisory was appointed to undertake an audit of plant and equipment to verify that it is using 100 percent renewable electricity from the ACT grid and assess any and all greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of hydrogen fuel at Fyshwick.
ActewAGL CEO, John Knox, says: “Achieving certification provides certainty to our customers that their vehicles are running on green hydrogen.”
Point Advisory concluded that by using 100% renewable electricity from the ACT grid and potable water from the mains, the ActewAGL refueling station can produce up to 7,884 kilograms of renewable hydrogen each year.
The electricity supplied to the facility from the ACT grid is renewable – supplied from dedicated renewable energy generation, solar PV, existing green power generation and renewable energy certificates – all arranged by the ACT Government.
Any emissions from the storage of potable water are extremely small. “The embedded carbon is de minimis,” said auditor Simon Dawes. That’s Latin for bugger all.
A certificate verifying the facility is producing renewable hydrogen will today be presented to ActewAGL, with the certification remaining in place for 12 months, when a simpler verification audit will check operations to enable continuing certification.
The refuelling station will provide certified green hydrogen to the public, and specifically supply the ACT Government and its Hyundai government cars. The refuelling station received funding support from Hornsdale Wind Farm 3, a subsidiary of Neoen, which was successful in the ACT Government’s reverse auction for renewable energy in 2016.
The refuelling station will provide certified green hydrogen to the public, and specifically supply the ACT Government and its Hyundai government cars.
Shane Rattenbury, ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, has made it clear renewable hydrogen is the only hydrogen that should be produced in Australia and certification is critical in ensuring we can track how these products are manufactured so customers can be certain the product they select is genuinely zero emissions.
The ACT really is a world leader in renewable hydrogen and in the certification of renewable hydrogen. That’s something we should all be proud of.
Hydrogen Australia is now undertaking a pre-certification of the Yara International green ammonia plant in the Pilbara, Western Australia. The project has received funding from ARENA and the WA Government and will be one of the world’s first to produce green ammonia at an industrial scale.
“The initiative will guarantee our customers that the quantities supplied have been produced according to set standards and will inform them about key attributes such as renewable origin and greenhouse gas footprint,” said Emile Herben, project manager at Yara International”.
Scott Hamilton is a senior advisor at Hydrogen Australia (a division of Smart Energy Council). Simon Dawes is a senior manager at Point Advisory.
“Voters See Green Energy as Key to Future Prosperity, Shun Coal & Gas” Michael Mazengarb, writes in the Renew Economy, the following article: Voters in New South Wales and Queensland say they back green energy technologies to secure their long-term economic future, suggesting voters may not be buying the idea that coal and gas are necessary for long term jobs.
A poll of more than 2,000 voters in regional, rural and metropolitan Queensland and NSW, commissioned by the Climate Council, found that more than 60 per cent of respondents see renewable energy sources like wind, solar and renewable hydrogen will be a better source of new jobs, compared to coal and gas.
More than 80 per cent of respondents in each state said they approved of government investments in renewable energy industrial precincts, and voters in both states ranked renewable energy and green hydrogen as a much higher investment priority gas and coal.
A majority of those polled also believe that if Australia increased efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it would generate positive economic benefits for Australian businesses.
Support for increased climate action was strong across both Queensland (58 per cent agreed) and New South Wales (64 per cent agreed), while just 20 per cent disagreed with the notion that stronger climate action would lead to a stronger economy.
Around 60 per cent of respondents in both Queensland and New South Wales agreed that their state’s “future economic prosperity” would be supported by renewable energy exports and the production of resources like lithium and cobalt for use in other clean energy technologies.
A similar proportion of responders – 60 per cent in Queensland and 61 per cent in New South Wales – said that they believe that regional areas would benefit the most from a global transition to clean energy. Less than a quarter of respondents said they thought coal and gas could underpin the future prosperity of their state.
It is a significant result for two states which have long had coal and gas exports forming a large part of their economy, with New South Wales hosting the world’s largest coal port and Queensland home to some of the world’s most significant gas export infrastructure.
Economist, and member of the Climate Council, Nicki Hutley, said the polling results showed that voters understood that Australia had a better economic future through the pursuit of clean energy.
“This polling reveals that people in NSW and QLD understand the era of coal and gas in this country is coming to a close as the world rapidly decarbonises,” Hutley said “There is a huge opportunity for the historical coal and gas heartlands of NSW and Queensland to grasp the economic rewards of the global zero emission transformation, and the people see this.
“All governments should pay attention to this public groundswell of support for clean industries and, and commit to credible carbon cuts this decade,” Hutley added. “The Federal Government can play a huge role in helping QLD and NSW harness their immense natural advantages and put these states on a path to becoming clean industry and renewable superpowers.
The Next Economy’s CEO, Dr Amanda Cahill, who heads the non-for-profit that assists businesses and community groups to transition away from fossil fuels, said the polling results confirmed that regional communities were calling for greater support for growing new opportunities in clean energy. “There are so many opportunities for regional areas and they’re crying out for support from government to help them diversify their economies,” Cahill said.
“This poll reaffirms what I’ve been hearing on the ground. Workers, businesses and investors are ready to take advantage of the opportunities in the new economy, but they need the government to back them in with clear targets, regional development funding and planning support. “The countries we export to are already on the road to net zero emissions and we have a choice – help them do it or lose out on those new export opportunities.”
Disclaimer The comments and details in the articles in this newsletter do not reflect the views, policies or position of the Association or its member Councils and are sourced and reproduced from public media outlets by the Executive Officer to provide information for members that they may not already be exposed to in their Local Government areas