MERC Newsletter – June 2021


Delegates, here is the June MERC Newsletter, held up whilst waiting to see what is happening with Covid and still not certain what restrictions may be enforced regionally and whether they will affect the staging of the next meeting in Orange. However, a decision has been made that our meeting is proceeding albeit as a face to face who can attend given the closeness of members to Orange and zoom meeting for those unable to attend for various reasons!!!

Please circulate the Newsletter to your fellow Councillors and senior staff, 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.


COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC

The NSW Government continues to work very closely with Councils to support communities across the state in response to COVID19 and the changing hotspots. At this stage, given the regional areas are fairly well under control with the use of contact tracing masks, sanitiser, social distancing & QR codes in place, the Orange meeting on 30th July 2021 will be a normal face to face meeting with zoom option.

The Executive Officer has set up a teleconference facility for meeting on 30th July for Wollongong City Council and Wollondilly Shire Council delegates who are in the COVID hotspot defined areas and others who can’t travel to the meeting on 30th July 2021. There will not be a tour and/or a formally organised network dinner on 29th July 2021 as originally planned. Those that travel the evening before are to contact the Executive Officer asap if interested in catching up for dinner and networking under Covid conditions so arrangements can be made.

Unless there is a more drastic Covid interruption, the meeting will proceed to encourage attendance in person, for networking and to farewell some long standing delegates.


Next Meetings for the Association in 2021

The Ordinary meeting on 30th July 2021 will be the last meeting for the year until November 2021 when the AGM will be held at a location to be determined, after the elections on 4th September 2021 and delegates are appointed.

The meeting on 30th July 2021 will be held in Orange Ex Services Club Auditorium under Covid controls with social distancing QR code, sanitising, etc You may recall we were going to Orange last year, but Covid caused a change of plans then where we cancelled the meeting location.

The Executive Committee will have a teleconference meeting on 27th July 2021 at 10am and minutes distributed before the meeting on 30th July 2021.

Regarding accommodation if not already booked, mention the MERC meeting is being held in the Orange Ex Services Club’s on 30th July 2021 and the Mercure Motel is part of the club and is located next door to the club (ph 02 63625611 situated at 94 Byng St, Orange), across the road is the Town & Country Motel and de Russie Boutique Hotel around the corner in Hill St.


Speakers for next MERC meeting in Orange

The Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Hon Rob Stokes has been tentatively booked for 11.45am on 30th July as well as Mike Young DPIE, Executive Director, Planning & Communities (who is now working with the Energy Infrastructure Roadmap Taskforce to implement the Renewable Energy Zones pilots at Central West Orana and New England), to outline where they are up to for delegates from 10am, to be via teleconference. Other speakers to be in person.

The General Manager, Orange City Council, David Waddell, has arranged for Director Technical Services, Ian Greenham to address MERC delegates on water management initiatives they have implemented for mining, residential, commercial and industrial developments and growing communities like Orange City Council and the pipeline they have installed for the purpose.

Karin Stark, Central West Community Engagement Manager from Re-Alliance (formerly Australian Wind Alliance) will talk to MERC delegates about ways to secure funds from VPA’S and rates from developments in the REZ for investment into the community and the work they are doing in the renewable energy sphere since they expanded from wind to solar, battery, green hydrogen, etc as Re-Alliance.


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. The most recent activity is a survey on post mining impacts on communities, networking gatherings on east and west coast and set up an in kind register portal for MERC to join. As relevant activities present, delegates will be kept informed on them for participation.


Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023

The Strategic Plan 2020-23 Strategic Directions, Deliverables and Actions were adopted by delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 27th November 2020 and is full of new strategies to be implemented  over the next three years which will hopefully help with membership growth and involvement of members. It is on our web page for reference.


Renewable Energy Zones

The last meeting was held on 2nd June 2021 at Dubbo Zoo, whereby the minutes were distributed as per process. Matters on the agenda were the REZ Access Scheme; Energy Corporation of NSW establishment and progress with recruitment for it; the Engagement of CWO REZ community; CWO Transmission Project; Regional Energy Strategy Objectives and CWOREZ Boundaries. Next meeting is on 2nd September 2021 in Dubbo.

The NSW Government is also coordinating delivery of an 8 gigawatt Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in the New England region as part of the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap as a mirror of the Central West Orana REZ.

To understand the scale, location and types of projects interested in connecting to the New England REZ, they are asking generation, storage and network developers to provide information through a Registration of Interest (ROI). This will complement work already underway on detailed technical assessment and community engagement, including through the New England REZ Regional Reference Group.


A Central – West Orana REZ workshop is being held on 27th July 2021, 10am -12pm by zoom and conducted by the research team from the Institute of Sustainable Futures at UTS and SGS Economics & Planning to discuss their research project Baseline Opportunities Study on Renewable Sector Supply Chains, Employment & Skills. This was set up to satisfy requests from members of the reference group expressing an interest in discussing employment, skills and supply chain opportunities for the Central West Orana REZ.

The research team are holding the workshop which provides an important opportunity for you to provide input about regional capabilities, opportunities and barriers to increased activity and to future decisions about the development of NSW renewable energy supply chains.

Any delegate who would like to participate or nominate other attendees who may be interested are to contact the Executive Officer and a workshop participant information sheet and consent form required to be completed beforehand will be forwarded.

Attendees could be major local businesses and representatives that have experience or are participating in renewable energy supply chains, major developers, regional development staff and other key government stakeholders.


The researchers will also be conducting a survey of local businesses in the REZs to help develop a detailed understanding of current regional capacity relating to renewable energy supply chains, as well as barriers to building local capacity and employment.

If any interest in participating in the survey, contact can be made to:- and Daphne Siu (RESB team) at

For more information about NSW REZs please visit or email us at


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

All Hunter Region Councils commit to climate Hunter Business Review Magazine, July 2021 edition article. Refer to HBR Magazine

“The Hunter region of NSW has committed to collaboratively tackling shared challenges of changing global energy markets and climate change impacts, joining Australia’s largest local government climate network the Cities Power Partnership.

The Hunter Joint Organisation (Hunter JO) and each of its member councils have signed an agreement to accelerate clean energy initiatives and jobs in an effort to move towards a cleaner tomorrow for their communities and set the region up for a prosperous future.

Hunter JO Board Chair and Cessnock City Council Mayor, Bob Pynsent said the collective agreement, coordinated by the Hunter JO, strengthens the Hunter’s reputation as a region that supports meaningful regional responses on to forces beyond its control.

“In order to deal with the simultaneous challenges of changing global energy markets and climate change impacts, our councils need to be able to support one another and coordinate our efforts to benefit our communities across the region. By partnering with Cities Power Partnership our councils and the Hunter JO are ensuring that we take joint action for our region and our communities,” said Mayor Pynsent. “Working collaboratively, we aim to attract more funding, expertise and resources to support region wide and council specific projects.”

Cities Power Partnership Director Dr Portia Odell welcomed the program’s newest members Maitland City Council, Dungog Shire Council, Singleton Council and the Hunter JO and commended the region for committing to work collaboratively on clean energy and climate related initiatives. “Right now, local governments have an opportunity to get on the front foot of Australia’s energy transition and accelerate projects that will deliver local jobs quickly, drive new investment and tackle long term challenges like climate change.” said Dr Odell.

Councils taking part in the Cities Power Partnership pledge five actions to tackle climate change locally, from ramping up renewable energy through to planning sustainable transport systems.

The Hunter JO is the first Joint Organisation nationally to join the Cities Power Partnership, creating a new regional partnership model that can be replicated across the country. The sustainability and future of the Hunter region has been a key strategic priority of the Hunter JO since its establishment in 2018, with a range of different projects driving this agenda within the organisation and across its member councils, including their Circular Economy and Hunter 2050 Foundation programs.

Through partnering with the Cities Power Partnership, the Hunter JO and its councils are further building the Hunter into one of the most liveable, inclusive, resilient, sustainable and connected regions in Australia. With thriving people, natural environments and progressive primary industries there continues to be untapped potential for development and growth”.

New Gas Plant Slammed” Industrial Careers article 3/5/21: “Locals have rejected the Federal Government’s plan to build a new gas-fired power station. Hunter Valley clean energy businesses say the proposed new gas plant at Kurri Kurri is not needed.  It comes after the Federal Government repeated its threat to build a gas plant of up to 1,000MW if the private sector does not.

The government is responding to a perceived shortfall that will occur when the Liddell coal plant closes in 2023.  Energy minister Angus Taylor has changed his wording, now arguing that it would be an “economic” shortfall of close to 1,000MW, not a physical one.

The Government’s own Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) puts the shortfall at just 154MW. But the threat to build a power station may have the opposite of its intended effect, with several companies that were planning new facilities being scared off by the government’s pledge.  Both Energy Australia and AGL Energy are reportedly reviewing their plans for power stations in NSW. 

SwitchDin, a Newcastle-based developer of virtual power plant platforms, says; “Putting in a new gas plant when we have got better alternatives to manage reliability and cost challenges is just illogical”. 

Another Newcastle firm, Energy Renaissance, is looking to establish itself as a local lithium-ion battery producer.  “Low-cost electricity is the key to sustaining and reviving our manufacturing sector,” Energy Renaissance managing director Mark Chilcote has told RenewEconomy.  “Renewables offers the lowest-cost option for new electricity generation and it is clear this will soon be cheaper than relying on fossil fuel alternatives.

“By increasing the adoption of renewable energy, this will support manufacturers in a Renewable Energy Industry Precinct to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.  “As a battery manufacturer that is based in Tomago, Energy Renaissance’s goal is to be energy independent by powering 100 per cent of our operations with a 500kW rooftop solar system when our manufacturing facility is built.”

Energy Australia gets Government funds for first ‘Green Hydrogen” Gas Generator”, Renew Economy article by Giles Parkinson, 4th May 2021:

“Energy Australia has committed to building a 300MW fast-start gas generator in NSW that will combine “green hydrogen” with gas and help fill the market opportunities created by the retirement of the Liddell coal generator. The $400 million Tallawarra B project has landed funding support from both the NSW state government (up to $78 million) and the federal government (up to $5 million), which are said to be conditional on the hydrogen component being delivered.

The new gas generator will be on line by the summer of 2023/24, after the closure earlier that year of the last of the Liddell coal units, and raises questions about whether the federal government’s Snowy Hydro utility will continue with its own plans for a gas generator at Kurri Kurri, or whether it will opt for a smaller facility.

But the proposal has been swiftly criticised by the Clean Energy Council, which said taxpayer dollars would be better spent on large-scale battery storage, pumped hydro and accelerating transmission upgrades to provide cost-effective, reliable, flexible and low-emissions power. “The costs of energy storage have declined rapidly in recent years, and it’s now clear that it provides a lower-cost solution for firming low-cost solar and wind energy resources,” said CEO Kane Thornton. “If private investors are willing to bet on gas over energy storage, that’s a decision for them. But the general public is becoming increasingly uncomfortable seeing their taxes used to prop up more expensive fossil fuel generator.”

The Tallawarra B power station, like most so-called open cycle “peaking plants”, will be located next to the existing Tallawarra A combined cycle gas generator. It will be deployed to meet periods of high demand, or low renewables output. Such plants are usually rarely used, often running for only 160 hours a year, and usually only operate at very high prices.

Energy Australia has committed to using green hydrogen – which it insists will be sourced from wind and solar – at the facility from 2025, two years after it is first opened. It says it will “offer to buy” at least 200,000 kilos of green hydrogen a year, which will account for around 5 per cent of its output. It could raise this green hydrogen percentage to 60 per cent in later years but that will require  further investment in the turbine technology, and a bigger supply chain of green hydrogen. It says it will also look at using green hydrogen in the existing Tallawarra A generator.

Energy Australia managing director Catherine Tanna said Tallawarra B will be Australia’s first “net zero emissions hydrogen and gas capable power plant.” She said direct carbon emissions from the project will be offset over its operational life. “It will help to kick start the green hydrogen industry,” Tanna said. “What’s particularly exciting is that further engineering studies will see if the amount of green hydrogen can increase, which will further support the Port Kembla Hydrogen Hub.”

NSW deputy premier John Barilaro said  NSW has an enormous opportunity to lead the world in the production of green hydrogen. “Fast-tracking new projects like these will ensure we continue to remain at the forefront of developing new technology while supporting our existing industries,” he said.

State energy minister Matt Kean said that the Tallawarra B project would help keep the lights on following the closure of the Liddell Power Station in 2023. “This project sets a new benchmark for how gas generators can be consistent with NSW’s plan to be net zero by 2050 by using green hydrogen and offsetting residual emissions.”

GE is providing the gas turbine – it is a single 300MW unit – and says it will be the first in the world to feature its new gas turbine technology, with has improved efficiency. It says these units can operate on a blend of up to five per cent hydrogen, but can burn a higher share with further investment. But the biggest constraint for the moment is the supply of hydrogen.


NEW REPORT: Net zero emissions impossible unless AGL ditches coal  – Imagine if I told you that one company was the key to Australia’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis.  That’s right – all those decades of tortured political wrangling, of dissembling, false starts and false solutions while our world rapidly heats – and all that time one company could have set us well along the path to net-zero emissions by now. That company is AGL, Australia’s largest energy generator, and, as new research reveals, Australia’s greatest climate liability.

AGL’s advertising, full of electric vehicles and wind turbines, gives the impression to its millions of customers that their energy is coming from a company working at the forefront of Australia’s energy transition [1]. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, AGL is Australia’s single biggest source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, with its coal fleet belching out 42 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution a year, equivalent to over 9 million cars [2].

Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s latest report reveals that AGL is Australia’s biggest and dirtiest coal company, with 85% of its energy generated by its fleet of ageing, unreliable coal-burning power stations. These include the notorious Hunter region Liddell and Bayswater power stations, and Loy Yang A in the Latrobe Valley, which holds the dubious distinction of being Australia’s single most polluting energy generator.

AGL produces more than twice the emissions of the next biggest polluter, Energy Australia, and more than BHP, Rio Tinto, Glencore, and Qantas combined. Just 10 per cent of AGL’s energy is generated by renewables. But, despite their bluster, AGL is a coal company trying to operate in an increasingly renewable world. Australia’s biggest companies are committing to 100% renewable energy.

As global carbon border taxes threaten the profits of Australian businesses, many more will be looking to reduce their emissions over the next few years. But AGL is failing to meet market demand for renewable power.

As pressure grows on our Federal Government to commit to net-zero emissions, and businesses and industries at home and abroad take steps to rapidly decarbonise, AGL is still on the back foot. The company, which saw the abrupt departure of former CEO Brett Redman in recent weeks, has doubled down on its coal assets in the face of internal turbulence, proposing a convoluted demerger that would see its coal-burning power stations shunted to a separate business.

This isn’t just a bad decision for the climate, but a bad business decision. Renewable energy is driving down power prices on a stunning scale, which, combined with growing maintenance costs of its elderly coal assets, is eating into AGL’s profits, and the returns for its investors. Its lumbering coal assets simply can’t compete with the pressures of a modern, renewable powered grid. And this is where we have a problem – a big, dirty AGL problem. 

AGL is the biggest energy provider in the country. It dominates the National Electricity Market, supplying energy to millions of households and businesses. We can’t shift to net-zero emissions, at any time, without a renewable-powered electricity grid. This is the lynchpin upon which decarbonisation of other high-polluting sectors, like transport, must rely in order to reduce emissions. There’s no point ramping up our fleet of electric cars if they’re plugging in to a grid fuelled by coal to power up.

We can’t get to net-zero emissions without AGL coming to the party. The company is the foundation stone to tackling the climate crisis.  One company holds the responsibility for our shared future. It’s time to demand AGL puts the future and wellbeing of Australians over the pursuit of rapidly diminishing coal profits.  For more information please contact Glenn Walker on 0422 2247 029 or email



[1] ABC (2021). “Greenpeace accuses AGL of ‘greenwashing’ its image” with 2050 carbon neutrality pledge”.

[2] Greenpeace Australia Pacific (2021). “Coal-faced: Exposing AGL as Australia’s biggest climate polluter”. Greenpeace Australia Pacific. 05 May 2021.



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


Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,

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