MERC Newsletter – July 2023


Delegates, here is the MERC July Newsletter, 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.  

Next Meetings of Association. The AGM meeting will be held in November in Sydney, NSW Parliament House on a date to be confirmed by the Executive Committee after the external review report by Future Together Group is received and analysed. Delegates resolved that the next meeting will be held in Sydney at Parliament House at a date to be determined to keep pressure on getting relevant Ministers attending.

Future 2024 Forum (REIIF) The REIIF date slots have been temporaly booked for next year in the week 5-7th June 2024 but only over 3 days. The delegates at Ordinary meeting on 3rd August confrimed that the conference will be run in partnership with RDA Orana with MERC’s Ordinary meeting being held on first day 5th June 2023, followed by site visits, networking dinner in evening, then a conference day for councils, politicians, experts and having non members and potentially new members attend as observers, then the business/industry day is on 7th June 2023.

COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC – In 2023 MERC will be resuming its’ meeting cycle activities in the normal manner. What this means for MERC delegates is that 2023 will have quarterly meetings as “face to face” meetings with use of zoom in exceptional circumstances. Executive Committee meetings will be by zoom means as determined. A lot of value is gleaned from being at a meeting in person and this can be lost when delegates attend by zoom. The focus will always be on giving delegates an opportunity to attend meetings. However, delegates must be present to vote for the AGM in view of the voting system in the constitution.

Speakers for Next Meeting in Sydney – The Ministers for Natural Resources, Planning, Climate Change, Energy & Local Government will be approached to speak in November whilst in Jubliee Room, NSW Parliament House.

Inland NSW Growth Alliance (INGA) (formerly Orana Opportunity Network – O2N) – MERC is trialling as a Bronze Member of INGA for 12 months. Their Newsletters are available on their website on  

CRC Transformation in Mining Economies (CRCTiME) Post Mining – MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They provide quarterly updates on progress with an opportunity for members to join webinars, workshops, surveys etc. See Website

Executive Officer Services Replacement. The Executive Committee has commenced the replacement process for an entity to provide Executive Officer services, need an ABN and relevant insurances, part time focus, utilising LGNSW Management Solutions to help with the engagement. Details for the role are on LGNSW website,, contact person is Christian Morris ph 0417693254.

Engagement of Future Together Group (FTG) & Three Pillars Advisory. MERC has engaged Martin Rush and Amer Hussein from FTG and Three Pillars Advisory to undertake a review of MERC as follows:

  • Review and refresh MERC’s value proposition, sharpen the future strategic planning review processes and membership derived value.
  • Review Constitution to:
    • Support organisational effectiveness.
    • Facilitate greater membership and external cut through.
    • Enhance direct and in-kind resourcing.
  • Develop a Policy Platform Structure Plan:
    • A policy gap analysis – Local Government Interest in mining & energy.
    • Prioritisation of policy – relevance to current and/or prospective members.
    • A policy and position paper roadmap in short-medium term.
  • Update MERC Financial & Resourcing Plan.

Report is due in four weeks with 20 recommendations with accompanying reasons to enhance/broaden MERC’s objectives and evolve its organisational effectiveness with the continued existence of mining (coal and metalliferous) and coexisting/transition to emerging renewable energy options. It is a timely review with new State Government and councils grappling with issues associated with the roll out in some areas of renewable energy developments.

Mining & Renewable Energy articles

Gas Lobby Launches New Scare Campaign on Electrification, saying it will Break the Grid” Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy, 3rd August writes:” No words, and no claims, appear too outrageous for the Australian gas lobby. Having lost its total control over the Australian federal government when the Coalition lost power last year (remember the gas-fired recovery?), it is ramping up its scare campaigns against the path to electrification.

The latest salvo is prompted by the Victoria state government’s welcome decision to ban gas appliances in new homes from the start of 2024. The gas industry doesn’t like it because it means it can’t install gas networks in new suburbs which would then lock in a related return for decades to come, even if they do – as expected – become redundant.

And if new homes create more demand for electric appliances, then that will make it easier for existing homes to make the switch and quit the existing gas networks.

But the gas industry is nothing if not organised. One customer received a letter this week from the supplier of his gas heater, Seeley International, which included a raft of misleading claims, and outright lies. The one that struck us most was the suggestion that the Victoria government’s decision would effectively break the grid, a meme that must be sticking because RenewEconomy has received emails from aggrieved punters, or possibly gas bots, saying much the same thing.

The electricity network is not ready for rapid electrification

There are a couple of important points to be made here. Victoria has the biggest use of gas in the country because it is cold, and that means that gas is used mostly in winter. Right now, there is plenty of capacity on the local grid in winter – peak demand averages around 2GW lower than the summer. You would have to add a lot of electric heat pumps, convection stoves and even EVs in very rapid time to put pressure on the grid.


Indeed, in the most recent market forecast put out by the Australian Energy Market Operator, which operates both the electricity and gas networks, it said winter demand peaks are unlikely to overtake summer demand peaks for at least another decade, even with strong electrification scenarios. If anything, electrification might help the grid, because it will address an emerging problem which goes to the other end of the scale – minimum demand.

Having all those electric appliances creating demand means that AEMO will not have to revert to switching off rooftop solar PV, as it must do from time to time in other states. Gavin Mooney posted the letter from Seeley International on his LinkedIn page, and because he is an expert in the energy transition, he knows his stuff and can see through the bollocks sent to him by his gas appliance supplier. He cited several other problems with the Seeley letter:

For instance, Seeley says: “We wanted to…address recent concerns over the Victorian government’s short-sighted ban on new houses.” Mooney writes that “it’s actually just the sort of decisive policy action we need.” Seeley: “Given Victorian electricity comes from burning brown coal, gas is a much cleaner alternative and better for the environment. “Not so. Mooney says brown coal is still over 50% of Victoria’s electricity, but this ignores the more than 40% that comes from renewables. And the government has a legislated target of 95 per cent renewables by 2035.

Seeley: “Constant, cosy performance. Ducted gas heating operates independently of how cold it gets outside.” Mooney: “This is a dig at heat pumps, but it doesn’t get cold enough in Victoria for heat pumps to have any serious problems. They work fine in Scandinavia.”

Seeley: “The average cost to use gas in your home is less than half of what it costs to provide the same amount of energy when using electricity.”

Mooney: “This ignores the magic of a heat pump providing 3-4 times more heating than energy consumed.”

Seeley: “Gas is cleaner than the current alternatives.”

Mooney: “Simply not true, there are viable alternatives and Victoria is racing towards its target of 95% renewables by 2035.”

Seeley: “Reliable Energy Supply. Gas is not dependent on weather conditions.”

Mooney: “Renewables are variable, not unreliable. The variability is why we have to firm with energy storage and other measures.”

Seeley: “It’s expensive to switch from gas to electricity.”

Mooney: “There is an upfront cost, but there are savings over the longer term.” See also this story that shows a typical home in Victoria can save 75% on the winter heating bills by switching from gas heating to heat-pump electric.

Seeley: “The renewable gas future is coming … Gas has a future. The gas industry is committed to decarbonising.” Mooney: “If that were the case (the gas industry being committed to decarbonising), the gas industry would be encouraging electrification.”

Don’t expect it to stop there. Other sectors of the gas industry have warned that the government is about to ban the backyard BBQ and have repeatedly warned about impending blackouts if households quit gas. And they get a lot of amplification on social media, and the Murdoch media too. See more stories, features and podcasts on electrification on our newly launched sub-section SwitchedOn.

Inquiry by NSW Legislative Council Committee into Current & Potential Impacts of Gold, Silver, Lead and Zinc Mining on Human Health, Land, Air and Water Quality in NSW” This matter was raised at recent MERC meeting and progress with the Inquiry will be monitored.

1.The terms of reference are:

(a) the impact on the health of residents and mine workers, including through biomagnification and bioaccumulation.

(b) the impact on catchments and waterways, affecting both surface and groundwater destined for, local and town water supplies, including rainwater tanks, and on aquatic biodiversity.

(c) the impact on land and soil, crops and livestock, including through biomagnification and bioaccumulation.

(d) the adequacy of the response and any compliance action taken by the regulatory authorities in response to complaints and concerns from communities affected by mining activities.

(e) the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework in terms of monitoring, compliance, risk management and harm reduction from mining activities.

(f) the effectiveness of current decommissioning and rehabilitation practices in safeguarding human health and the environment.

(g) the effectiveness of New South Wales Government agencies to regulate and improve outcomes including:

 (i) the measurement, reporting and public awareness

(ii) the provision of various protective materials

(iii) the ability to ensure the health of at-risk groups

(iv) the suitability of work health and safety regulations, and

(v) the capacity to respond within existing resources

 (vi) the adequacy of existing work, health and safety standards for workers

(h) whether the regulatory framework for heavy metals and critical minerals mining is fit for purpose and able to ensure that the positive and negative impacts of heavy metals and critical minerals mining on local communities, economies (including job creation) and the environment are appropriately balanced, and (i) any other related matters.

  1. The committee reports on its findings by 21 November 2023.

NSW Mulls Tiered Coal Royalties as it Contemplates end of Coal Price Cap” Luke Costin, Renew Economy writes on 27th July 2023 “Lifting coal royalties to generate billions of dollars in extra revenue won’t do much to ease household power bills, the NSW government has been advised. NSW still relies on coal for 60 per cent of its power generation and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey says he will consult with industry about the future of coal royalties beyond the expiry of a temporary coal price cap in July 2024.

An Australia Institute report shows NSW could have raised an extra $7 billion to $9 billion in the past two years by adopting Queensland’s progressive coal royalty system. Mookhey said the nation’s largest coal exporter had to consider whether its flat-rate royalty system was fit-for-purpose. “My view is that the people in NSW are entitled to a fair return for their resources,” he told reporters on Thursday.

NSW charges 8.2 per cent on the value of open-cut coal, with slightly lower rates for underground mining and deductions allowed. Queensland’s price-based system levies seven per cent when prices are up to $100 per tonne, rising to 40 per cent when prices exceed $300 per tonne. The NSW mining industry, power stations and unions will be asked in coming months about whether Queensland’s new tiered system was working as intended.

The review will also test preliminary advice that suggested coal royalty rate changes would have a “negligible to nil” impact on power prices, the treasurer said. But Mookhey drew a distinction with the Sunshine State, saying consultation with industry and other parties in NSW was essential because its four coal-fired power stations were in private hands. “We are having to undertake this comprehensive consultation process because the previous government privatised our power assets and told people that wouldn’t have any implications for power prices,” he said “Because we have privatised power, we have higher prices.”

The NSW mining lobby quickly warned against changing a system that delivered record royalties to the state coffers last financial year. “Going down the Queensland path … would be a massive economic mistake from NSW,” NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee told reporters on Thursday. “They have introduced rates that are the highest in the world. “It has resulted in a capital strike by the coal industry … and it potentially has resulted in thousands of job losses as well.”

Both NSW and Queensland capped coal at $125 a tonne for domestic use in December 2022. It came after the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused the price to surge beyond $500 a tonne”.

Local Communities Rolling up their Sleeves and doing it Themselves Anne Delayney, SwitchedOn, 27th July 2023 writes “A local community working to become one of Australia’s first all-electric communities. In his recent Quarterly Essay, The Wires that Bind, Dr Saul Griffith argues that the electrification of everything with clean energy could result in the largest wealth transfer inhuman history by enabling communities to keep money in households and communities.

The vision Griffith outlines is one where global emission are eliminated, billions of dollars are saved by householders and businesses, thousands of jobs created, and communities get to take control of their energy. “To make the transition we must make, we need not just new physical infrastructure but also new ways of leading and particularly of organising at the community level,” he writes. “If we wait for government, we’ll wait too long as regards climate, so we need to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves (or even better, by rolling up our sleeves, get government to back us).”

Saul Griffith addressing an Electrify 2515 forum _Image billielikes

Since returning to Australia from the US, where he lived and worked for many years, Griffiths has joined forces with a community group in his own neighbourhood that wants to become one of Australia’s first all-electric communities. Electrify 2515 is a grass roots pilot project generated by committed locals living within the 2515 postcode, just south of Sydney and north of Wollongong.

Their big vision is to swap out all the household machines in 2515 that run on fossil fuels – from gas cookers to combustion vehicles – and replace them with electric alternatives run on renewable energy. “Our vision is to bring forward what the future would potentially look like,” Kristen McDonald, one of the Electrify2515 community leaders, told the SwitchedOn Australia podcast. “This is something that can be achieved right now.”

“We don’t need to wait for any kind of major changes. We could implement these ideas instantaneously, and they will have instantaneous benefits for communities. And if we can do it here, then hopefully we can show that it can be done everywhere in Australia.”

‍Whilst they’re gathering community momentum, and applying for the dollars to do that, Electrify 2515 are also providing their community with practical knowledge about electrification, and the motivation to go all electric. They’ve calculated that their community of 11,000 people could potentially save $20 million if they swap all their fossil fuel appliances and cars for electric alternatives.

“We worked out that about $4,900 – so close to $5,000 – is spent on energy costs for a household. That’s over 3 and a half on petrol and diesel, about $900 on electricity, and about $300 on gas. And so, there’s potential for about 4 and a half thousand dollars in savings that each household can make in 2515.” Electrify 2515 believe that those savings could then be redirected back into the local community.

“Collectively we are sending $15 million of money every year, just from our community over to foreign oil companies,” says Kristen McDonald. “If we could keep even a fraction of that figure … within the community [it would be] “a significant benefit to our local community if we can retain some of that money that is saved on things like not filling up our car every week.”Community education is a large part of what Electrify 2515 is currently providing their community. They’ve run forums on installing solar panels and helped people become aware of the rebates that the NSW Government offers for solar panels and heat pumps.

“A lot of this electrification journey for households is going to kind of happen over a pub table,” says Francis Vierboom from Electrify 2515. “People trust the people they know. That’s how they make decisions about when they’re going to buy a hot water system, or when they’re going to get solar panels.” Electrify 2515 has also partnered with local solar providers so they can offer competitive discounts for local community bulk buys of solar and are looking at options for electric vehicles.

McDonald and Vierboom are aware of the current shortage of trades people in Australia to install all the electric appliances we will need. This could slow the electrification transition if government don’t invest in skills training. However, they’re optimistic that new local jobs will be generated in communities that embrace the electrification transition. “There’s going to be so many jobs, it’s going to be fantastic for local economies,” says McDonald.

To make the transition on the scale they would like, Electrify2515 will need serious money and are currently applying for funding from ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. “We really need that interjection of government funding to assist, particularly starting with the low-income households and all the harder-to-electrify kind of households” says McDonald”.

(Note that the CEO Electrifying Australia, Kate Minter, addressed delegates in Dubbo REIIF June 2023, the founder of Electrifying Australia is Saul Griffiths is in the picture).

‍” Farming Lobby wants ban on New Solar Farms, as Renewables Resentment Festers in Regions “Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy writes 27th July 2023 “Australia’s largest state farming organisation, NSW Farmers, is calling for a temporary ban on the construction of new large-scale solar farms in the state, amid concerns developers are not acting in the long-term interests of regional communities.

In a motion passed at the Association’s 2023 annual conference last week, NSW Farmers agreed to call on the state Labor government to place a moratorium on large scale solar developments until “planning deficiencies” around plant decommissioning and remediation are addressed. “Current planning and approval provisions for large scale solar energy facilities do not consider the long-term interests of agricultural land, rural communities and the rural landscape following the ‘decommissioning’ of the facility,” notes on the motion say.

“Agricultural land, rural communities and rural landscapes are at risk in the future and there should be no further development approvals granted until these planning deficiency issues have been fully addressed.” To address these concerns, NSW Farmers wants the state government to set up a fund for upfront remediation payment obligations on developers, owners, and land holders, such as sometimes used in the mining industry. The association also wants the Minns government to ensure planning approval requires the developer and owner of the solar farm to remove all materials taken onto the site.

The call from NSW Farmers follows a recent warning from Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, that landowners may wind up lumbered with responsibility for cleaning up renewable power projects at the end of their lives, by default. “It’s no different to you owning the milk bar, as a commercial landlord down the main street in town,” Dyer told a Senate estimate hearing in May. “If the tenant defaults and leaves the building you’re stuck with the bain-marie. So, it’s up to the landlord to make sure that they … get a really good contract in place, and you get the appropriate bond set-ups to cover the costs.”

NSW, still one of Australia’s most coal-dependent states, has a lot of work to do to replace its legacy fossil fuel generators with zero emissions generation, and is particularly behind on the installation of large-scale wind and battery energy storage.

But on solar, it has made big strides. According to the Clean Energy Council’s latest national report card, NSW hosted most new large-scale solar projects completed and commissioned in Australia in 2022. The Clean Energy Australia 2023 report, published in April, locates eight of the 12 large-scale solar projects commissioned in 2022 in NSW, including the 150MW Sun Top solar farm in the state’s central west that in 2020 secured an off-take deal with online retail giant Amazon. On top of this, the CEC report shows that NSW is host to four out of five of the nation’s biggest solar farms, to date, leading with the 275MW Darlington Point solar farm near Griffith in the southwest of the state.

Meanwhile, regional NSW is also home some of the Liberal National Party’s most vocal anti-renewables MPs, including former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who has been behind plans for a mass rally on the steps of parliament house against solar, wind, batteries, and transmission. If Joyce is successful, it will be the first major anti-renewables rally held in front of Parliament House since the infamous anti-wind rally in 2012 fronted by former broadcaster Alan Jones and then aspiring MP and later federal energy minister Angus Taylor.

And while Joyce undoubtedly has his own agenda, it’s undeniable that renewable energy is falling out of favour in some of the regions in NSW that will be key to the progress of Australia’s net zero transition. “If this was happening in …say in Sydney suburbs, there would be yelling and screaming!” Reg Kidd, the former mayor of Orange and chair of the NSW Farmers energy transition working group told RenewEconomy on Thursday. “But it’s okay, plonk it out here, you know, there’s not as many votes out this way and they’ll just lump it. “Well there’s better ways of doing things than that, I’m quite sure.”

Kidd, who says he has had solar installed at his own regional property for 16 years, says there’s also a lot of angst in the region about the prospect of major new transmission lines, as well as about the placement of “monster” solar farms on prime agricultural land, when other options exist. “Our concern is that … our regional areas are carrying the weight for all of these renewables, right. But the main beneficiaries are in Sydney, in this state anyhow, and in Newcastle. “So, there should be consideration in those communities of the legacy that they get left with, you know.”




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.       

 Contacts Clr Kevin Duffy (Chair) or 0418652499 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,