MERC Newsletter – October 2022


Delegates, here is the very late October MERC Newsletter, delayed due to monitoring of the flooding situation in Forbes where the next MERC meetings were going to be held on 9th December 2022. 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.




Our thoughts go out to all that have been affected by the flood waters throughout NSW, the LGA’s that have the challenges before them to restore their infrastructure, the farming, business and community members who are desperately clawing their way back from the devastation they have incurred.



(a) AGM Executive Committee Elections

Under it’s constitution, MERC is required to have one General Meeting (the Annual General) a year and as many other General (Ordinary) Meetings as the Executive Committee determine. MERC must have four Executive Committee meetings a year. The Executive is to be elected annually at the AGM by delegates.

There is no provision in the constitution for postal voting (Clause 14.3) or provision for those attending the meeting by video or tele-conference on how to vote, even though if requested, tele-conferencing facilities are to be made available for delegates to attend the meeting (Clause 4.4).

What does this mean to delegates? Are delegates regarded as being present at the meeting if on video or phone and if so can they vote remotely in this present day and age since Covid? Every delegate must be given the opportunity to vote, however the MERC voting system requires delegates to be present to vote where possible as this is dependant on the number of candidates for the positions. See below an explanation of the MERC voting system.

If more than 2 delegates stand for the position of Chair, the voting system is to be preferential, otherwise either by Open Voting (show of hands) or Ordinary Ballot (secret ballot) and for the Deputy Chair (two positions), if contested, the voting system that must be used is either by show of hands or secret ballot, as determined by delegates on the day. The voting system for the Executive Committee (3 positions) must be by preferential, if contested.

What this means is that delegates need to be in attendance to vote if the candidate numbers for the respective positions require the preferential system or delegates resolve the voting system to be by secret ballot. Otherwise if a show of hands is chosen to be the voting method, it can be managed if there are zoom attendees not physically present, by the returning officer, if required for the non Chair positions.

If an election is to be held, the nominations in the prescribed form, must be in to the Executive Officer no later than 2 weeks prior to the AGM, so that will be 7th February 2023. Nominations are to be seconded by a current delegate signed or emailed an intention to sign plus option of attaching a resume.

If any changes are required to our constitution for voting they must be made at a General (Annual or Special) Meeting with at least two thirds of the delegates present at the meeting to agree to such alterations or amendments. It is too late to do that fpor this election.


The Election of Executive Committee Positions Process (Extract from Constitution)

Voting Clause 14.6 Elections for a position on the Executive and Executive Committee shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions outlined in the sub clauses 14.6.1, 14.6.2, 14.6.3 and 14.6.4, following.

14.6.1          Contested Elections – Chairperson & Deputy Chairperson                     

  1. If the number of candidates nominated for the positions of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson is greater than one, the election is to be a contested election;
  2. In the event of there being only two nominations for the election of one candidate for the indicated positions in (1) the voting system in such contested election will be by Ordinary Ballot (secret ballot) or by Open Voting (show of hands)
  3. In the event of more than two nominations for a position in (1), the voting system used for the election shall be the preferential system;
  4. If a contested election is required for either Chairperson or Deputy Chairpersons, the decision on the voting method for (2) is to be made at the Annual General Meeting immediately prior to the election.

14.6.2       Contested Election – Three positions for the Executive Committee

  1. If the number of candidates nominated for the three (3) remaining Executive Committee positions is greater than that number, the election is to be a contested election.
  2. The voting system in a contested election for the three (3) positions will be preferential.

14.6.3       Candidates’ Nominations and Resumes

  1. Nominations for office bearer positions are to be called for by the Executive Officer no later than two (2) weeks prior to the Annual General meeting date;
  2. The Candidates for the positions in clause 14.6.1 and clause 14.6.2 should forward their nominations on the form provided to reach the Executive Officer not later than 4.30pm one week prior to the Annual General Meeting. Candidates should ensure their nomination is seconded by a current Association delegate. This may take the form of the seconder signing the candidate’s nomination form or alternatively by sending an email confirming their intent to second the nomination to reach the Executive Officer by the date of the election;
  3. The nomination can be accompanied by a brief resume setting out details of the candidate’s background in local government and the Association (if applicable) for distribution to delegates by the Executive Officer;



  1. Next Meetings of Association – The next Ordinary and AGM meetings set down to be held in Forbes on 9th December 2022, at Forbes Inn, has been postponed until February 21st 2023.There was to be a tour of Moxey Farm, Goolagong, near Forbes (which is a dairy farm that farms sustainably using renewable energy, by using their Digester converting waste into energy by recycling animal waste to grow crops and using water efficiently, with over 200 employees, sourced locally and a network dinner held the evening before. However in view of the flooding situation this has been put on hold.
    The Mini Conference date slots have been booked for the week 24-26th May 2023 at Dubbo Regional Theatre & Convention Centre. Discussions have commenced with an event management entity to assist.
  2. COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC – In 2023 MERC will be resuming its’ 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 opportunity to attend meetings. However, delegates must be present to vote at the upcoming AGM in Sydney in view of the voting system.
  3. Speakers for Next Meeting in Forbes – The invitees fapproached to speak at Forbes will be extended to speak at Sydney, hopefully the day after the LGNSW Summit on Rural & Regional Issues will helpwith speakers and attendees in the lead up to the State election in March.
  4. Orana Opportunity Network (O2N) – MERC is trialling as a Bronze Member of ON2 for 12 months. Their Newsletters are available on their website on Discussions are underway with Orana RDA to look at joint hosting a Resources Energy & Innovation Forum with MERC in 24th May 2023 in Dubbo;
  5. CRC Transformation in Mining Economies (CRCTiME) – MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They provide updates on progress with an opportunity for members to join webinars, workshops, surveys etc. Latest update is below.
  6. Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) – Mike Young, Executive Director – Planning & Communities, Energy Corporation, Department Energy & Climate Change provided delegates with another updated informative insight on what is happening with Renewable Energy Zones in NSW on 2nd September 2022. There is an opportunity for MERC to be part of a working party with Energy Co to successfully roll out the REZ’s. Mike and EO are in discussions on how this may work for MERC and EnergyCo to be involved in the REZ roll-out. See next Section (c) iii for more details.
  7. Resources for Regions (R4R) – Stephen Wills, Resources NSW has been approached for MERC representatives to meet on R4R issues to improve current system.



  1. CRC for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC TiME)
    The Executive Officer will continue to liaise with the consultants on the foregoing and look for opportunities for MERC to be involved and keep delegates informed. CEO Guy Boggs writes:-

    Forum Update – The CRC TiME Annual Forum is only two weeks away on 23-24 November! The Program is looking outstanding and will provide an opportunity to hear from leaders working in our partnership, such as in-coming CME WA CEO Rebecca Tomkinson,, Jim Walker Chair of the First Nations Advisory Team, Sue Fyfe from DCCEEW…to name but a few! The Forum includes panel and workshopping sessions and provides a focus for our partnership to come together and share lessons learnt and innovative ideas.

    The theme is Breaking Barriers and as we emerge from our foundational period it is critical that we are making the most of the unique partnership we have in CRC TiME to ensure we stay focussed on those aspects that are most likely to be transformational. This requires open and frank conversations within our partnership and we are working hard to provide that safe space for these much needed conversations.

    Education and Training EOI – CRC TiME is committed to supporting the development of skills that address the gaps in mine closure training and education and meet the needs of a future workforce in which mine closure is recognised as a valued cornerstone of both mining and post mining communities. Recognising the complexity of the conversation, and emerging focus from a number of education and industry bodies (and our focus on avoiding duplication), we have scoped an EOI that includes two components:

    • Component 1: Strategic education and training review and options
    • Component 2: Micro-credentialling course (open access for broad education and skill development)

    The EOI is found here: Please share or submit your interest. We will also be calling for partner representation on a steering committee to guide the strategy and offers from partners to get involved in the work through case studies or other material provision. 

    Project Pipeline Update – The past months have seen a number of projects moving through the project pipeline into contracting. These contracted projects have consistently received high levels of collaborative effort and codesign, with total budgets reflecting strong cash and in-kind investment:

    Contracted Projects

    • Algae-based technologies for improved environmental missing word? ($679,347). Led by CSIRO with 14 participants
    • Evidence for effectiveness of climate-adapted seed sourcing strategies for revegetation success and transition to mine closure in a changing climate ($2,708,936)
    • DCCEEW through the CSIRO has contracted CRC TiME to deliver the following sub-projects of the Mining Sector Natural Capital Accounting System Project which are starting or in final stages of approval ($1.2M cash value):
      • Business Case and Capacity Building (including Beenup Case Study) (Curtin University led)
      • Alcoa Case Study (Murdoch University led)
      • Hanson Case Study (Curtin University led)
      • BHP Olympic Dam Case Study (University of SA led)

    Projects Approved

    • Collaborative planning for post-mining development in Latrobe Valley ($698,157) Led by Federation University with 27 participants.
    • Identifying development pathways and increasing transition capacity. ($1,057,705) Led by CSIRO with 9 participants
    • Opportunities for Growth in Australia’s Mine Closure Solutions Industry ($583,475) Led by CSIRO with 20 participants

    Project Proposals for Approval

    • Mine Pit Lake Assessment and Management: A National Initiative to Support Mine Closure and Regional Opportunities ($5,855,044). Led by WA ChemCentre with 25 participants.
    • A Systematic Approach to Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment (RCEA) to Support Transitions in Mining Economies – Funding proposal to support Stage 1 ($246,500) WABSI/Murdoch University co-led with 15 participants.

  2. Renewable Energy Alliance (RE-Alliance)

    Andrew Bray writes: “Over the past year, RE-Alliance has been hard at work to ensure regions have their voices elevated in and benefit from our renewable energy transformation. I’m excited to share with you the impact that work has had in our FY22 annual report.

    We worked on the ground in the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone, undertaking an extensive community outreach program, providing information and hearing views of the local community about the REZ through a series of conversations and events.

    We then brought those views directly to a roundtable of industry proponents to ensure they were reflected in local development plans. As different states and territories developed their Renewable Energy Zone plans, we were active participants in policy processes, always ensuring that community outcomes were prioritised.

    We convened cross-sector discussions about the intersection of renewable energy and conservation, bringing together nature organisations with industry and government. We’d like to thank everyone who has collaborated with us and supported our work over the past year – especially our members and supporters in the regions. You are what makes RE-Alliance the strong advocate that it is.  Read more about the impact of our recent work in our annual report. We will continue to work to ensure that regional communities can best harness the opportunities our renewable energy transformation offers”. 

  3. Renewable Energy Zones (REZ’s)

    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, Hunter/Central Coast Regions and in the Riverina and Southern Riverina.

    In following up Mike after the last two meeting presentations by him, EnergyCo, as part of their Stakeholder Engagement Strategy have set up a Listening Program where the MERC Executive Officer was one of 21 entities to be interviewed on a one on one basis (to ensure MERC is involved in the roll out of REZ’s as a stakeholder) to assist in shaping how EnergyCo leads the delivery of the Renewable Energy Zones and Priority Transmission Projects in NSW.

    EnergyCo has engaged the services of RPS Group to conduct a series of one-on-one stakeholder interviews. Undertaking the consultation through an independent company ensures all feedback will remain anonymous as well as giving EnergyCo deeper research insights.

    When the interviews are complete, RPS Group will provide un-identified interview transcripts for analysis. The key themes and insights from this data will help shape the way EnergyCo work in the future and they plan to release a public report summarising the insights from both our community survey and stakeholder inputs.

  4. RDA Orana / ON2

    RDA Orana are organising a Resources & Energy Industry Innovation Forum in May 2023 in Dubbo and are interested in joining with MERC for its mini conference having a Local Government Day as part of the Forum, discussions are underway to clarify if it could work to suit MERC’s membership campaign.



”Best & Brightest: Perrotet Hires ex Snowy Chief as Energy Advisor, Bats for Gas” Article by Sphie Vorrath, 11th November 2022 for Renew Economy writes” New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet has tapped the ex-chief of publicly-owned utility Snowy Hydro to advise his government on “the biggest issue facing our country” – the energy transition.

In a radio interview with 2GB host Ben Fordham on Friday, Perrottet confirmed the appointment of Paul Broad as a “special advisor” on energy, just a couple of months after his abrupt departure from Snowy. “Paul Broad starts in my office today, Ben,” Perrottet said. “I’m bringing him on as a special advisor to me in my office for energy because this is a real challenge. It’s the biggest issue facing our country and I want the best and brightest minds giving me advice,” he said.

Broad left Snowy Hydro in late August after nearly a decade at the helm of the utility that was first established by the NSW and Victoria state governments but is now fully owned by the federal government. At the time, the reasons for Broad’s unceremonious departure were left largely unspoken, but there was speculation that he had been sacked at the urging of federal Labor’s energy minister, Chris Bowen.

These rumours gained some traction during Senate Estimates hearings at the start of the week, when both Snowy Hydro executives and senior energy department officials cited problems around communication as an ongoing point of friction between Broad and government ministers.

Snowy chair David Knox told the hearing on Monday that at a meeting with state and federal energy ministers on August 23 – just three days before Broad’s resignation – Snowy’s board had been warned to lift its game on communication. “The minister [Bowen] was very clear that he needed to see those communications improve that they were unsatisfactory,” Knox said “And that was one of the core bits of feedback we had from that meeting. And I took that away and, obviously, fed that back to my chief executive. “[Broad] wasn’t giving them a heads up before saying things in in the public forum,” Knox added.

From the government’s side, the secretary of the department of climate and energy, David Fredericks, also confirmed this view. “I spoke to Mr Broad about that on at least a couple of occasions,” Fredericks told the hearing. “And I had those [conversations] off my own back… because, I’ll be really frank with you, this was a … communication issue for the department. So I, personally, was worried about it.’

The communication problems were likely to have revolved around the cost blowouts and delays of the massive Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, and the finer details of the “hydrogen ready” Kurri Kurri gas plant being built by Snowy in the Hunter region of NSW.

Perrottet, however, seems confident this will not be an issue for his government, even as Fordham describes Broad’s appointment as a “slap in the face” to his strongly pro-renewables energy minister, Matt Kean, who has been overseas in the UK and at the UN climate talks in Egypt. “I think Matt Kean has lost a lot of faith out there in the community because of demonising fossil fuels in the past and likening coal to Blockbuster video and claiming that the business case for gas was on the clock – so you’ve never had to bring in a special energy advisor,” Fordham said.

At that point, the Premier – perhaps taking into account his audience at that moment – opted to go into bat for gas, rather than for Kean. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of gas, let me make that very clear,” Perrottet said. “And we are moving, over time, to a renewable future, but we’ve got to keep the lights on and keep our prices down on the way through.”

Perhaps Broad’s first order of business in his new role can be to advise Perrottet on what is going on with gas prices at the moment. Hopefully he doesn’t remind the premier of his views on batteries, and demand management, which he once described as “enforced blackouts.”

NSW Swamped by Wind, Solar & Storage Bids in first Big Tender to Replace Coal” Giles Parkinson, 14th November 2022, writes in Renew Economy “The New South Wales government says it has been swamped by bid proposals from wind, solar and storage developers in the first of a series of tenders marking the state’s planned exit from coal generation.

NSW has the biggest coal fleet in the country – more than 10GW – but expects most, if not all, of them to be closed within a decade and has set out detailed 10-year infrastructure plan to ensure enough new renewable and storage capacity is in place.

The first of these tenders has attracted more than 5.5GW of wind and solar projects and more than 2.5GW of long duration storage – around six times the amount sought in the first tender.

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean says the level of interest is an outstanding result for the government’s long-term plan to modernise the NSW electricity system. “This is an overwhelming response from the market and a strong endorsement of the Roadmap’s vision for the NSW electricity system,” Kean said in a statement. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the resulting global energy crisis has added extra impetus to modernise our electricity system.

The need for new sources of electricity generation that are not tied to the volatility of global commodity prices has never been greater. The best way to provide structural, long-term relief from high electricity bills is to drive in new supply and put downward pressure on energy prices at the source, which is exactly what our Roadmap is doing.”

The first tender is seeking around 950MW of wind and solar – depending on the technology mix – and 600MW of long duration storage, defined as a minimum eight hours of storage. This is expected to be mostly pumped hydro, but the initial offers also included lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and compressed air storage (most likely from the recently proposed Broken Hill project).

Sapphire wind farm in northern NSW. Credit: CWP.

Sapphire wind farm in northern NSW. Credit: CWP.

A second tender next year will seek similar amounts of wind and solar, and also more than 380MW of short duration “firming capacity”, most likely battery storage. Tenders will be held twice a year for the next 10 years.

The bids for the first tender will now be assessed by the NSW Consumer Trustee, AEMO Services, a specially-formed subsidiary of the Australian Energy Market Operator. The initial criteria is based community engagement, regional economic development and land-use opportunities, although price and grid benefits will count in the final assessment in the projects shortlisted in December.

AEMO Services’ Executive General Manager Paul Verschuer said as part of the next stage in the tender process, projects would be shortlisted according to a set of merit criteria which evaluate the deliverability of the project, the quality of the proponent and social licence, before being assessed for financial value. “We recognise there is an increasing need for additional energy generation and storage,” AEMO Services’ Executive General Manager Paul Verschuer said. “Our tenders are designed to drive competition from projects that are able to deliver that energy in the interests of NSW electricity consumers. We have a strict mandate to only recommend those projects that can demonstrate value to host communities and financial value to consumers, and in order to be successful bids will need to reflect that.”

Successful projects will be awarded long-term energy service agreements, underwriting the delivery of built energy resources that will benefit the long-term interests of the State’s electricity consumers. Winners are expected to be announced in April. “These tenders have been specifically designed to identify the best projects to bring quality energy to market in the earliest possible timeframe,” Kean said. “The level of investment we are facilitating in the NSW energy system is unprecedented, which is why these tenders will run every six months for at least the next 10 years.”

Former Yancoal MIne to be first test site for Australian Gravity Storage Technology” Article by Rachel Williamson, 14th November 2022 in Renew Economy “An Australian storage start-up, Green Gravity, has announced the first test site for its gravity energy storage system (GESS) which will use up to 30-tonnes of steel coil lowered into vertical mine shafts.

Green Gravity and Yancoal have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to run a pre-feasibility study looking at whether and how the technology might work in decommissioned ventilation shafts, starting with the closed Austar mine in NSW. The study is expected to finish in 2023.

The study will also consider the tech’s potential for working in the NSW grid as a long duration energy storage provider. Led by former BHP executive Mark Swinnerton, Green Gravity is fresh from its first capital raise in May when it landed $1.4 million. It is currently raising $18 million.

“The potential for the system is in the hundreds of MWh,” Swinnerton told RenewEconomy. “The Yancoal mineshafts are in the 400-500m depth range and we consider this depth to be supportive of commercial scale operations for the technology.”

In an earlier statement he said costs can be kept low by re-using mining assets and by using gravity as the fuel they don’t have to use and pay for land, water and chemicals that other storage technologies need. “Successfully identifying the best method of fitting gravitational technology at the former Austar mine site will create a template for beneficial re-use of legacy mining sites for Yancoal, and for thousands of other mines around the country,” he said in the statement.

Yancoal Australia CEO David Moult says the company is “proactively exploring” renewable energy opportunities with a potential role in beneficial post-mining land use. “This MOU with Green Gravity is a demonstration that we are serious in assessing potential renewable energy opportunities and in collaborating with innovative partners to progress our strategy and vision for Yancoal’s future,” he said.

1.1.1 Re-using mine shafts as gravity batteries. Green Gravity made a media splash earlier this year when it said it had 175 possible sites in mind that could generate a total of 3GWh of energy. Swinnerton told RenewEconomy at the time the sites were across the country in places such as Illawarra, the Hunter region, Mt Isa in Queensland, and Tasmania, many of which are perfect for re-use: concrete-lined, premium shafts that are sitting idle.

Today he said they’d assessed dozens of sites “in a reasonable level of detail” and is confident “that there is a large number of potential host locations for the storage system”. The demonstration plant will use excess renewable energy during the day to lift 30 tonne steel coils to the top of a mine shaft. When energy is needed in the evening it drops those weights which creates kinetic energy to spin a regenerative electrical motor, somewhat similar to what is used in the wind generation industry.

Green Gravity’s technology is similar to pumped hydro in that it uses gravity to generate power, but as yet it is untested at scale. It’s working with the University of Wollongong and Soto Engineering to develop the concept.

1.1.2	The rise of gravity storage

1.1.2     The rise of gravity storage. A number of different companies around the world are testing different GESS concepts. The Long Duration Energy Council says Australia will build as much as 0.5-1 TWh of long duration storage systems, be it concentrated solar thermal, gravity, compressed air, pumped hydro or something else, between 2030 and 2040.

Swiss hopeful Energy Vault has struck a range of deals in Australia to test out its tech, which involves lifting blocks of purpose-made composite material up to 100 metres in the air. Its backers include Saudi Aramco and Korea Zinc, and it has agreements with BHP and Italian company Enel Green Power. It has a pilot plant in Switzerland and it has a contract to build a 10MW system in China, although most of its recent deals have been centred on battery storage. Other aspirants in the space include Gravitricity in the UK which also uses an underground weights design, and Heindl-Energy in Germany and Gravity Power in the US.

Both are pitching a system that pumps water under a giant underground rock or weight. ARES is building a 50MW plant in Nevada to test its system of pushing railcars downhill.

Swinnerton believes his technology has an advantage over other long duration technologies in that it can be designed to provide short duration power of two to four hours, as well as long duration power”. (Rachel Williamson is a science and business journalist, who focuses on climate change-related health and environmental issues).

“FRV Secures New Finance for Australia’s First Solar Farm to use Tracking Technology” Jim Regan, Renew Economy, 15th November writes “Solar energy developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Australia says a recent refinancing of its Moree solar farm – one the first large-scale solar farms in New South Wales — ensures it will continue to provide clean energy to the surrounding communities for years to come.

Moree Solar Farm

Moree Solar Farm

Spanning over 740 acres with net annual energy production capacity of some 149,000 MWh, the solar farm has an output of 70 MWdc (56MW ac) capable of meeting the energy demand of up to 26,000 households. The Moree solar farm represented a number of firsts – it was the first solar farm in Australia to use single axis tracking technology, and it was the first solar farm to be backed by then newly formed Clean Energy Finance Corp in 2013.

 It was also the first solar farm to be backed on a “merchant” basis, although by the time it began operations in 2016 it secured a long term off take deal with oOrigin Energy.Moree solar FRV, part of the Saudi-based Adbul Latif Energy Group, says the new financing package will ensure that the solar farm continues to provide clean energy to tens of thousands of citizens “for many years to come.”

FRV says the Moree farm has been a foundation in the company’s efforts to support Australia’s clean energy mandate. To date, FRV has developed and built almost 800 MWdc of Australian PV assets across nine projects. As reported by RenewEconomy, FRV in March this year brought its seventh solar farm in Australian into full production — the 90MW Sebastopol facility in the Riverina region of New South Wales. French bank Societe Generale acted as sole MLA (loan arranger) and hedging provider in the refinancing of the Moree facility.



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 Michael Banasik (Chair)  0425798068 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,