‘Very soon I will crack and destroy everything’ – a 14 year old’s call for action

Tathra Surf Club pic from ABC
Tathra Surf Life Saving Club pic from ABC

It’s eleven years since Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) was first conceived.

On New Years Day 2006, orthopedic surgeon Dr Matthew Nott was on duty with Tathra Surf Life Saving Club, enduring the hottest day his town had ever experienced – 42 degrees.

There have been hotter days since, 44.6 degrees on January 18, 2013 is Tathra’s current record.

While keeping an eye on swimmers, Dr Nott was reading ‘The Weather Makers‘ by Tim Flannery, a look at the history and catastrophic future impacts of a warming planet.

And a warming planet we have.

The region’s run of beautiful beaches and cool mountain streams will offer blessed respite as South East NSW heads into a week of warm days, with forecast top temperatures above 30 degrees every day for most centres.

The sweaty weather is no surprise, it’s January, a month where records are set. But it coincides with news that 2016 was the world’s hottest year on record, due to the continuing influence of global warming according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Dr Nott says he remains committed to the cause of addressing global warming eleven years after that famous beach patrol but despairs that people and governments fail to respond to the mounting science.

“It’s really so terribly clear that we are hurtling towards an environmental disaster,” he says.

“That’s going to be something that has an enormous impact on my kids.”

Dr Nott is frustrated by but appreciates the fact that many people don’t understand or ignore the science.

“People think about climate change in the [same] way they think about death,” Dr Nott says.

“They think it’s a long way away and I am not going to think about it now.

“I find that really frustrating because that’s putting my kids future at risk,” he says.

There’s no hiding from the science for those who will inherit the future.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) boast over 110,000 members.

Like CEFE, the AYCC recognises the opportunities climate change presents, while also warning of the total fossil fuels take on our future.

The impacts include rising sea levels and more extreme weather events and the myriad of human, environmental and security challenges that follow.

The opportunities include cleaner cheaper power production using renewable energy sources.

The understanding youth have for this issue was further highlighted to me in the run up to New Years Day 2017, when my eldest son produced a poem – at the pushing and pulling of his Bega based English tutor Elizabeth Blackmore.

Neptune Unleashed

by Jim Campbell, 14 years

I am the meanest thing on earth yet also the calmest

I have seen changes that no human could imagine

I was here at the beginning

And I will be here at the end

I am the most powerful on this earth

Nothing rivals me



Why do you kill me? Yet you wouldn’t be alive without me

I am getting bigger

With every factory you build

With every atom that you let go

Very soon I will crack and destroy everything

I will rule again just like I did

A few billion years ago

I am the sea

Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Jim was just three years old when CEFE went about installing solar panels on community buildings around South East NSW.

Every community building in Tathra now generates it’s own power and puts the excess back into the grid. Countless Rural Fire Service sheds, surf life-saving clubs, community halls, and schools in other towns now do the same, all with the backing of CEFE.

Eleven years on similar projects continue, building towards CEFE’s 2020 goal of reducing the Bega Valley’s power needs by 50% while at the same time generating 50% of the Shire’s energy needs from renewable sources – 50/50 by 2020.

If you are keen to add some science to the emotion and colour of Jim’s words, the BOM’s Annual Climate Statement is great reading (and viewing) for weather nerds and paints the full picture.

In short 2016 was:

*The world’s hottest year on record and the third year in a row where that record was broken.

*Australia’s fourth warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temp 0.87 degrees above average.

*Ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, with the annual mean sea surface temperature 0.73 degrees above average.

*A year of extreme weather events.

Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA
Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA

News too this week that the crack in the big Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown by a further 18km.

Only 20km of ice now connects this 5000sq km (twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory) ice sheet to the Antartic continent. The result’s come from the MIDAS Project, a collaboration of UK universities and academics monitoring the effects of global warming in West Antarctica.

As Matthew Nott suggests, the future is being shaped now.

The science gives the facts and figures of it, my 14-year-old son gives it a voice.

As adults imagine being one of the next generation/s knowing that this is part of your future.

*Poem reproduced with permission of the author, he even made me pay an artist fee!


Money from the sun even after Solar Bonus Scheme ends

NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jallat to raise awarness of climate change
NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jellat to raise awareness of climate change

The days of money from the sun are coming to an end – at least in the way many of us have become accustomed to.

The NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme ends on December 31.

As dogs go running for cover from New Years Eve fireworks, much of the money households with solar panels have received over the last seven years will go the way of 2016.

Around 7,700 homes in South East NSW have rooftop panels. Since 2010 most have received a payment of 60 cents or 20 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar power exported to the State’s electricity grid.

Those payments have been delivered as credits and deducted from the total price on electricity bills, offsetting the cost of installing a solar system.

Perhaps what many didn’t realise or had forgotten was that the scheme and those payments had an end date.

A letter in the post back in March from the NSW Department of Industry was the first call to action for Solar Bonus Scheme customers; the Deputy Secretary of Resources and Energy nudging people towards an electricity retailer to work out a new deal.

Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end
Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end

It seems the best you can expect from January 1, 2017, is around 6 cents/kWh.

Tathra based renewable energy champion, Dr Matthew Nott says it won’t be worth much for a household to export energy to the grid.

“The fact that the [premium] feed-in tariff is going means we have to start thinking a little differently about solar panels on the roof,” Dr Nott says.

The success of the scheme has prompted nips and tucks along the way by the Government.

In October 2010 under Premier Kristina Keneally, the tariff was cut by 40 cents/kWh for new subscribers as households rushed the generous 60 cents scheme.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported that solar grid connections had jumped from 2900 in 2008 to 50,000 in 2010 when the scheme was launched.

The Labor Government at the time said it acted in order to stop costs blowing out by $2.5 billion.

The Government says 146,000 NSW homes have joined the scheme, around 20% of households.

Matthew Nott says it has been an enormous boom for renewable energy, and a positive step towards reducing the impacts of climate change.

The action group he founded in early 2006 – ‘Clean Energy for Eternity’ has used the generosity of the scheme to install solar panels on Rural Fire Service sheds, surf clubs, and other community buildings across the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Monaro and Snowy Mountains.

The group’s aim is that by 2020, 50% of the Bega Valley’s energy needs will come from clean, green sources.

“The feed-in tariff was always going to expire by the end of 2016,” Dr Nott says.

“Although I think as that date gets closer and closer it’s taking a lot of people by surprise.”

With 86% of NSW households saying they installed panels to reduce the cost of electricity, that surprise is likely to turn into bill-shock as the first electricity bills of 2017 roll in.

But Dr Nott believes there are still ways to save money and that solar panels are still a good investment.

“What a household with solar now needs to think very carefully about, is using the electrons that are generating on their rooftop to power their house,” he says.

Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Rather than exporting that power to the grid Dr Nott says it makes more sense to keep as much of that energy as possible on site.

“Put timers on your appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers and dryers – those high energy appliances, so that they are being used during the day and powered by your solar panels,” he suggests.

“That stops you from having to purchase electricity from the energy retailers.

“We have got to get smarter and be using more electricity during the day,” the orthopedic surgeon says.

Night time should be the only time you need to purchase electricity from an external supplier according to Dr Nott – however, there is a ‘but’.

“There are some options on the horizon, in fact very close on the horizon,” he says.

“Look at investing in household battery storage, so that you can use the electrons generated during the day – at night.”

Dr Nott accepts that there is still a little way to go for those storage options to be affordable for the average family, but believes the winding back of the tariff will be a game changer.

“You’re looking at about $10,000 with a 15-year payback on your investment,” he says.

“But there’s a lot of companies in Australia making household batteries now.

“I think the cost is going to come down dramatically over the next couple of years and make it much more affordable, shorten the payback time and allow people to use less and less electricity from the grid,” Dr Nott says.

Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News
Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News

For those considering battery storage, Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) recommend that you at least have a 3kW rooftop system in place, but ideally a 5kW system.

“You want to have a system that is big enough to power the majority of your house,” Dr Nott says.

To help people start making the transition to battery storage, Dr Nott has flagged a new initiative from CEFE.

“We’re just starting to have discussions with some Australian companies about doing a bulk buy for the community,” he explains.

“If we can bring the cost down by doing that, it would be more affordable for people and reduce the payback time on their investment.

Clean Energy for Eternity want to do whatever we can to raise awareness about the value of household batteries in the same way as we have done with solar panels,” he says.

Money from the sun continues, but as always you need to have a few dollars first to make the most of it, but as Matthew Nott and Clean Energy for Eternity believe, the price for not investing is our children’s future.

For further info on the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme and what to do now, click HERE.

*Listen for more from Matthew Nott in episode five of the About Regional podcast out in the second week of December