Heaps Better Episode 2: How can we speed up renewables?
5 March 2021
In this episode, we chat with Simon Holmes à Court, a Director of the Smart Energy Council, and Lindsay Soutar, Greenpeace’s Campaigner for renewable energy and lead of the REenergise campaign. We’re also visiting a carbon neutral kinder and a solar powered brewery. You might be thinking, how exactly can we ditch the biggest coal, oil, and gas giants to fully embrace a renewable transition? We can all do our bit in our homes, schools, and offices, but we’ll also unveil the biggest energy users who need to pull their weight too: big corporations who use a whopping 71% of global emissions!
We’re going back to kindergarten to tackle Australia’s dirty fossil fuel industry and how exactly we, everyday Australians, can take part in making our communities heaps better with renewable energy. Australians are some of the biggest carbon emitters per person around the world, but this also gives us the chance to also be one of the biggest changemakers in our fight to save our planet.
This (and so much more!) is possible together. In this episode, we chat with Simon Holmes à Court, a Director of the Smart Energy Council, and Lindsay Soutar, Greenpeace’s Campaigner for renewable energy and lead of the REenergise campaign. We’re also visiting a carbon neutral kinder and a solar powered brewery. You might be thinking, how exactly can we ditch the biggest coal, oil, and gas giants to fully embrace a renewable transition? We can all do our bit in our homes, schools, and offices, but we’ll also unveil the biggest energy users who need to pull their weight too: big corporations who use a whopping 71% of global emissions!
The best way we can make waves together is by making our government and corporations make changes on a systemic level.
Ep2: How can we speed up renewables? – TRANSCRIPT
Ash: Why do you like to take care of the Earth?
Will: Well, because it helps you not to die. What? Why aren’t you talking? This is a serious talk about
Earth! If you don’t have Earth then you’ll die! I’m trying to protect the Earth
Jess: Ash, who is this?
Ash: This is Will, he’s just graduated from Australia’s first carbon neutral kindergarten.
Jess: That’s so cool!
Ash: And this is his little sister, Isla, who’s three.
Isla: We don’t punch mother Earth!
Jess: Greetings, inhabitants of Mother Earth. I’m Jess.
Ash: I’m Ash, and we’re two friends who don’t want to punch Mother Earth.
Jess: In Australia, we punch way above our weight in greenhouse gas emissions, especially when
we include our exports. We are the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
Ash: But we’ve just found out that Australia could be a renewable energy superpower.
Jess: So why aren’t we there yet? And what’s holding us back? And what can we do to pack the
biggest punch and speed up the renewable revolution?
Listeners: How easy is the transition from non-renewable, like coal mining and things to
Like, it’s a grid network, I’ve heard about a grid, but I’ve never really heard too many details.
I’m a renter, so I can’t do solar panels, although I certainly would like to.
Is solar legitimately a good investment?
I just simply do not understand why there is so much government hesitation to move towards
investing more in clean energy?
Jess: So we are using this podcast to figure out what we can do to make the world heaps better with the help of our planet-saving friends at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Isla: I’m trying to save the “flanet”!.
Jess: ‘Cause saving the “flanet” is heaps better together!
Ash: But first, pack your lunch box. Yes, you can have some tiny teddies. We are going back to
school. If you’re in charge of Australia, what would you do to make it heaps better?
Isla: Um, don’t throw garbage in the back garden!
Jess: Oh Ash, I really don’t want to dump garbage in her garden. What’s the carbon neutral kinder
Ash: I mean, it’s in Victoria, so they were in lockdown at the time, which is why we’re doing Zoom
interviews. So I asked director Jenny Whelan to tell me what it’s usually like at the carbon neutral
Jenny Whelan: If you come to Kinder on a Friday afternoon, you’ll see the children in the garden and
they’re reading the water meter, they’re reading the electricity.
Ash: I’ve seen a video of it, there’s kids who are five with clipboards walking around reading
meters like tiny tradies, and they’re reading the solar metre, not the gas, because they got the gas
Jenny Whelan: The vision has been really powerful to make an actual statement to become carbon
neutral and then to sit back and go, well, what are the steps that will take us there? And for us,
we established very early that solar panels would be the most important factor in reducing our
Ash: So she had this dream of going carbon neutral and built a team around her of parents,
children, the local council, even health professionals.
Jenny Whelan: So have a dream, build a team is the way that we achieve all our big, lofty goals.
Jess: “Have a dream, build a team”, I love it, Ash, it’s so good.
Ash: And they worked together on this vision for five years to build a fully certified carbon neutral
Jenny Whelan: It is interesting when you have a big, lofty goal and you achieve that goal, there is
what happens next moment. But for us, we did find that, which is to partner with our local primary
school and high school to form a Sustainable Schools Alliance.
Jess: I really want to hear more about this carbon neutral kinder. But can things like a kinder change
Ash: OK, let’s deal with this. Let’s talk about power and how we can change the power system in
Australia. Our electricity accounts for almost a third of our annual carbon emissions, or footprints.
We are one of the largest emitters per person and the only country that still relies on coal for more
than half of our electricity generation.
Jess: Coal, we are obsessed with the stuff. So, Ash, I wanted to find us an expert who is obsessed
with renewable energy.
Simon Holmes à Court: I’m Simon Holmes à Court and I’m a Director of the Smart Energy Council.
Jess: Simon advises the Energy Transition Hub and the Climate Energy College at Melbourne Uni,
and he started Australia’s first community wind project.
Ash: All right. So he has every finger in the pie of renewable energy!
Jess: Is there anything in the last 10 years that’s blown your mind and really given you hope that,
like, big things can happen in the next five or 10 years?
Simon Holmes à Court: There’s so much, Jess. We were in the process a decade ago of building
this first community wind farm and we had many other communities that wanted to do the same
thing. We’d go up to Canberra and we’d say, ah, you know, renewables are great because, look,
like they might cost a little bit more, but there’s the environmental benefits, there’s the economic
benefit, there’s local jobs. What’s been stunning to me is that about maybe about four years ago, the
economics changed so dramatically that now you don’t have to make that case for renewables. You
speak to anyone in industry and they know their next project is going to be wind or solar or storage
because it’s the cheapest way of getting things done.
Ash: OK, great. So we want our whole country to be powered by renewables. How does Simon think
Jess: So he told me we’re about a quarter of the way already and we’re on track to have 30 per cent
of our energy coming from renewable sources by the beginning of 2021.
Simon Holmes à Court: Almost all of that is coming from wind and solar. And so far, the majority of
the solar has been from the roof of households in Australia. So just from everyday people. We have
the highest rooftop solar uptake per capita anywhere in the world.
Ash: Well, I did not know that! Way to go households of Australia!
Jess: And where we headed, what’s the most ambitious but really achievable future for, say, 10
years or 20 years?
Simon Holmes à Court: One of the most interesting studies comes from the Australian Energy
Market Operator (AEMO), and it has us at 96 per cent renewables in 2042. Fast forward to then and
almost all of our electricity will come from wind, solar, a bit of hydro and a bit of storage.
Ash: So we could be almost entirely renewable by 2042?
Jess: Yeah, but we don’t even have to wait that long, we could be 75 per cent renewable by just 2025.
Simon Holmes à Court: What they’re saying is that in the moment we’ll be able to handle up to 75
per cent using current technologies. And that that report was basically saying, hey, if we want to go
above 75 percent, we’re going to have to invest a bunch in the technology to help us integrate.
Jess: So basically, like a challenge to this 75 per cent thing is if we can get that grid set up and
strong enough to handle all this new stuff.
Ash: Hang on – why do we need new technology?
Jess: The grid was built for fossil fuels with old technology, so it’s kind of like it needs an upgrade.
Ash: So it’s like old speakers that can’t handle that bass? OK, so what’s the grid?
Jess: Let’s think of it like a dance floor at your school dance. Fossil fuels got us here, so they like
your parents dropping you off, but then they stay on the dance floor –
Ash: Aw Daaaad, this is so embarrassing! And his music sucks.
Jess: Our energy grid dance floor was built for fossil fuels, and for so long it’s been full of these coal
burning power stations. All these oldies taking up all the space while we just watch along patiently
from the sidelines. However…
Simon Holmes à Court: What’s basically happening is our coal power stations are reaching the end
of their technical life and the end of their economic life is a bit like an old car. You can keep throwing
money at the maintenance, but eventually gets to a point where you realise it’s cheaper just to get
rid of it and get a new one.
Jess: The Hazelwood Coal Power Station in Victoria and the Liddell Coal Station in New South
Wales, for example, were at the end of their lives and needed 400 million dollars just to keep
Simon Holmes à Court: And the owners said this is just not worth it. We’re not going to ever get
that money back. It’s reached the end of its technical life and it’s just not economic to keep it going.
So they’re closing it down.
Ash: So our daggy old parents are finally shuffling off the dance floor anyway?
Jess: Let’s say they’re retiring.
Simon Holmes à Court: One by one, our coal power stations and closing down. We’ve closed 13 in
the last six years and we’ve got 19 to go. They’ll just fall over one by one as they reach the end of
Ash: OK, 19 to go, 19 old coal power stations still boogin’ on the dance floor…
Jess: But! We’ve all got rooftops and on those rooftops we can put solar panels and then any
excess power that we generate goes back into the grid. So we don’t actually need coal anymore
because we’re making the power ourselves and we’re flooding onto the dance floor!
Ash: Yeah, it’s like thanks for bringing us this far, Mum and Dad, but it’s our time to dance!
Jess: And all this technology and solar panels and batteries to store all the excess power that we
generate, it’s all getting cheaper, too.
Ash: Oh, my gosh. Renewables is like the hottie on the dance floor, radiant like the sun, hair blowing
in the wind turbine takes me in their arms, and – and yes.
Jess: Yes! So with all these new dancers, the grid needs a little bit updating. We have about two and
a half million households with solar on the roof, and that requires more technology.
Ash: So we need to demand a better sound system?
Jess: Yes, but the more of us dancing on that dance floor, plugging renewables into the grid, the
larger the flow of investment and jobs and technology to improve that grid, and the less room there
is for boring, outdated, old and dirty coal.
Ash: OK, so what I’m hearing is we’re actually trying to reduce our emissions, right?
Simon Holmes à Court: It’s not right to say that we’re trying to reduce our emissions. Sadly, we
need we need policy for that.
Ash: Oh… we’re not trying.
Jess: Well, the government isn’t prioritising reducing emissions for reducing emissions sake. But
Simon says it’s happening anyway.
Simon Holmes à Court: So it’s almost like it’s a sideshow what’s happening in the politics and
media. If we look at any of the statistics on where we’re going in the electricity sector, it’s rapidly
moving. We’ve built more renewables in the last three years than we did in the 30 years before. This
transition is well underway.
Ash: OK, just so I’m actually really psyched on this, when Simon says that the transition is already
happening just because it makes more economic sense, I read up and Australia’s most respected
economists are talking about how Australia could be a renewable energy superpower, like, globally.
Even our Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is saying that we should be aiming for 700 percent renewable!
Jess: 700%? How does that work?
Ash: Right? And then my brain just explodes and coats the walls, and then when I scrape it back to
my head, I’m like, that’s not how math works. And then I say, no, it is! Because we get 100 percent
renewable energy here, and then we sell our excess energy overseas. We export it. We lay down a
giant underwater extension cord and plug in Southeast Asia, for example, and pump the excess
on a wind power out to their grids. We’re exporting renewables instead of coal. And the more I look
at it, it’s like, OK, so more countries are setting renewable energy targets, which means they’re no
longer going to be needing our coal. And China is like one of our biggest buyers and they’ve just
announced their plan to go carbon neutral. So I guess we can’t really keep being a coal superpower.
Jess: Buuuut there’s a little problem…
Simon Holmes à Court: We don’t have a coordinated plan in Australia of shutting these power
stations down, the transition is happening, it’s locked in, but it’s either going to be, you know,
disorderly chaos or a managed transition. Both and both start from where we are and both end up
at the same place. But the managed transition is cheaper, more reliable power and workers will get
looked after and won’t be disruptive. Whereas the chaos? People will get hurt and it’ll cost more
than it should.
Ash: I mean, this is the thing I don’t get. The whole world is basically saying that we need a green
recovery from the pandemic. We can use those funds that are being mobilised to stop economies
from collapsing, to build a better future. But I keep hearing so much about gas in Australia.
Jess: Well, I asked Simon about that…. Simon, can we talk about gas? Because there’s been all
this talk about, you know, the Covid gas-led recovery and the Prime Minister referring to gas as a
transition fuel. What does it mean? Do we need gas? Is gas really a transition fuel? Is this going to
help our transition or hinder it?
Simon Holmes à Court: Yeah, yeah. So that phrasing that gas is a transition fuel is what people
used to say a decade ago. So a couple of a couple of things. In Australia, we have some of the
world’s best resources for wind and solar, which means that we have some of the cheapest
renewable energy production in the world. Meanwhile, we don’t have cheap gas. Our gas costs
two, three, four times as much as US gas, because when we go fracking, we don’t pull out any oil.
We frack and pull out gas. And it’s much more expensive operation if that’s all you’re getting out
of it. So we’re in the middle of a crisis. A lot of people have been advocating that we should use
this opportunity for, you know, to decarbonise our economy. But Australia, which, you know, our
politics are significantly in the throes of the fossil fuel industry. The industry has seen this crisis as
an opportunity to extend it to further their interests. So, yeah, there are no technical or economic
reasons why we should be looking at gas right now. The technical and economic case is actually
very, very weak. Yeah, no, it’s just politics and vested interests. This gas, it’s really just a missed
opportunity, I think, to you, an opportunity we could be using to decarbonise. But we’re going to faff
around the edges, debating gas for the next six months or so. And nothing major is really going to
happen on that front.
Ash: Hold up. Who is the Government actually dancing with here?
Ash + Jess: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a message from your hosts, Ash and Jess.
Every now and then it’s important to take a break, find a buddy, have a movie night, make a bowl of
popcorn! And learn about the vested interests slowing your country down from flicking the switch
and turning off fossil fuels. Tonight’s film, Dirty Power comes courtesy of Greenpeace.
Dirty Power documentary: While much of the world is taking decisive action on climate change,
Australia is going back.
Ash: We’re not going to play the whole thing right now, but for a taste, his own parts that made us
Ash + Jess: * Gasping in shock many, many times *
Ash: You know, I think a lot of us have a feeling that there are these dirty dealings, but watching
Dirty Power shows you how it’s actually all connected. It’s like a map.
Jess: Yup. Everyone should watch Dirty Power. It is 15 minutes long and you will find out so much
about just how deeply our political parties and certain media organizations, and even sneaky
nonprofits with innocent names like the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, are all deeply tied to each
other and to fossil fuel groups. The link to watch Dirty Power is on Heaps Better website, and you
can get that via the show notes. So back to Simon. If this is genuinely slowing things down, what do
we do about it?
Simon Holmes à Court: OK, so it’s frustrating that we could do this faster and cheaper if there was
federal coordination, if we were, you know, if we didn’t have the feds trying to trip us up at every
point. But this transition is absolutely happening. And, you know, we’ve got to keep fighting the
forces that would want to slow that down. But I think success is assured in that sector, not fast
enough. We’ve got to make sure these coal power stations close in the next 10 years. Right now,
they’re on a path to close in 20 years.
Ash: So these 19 coal stations are already set to close in about 20 years. But we’ve got to get them
shut down in the next 10.
Jess: So all righty, lessons: What is in your experience or your mind is the one thing that I can do
as an average Australian to contribute to speeding up this transition, and to support the renewable
Simon Holmes à Court: So on the home front, if you own a north facing roof in Australia, put solar
on your roof. You’re throwing away money if you don’t. But what you’re doing is every day as the
sun comes up, you’re going to be pushing coal out of the system and the solar is coming on at such
a fast rate, it’s pushing coal out. And we’re going to see two or three coal power stations pushed
out of the grid over the next two years and that’ll be significantly because of the householders of
Ash: So Jess and I are both renters, so it’s kind of a little tricky for us to get solar panels installed.
Jess: But our parents own their rooftops and I found out that a big barrier for my Dad to getting
solar panels installed was the cost and hearing stories about people getting sold poor quality
Ash: So while Jess was doing the research for her Dad, I stumbled upon a random website. I was
like, well, how do I get a solar quote? Getting a quote takes like ten minutes. I spoke to a lovely guy
called George. I was like, Dude, do you mind if I start recording this conversation? Because me and
my friends all want to get involved with solar, but a lot of us are renters and we don’t know how to
George: We do install on rental properties as well. A lot of the time, you know, the quote will be for
the landlord and they’ll send it over the landlord and they end up paying for it or, you know, they go
halves on it and things like that. So, yeah.
Ash: And so, you know, to take that economic case to a landlord, like, how would you say it if it was
your landlord and you were renting the case?
George: The case you could really put forward is the sort of like the value that they can add to the
house if they were going to sell the house or, you know, if you if you if you were to leave the property
they could potentially bump up that rental prices because the property then benefits from having
Ash: And so, like, it’s not like, oh, I’m a renter, therefore, it doesn’t make sense for me to have solar.
It can make sense for you and your landlord. But that’s a negotiation that you have to enter into.
That’s kind of like a bit of coeducation. It feels weird and but yeah, I’m doing that now.
Jess: That’s amazing! Wait, you’re sending it to your landlord. Really?
Jess: Ash! High five!
Ash: Well, I’ll let you know how it goes. Like, ideally, by the end of, you know, all of this, they’ll be like,
oh, yeah, dude, solar sounds like a great idea.
Jess: So there will be an upfront cost, but the Australian Federal Solar Rebate is still going. Just as
an example, a six kilowatt system will get about $3,300 in rebates as of the time we are recording.
That’s going to go down year by year as this is being slowly phased out. But there are also different
state level rebates. So when you get a quote ask what’s available for your postcode.
Ash: And once you’ve got solar panels, your electricity retailer will pay you a small amount for each
kilowatt hour you export back to the grid. And on top of that, if you use most of your power during
the day when the sun’s shining, then you’ll have cheaper bills and you could make a payback of your
system in about five years.
Jess: And one more thing, until we get to 100 percent renewable energy here in Australia, you’re still
going to be using some energy from the grid, even when you have solar panels, especially when the
sun ain’t shining. So you can switch to greenpower for the rest.
Ash: We found some really great resources for getting your head around the whole rooftop solar
thing. So we’re going to chuck them in the show notes and it’s easy as pie.
Simon Holmes à Court: But that’s kind of like the personal hygiene thing, that’s like getting out of
bed and having a shower. You’ve done the basics. That is kind of a ticket to play to be putting the
pressure for societal change or systemic change, and that’s where the heavy lifting comes in. If we
can get one one coal power unit to shut down, that has a massive impact on everyone who used to
take power from that power station.
Ash: Right. Well, I’m all about shutting down coal plants.
Jess: Oh, can I give you another reason, another reason to shut them down? So I’m going to share
my screen and show you this thing that Simon tweeted. OK, look at this. So he put together this
nifty little graph, ‘Greenhouse gas emissions for the financial year of 2019’, and check this out.
See this on the left, that giant amount, six point eight million tonnes, this is the Vales Point coal
power station. That’s just one coal power station in New South Wales. And it emits as much carbon
dioxide as the entire Australian domestic aviation sector! So, like you can see, Qantas and Virgin.
Ash: Whoa. OK, wait, hold on. That’s crazy! Six point eight million tonnes? So this is just Vales Point,
one power station?
Jess: Yeah. And just to put that into perspective, I did a carbon footprint calculator for myself and
my personal emissions is like 12 tonnes, 12 tons versus six point eight million tonnes. So from
Simon’s helpful graph, I then calculated that shutting down this one coal power plant is the same
impact as more than 560,000 me’s completely offsetting my carbon footprint. That is more than
the population of Tasmania!
Simon Holmes à Court: You might convince, you know, 20% of people to reduce their flights by
20%, but that doesn’t move the needle. What really moves the needle is when we change our power
system to use renewables rather than coal, or we change our aviation sector to use clean fuel
rather than the kerosene they currently use.
Ash: Also, the Vales Point one is only the tenth dirtiest? Excuse me!
Simon Holmes à Court: So if we can push that power station for early closure, it’s like we’ve just
taken a whole sector of emissions out of the economy. So this systemic change, you get to reduce
the carbon footprint more than you could ever do for yourself and all of your neighbors and the rest
of society at the same time.
Ash: Yes, Simon speaking our language with the systemic change! And the thing I love about this
kind of change is it’s basically easier for everyone than the alternative, either (A) we all fret forever
about every single carbon emitting decision we make, or (B) not fret, because you’re running on
Jess: So we were wondering what is the easiest and fastest way to get heaps of solar onto our grid
and kick coal off our dance floor completely.
Ash: And that led us back to our buddies at Greenpeace Australia Pacific and specifically to Lindsay
Soutar. Lindsay runs REenergise, which is Greenpeace’s renewable energy campaign. And what
they’re doing is targeting the biggest polluters in Australia to get them to go renewable.
Jess: We wanted to specifically know how does the residential impact of all of us switching our
homes to renewable power stack up against big business doing the same?
Lindsay Soutar: Yeah, it’s a good question. So large corporations make up about 70% of emissions
from electricity in Australia. Even if we get every single Australian to make the switch without
getting those companies to shift as well? We’re not going as far as we need to go.
Ash + Jess: 70 per cent! 70 per cent of Australia’s emissions comes from large corporations. So
don’t be mad at yourself. Be mad at them.
Lindsay Soutar: You, of course, might be able to install 12 solar panels on your roof, whereas Aldi,
the supermarket company, has just announced that it’s rolling out a solar program with 102,000
solar panels on rooftops around the country, so on their stores and distribution centers.
Ash: OK, so a big supermarket chain like Aldi switching that power is really huge. I mean, like,
remember our dance floor story? When Aldi generates excess electricity from all those massive
supermarket rooftops covered in solar panels, they feed back into the grid and they’re helping to
push out coal.
Lindsay Soutar: So Australia’s biggest emitters have to report how much they’re polluting to the
government and that information becomes publicly available in a database. So that’s how we’ve
got this data. We’ve pulled it down off the Clean Energy Regulator’s website and trolled through it to
look at, I guess, in particular, which are the big brand companies, because they’re the ones we can’t
we know as as consumers and as members of the public that we can really have an influence over
and and the companies we’re targeting initially with this campaign.
Jess: So we’re rolling through the list of big businesses on the REenergise website right now. OK,
so that’s REenergise.org. And we’re scrolling through the list of the dirtiest businesses in Australia.
Let’s find out which companies. Lion… Oh, JB Hi-Fi!
Ash: Oh, yeah?
Jess: No, no good. Hmm, make some demands.
Ash: You would think that Apple would have done better.
Jess: So Woolworths is ranked 6th on the list of the largest electricity users in Australia. They do
have onsite solar, but they have no renewable electricity commitment.
Ash: OK, so Coles is ranked 12th. So how do we take action? So: ways to make change. You can
message a company, share the campaign, sign a petition. Easy. OK, email CEO! Oh my gosh.
There’s a link right here. Hello. OK, I’m Ash Berdebes, I am a Coles customer because you know
it’s everywhere. I’d like to know, when will Coles commit to 100 percent renewable electricity? Aldi
has committed to a hundred percent renewable energy by 2021, Telstra has committed to 100 per
percent renewable energy by 2025. What is standing in your way? Let me help you.
Jess: So listeners, we’re going to make this real easy for you. There’s a link to REenergise on our
website. You can get to it from the show notes.
Ash: I mean, if you’re working in these companies sure, you can say, I want you to go renewable,
but would they listen to us? It just feels weird being like, do you Woolworth’s? Could you please go
renewable and put lots of solar panels on your roof, then I will shop with you. Thank you very much.
Cheers. Ash and Jess.
Jess: Yeah, what’s the best way to be calling them out or asking them to make the switch?
Lindsay Soutar: I think what you’ve outlined is exactly what we want to be doing. They are very
sensitive to customer pressure and expectations, especially on issues like climate change, which
they know have been rising in public concern and public attention.
Ash: OK, so that was me doing a record scratch. It’s me. Hey, future Ash talking to past Ash, to let
you know that they did listen to us. We’ve got some good news! Since this interview with Lindsay,
Woolworths announced they’re going 100 percent renewable by 2025.
Jess: And why is this so epic? Because Woolworths represents one percent of Australia’s entire
electricity usage. They have a power bill of like over a million dollars every day. And instead of
supporting fossil fuels, soon that money will be going towards clean, renewable energy. Only two
weeks before Woolies announced this, our maate Lindsay here and David from our first episode
went along together to meet the CEO of Woolworths because thousands of people just like us
had sent a message to Brad Banducci through the REenergise website. So they have a chat
with CEO Brad about the REenergise campaign. And then two weeks later, Woolies makes this
announcement: that they’re going 100 percent renewable.
Ash: Who knows, by the time you’re listening to this podcast episode, maybe Coles will have
flicked the switch too! It shows just how quickly things can change right now. So let’s keep that
Jess: You can go to the REenergise website and call on Australia’s biggest electricity users to go
100 per cent renewable. It is a win for a minute.
Ash: I guess this is something that Greenpeace probably has seen a lot in the past is just knocking
on someone’s door, I mean, that’s someone being a big company who’s not doing the right thing,
is enough sometimes for them to go, oh, maybe we don’t want this kind of attention. Maybe we’ll
change ahead of time before you have to launch a campaign against what we’re doing.
Lindsay Soutar: So, yes, we absolutely are seeing companies, I guess, get trying to get ahead of
some of the attention of scrutiny. And interestingly, we were launching a renewable beer or a sun
powered beer campaign just before Christmas at the end of last year, asking Asahi and Lion, the
two other big brewers in Australia, to match Carlton and United, who’s the third big brewer who had
already made the commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity. And so we had a whole lot of
little coasters printed that we were going to be distributing in pubs and stickers that were going
on, you know, cases of beer in bottle shops all around the country. But we never got to use any of
it because in the end, once we told the company that these, you know, all these volunteers were
going out all around the country with with these stickers and posters, those big companies were
like, oh actually, you know, we can say this makes sense what you’re asking us to do. We’re already
on this path. We’re already investing in renewable energy. Let’s just go the whole way to 100 percent
renewables. And so they ultimately decided to make the commitment before we even really got
Ash + Jess: Oh, that’s so good!
Lindsay Soutar: I mean, but I think it also speaks to how doable this is. Like it is it is now at a point
where switching to renewable electricity for these companies does just make sense.
Jess: So Christmas 2020, one of the silver linings will be we can have sun-powered beer?
Lindsay Soutar: So by 2025, all beer in Australia will be 100 percent renewable powered. So these
companies have made the commitment to make the switch, to make the transition. But that’s not
something that can just happen overnight. They have to do the work to, you know, sign those deals
with the wind and solar farms and get all those solar panels up on their facilities. That takes a bit
of time, but certainly making that commitment and sending that clear signal about where they’re
going as a company and also where the world is heading is is really important.
Ash: I’m looking forward to sinking a few frothies with a clean conscience!
Jess: Speaking of solar powered beer, Lindsey gave us a pretty great solution for people who are
locked out of rooftop solar, like us, who are renters or people who live in apartments and have small
rooftops or who don’t get a lot of sun… and the solution involves beer!
Ash: So Lindsay’s a renter just like us, and she has invested in a solar community project on the
rooftop of a brewery in Sydney called Young Henry’s.
Jess: These community projects – that are sometimes called solar gardens – basically work like
a community vegie garden. You can buy a plot of panels in a huge community solar farm and,
you know, they’re an awesome way for local businesses with large rooftops, like this brewery,
to make the most out of them. The local community get the financial benefits of solar and any
excess energy from the solar gardens gets fed back into the grid. You get dividends, in the case
of this Young Henry’s Brewery, or in the case of things like solar gardens, you get savings on your
electricity bill just the way you would if you had your own rooftop solar. So we’re going to chuck a
little link on the Heaps Better website and in the show notes of this episode so that wherever you
are in Australia, you can check out what’s happening around you. And if you too are locked out of
rooftop solar, you can still get a slice of the pie.
Jess: Hi, Richard, how are you doing?
Ash: Where are we Jess?
Jess: Well, Ash, we’re sipping on a delicious solar powered beer at the Young Henry’s Brewery in
Sydney, that one with the community solar project that we’ve invested in.
Ash: And we’re walking through the back of the brewery with the owner, Richard Adamson, past
these giant vats of green algae that grown from the CO2 from the brewing process.
Jess: Richard tells us that each batch of algae here produces the same amount of oxygen as a
hectare of forest. So thanks to this algae and the solar panels, the brewery is aiming to be carbon
Ash: Jess really loves seaweed, but we’re here to talk about solar.
Jess: Is it expensive for you as a business to have done this? I know it gives dividends back to the
community who’ve invested in it, but as a business has it been costly?
Richard Adamson: That was the beauty of it, that there was actually no upfront cost on our part.
We just signed an agreement that we would lease the space over the period, I think it’s 10 years,
and that was it. I think that money is much better in generating electricity now than it is probably
getting interest out of the bank because the interest rates are so low. So even my dad is a bit of a
skeptic, and he has gone OK, I’m putting solar panels on the roof. It’s like, wow, that’s amazing!
Jess: I love that. I want to get my Dad to put solar panels on his roof! That’s my goal.
Richard Adamson: I mean, I think if you put the economic case to him he might just go, well, alright!
Because that’s where it stands at the moment. It does make more financial sense to invest your
money in solar panels for, you know, for home generation.
Ash: I was sort of surprised that Young Henry’s was doing so much, but then I thought again and I
was like, oh, well, like being a brewer is just kind of like being a scientist, but you get to wear like a
T-shirt rather than a white coat.
Richard Adamson: Yes! I did say to my science teacher from high school, if I knew I’d be using
all this science in brewing, I might have paid more attention! We’ve had some we had a science
teacher bring these students down to say, hey, look, these guys use science every day. There’s a full
lab up upstairs but they’ve just got tattoos and beers and look really cool! So maybe, maybe that’s
why you should pay attention in class! And I was like, that’s cool.
Ash: Okay, that’s a real cool teacher. Imagine your teacher taking you on an excursion to a solar
Jess: Yeah, kind of reminds me of a solar powered kinder from the beginning of this episode that
you were going to tell me more about Ash.
Ash: I didn’t forget! OK, so let’s bring Jenny Whelan back.
Jenny Whelan: We talk at the Kinder a lot about curious questions, it’s like an ongoing thing. What’s
the curious question? And I just really encourage everyone to just keep asking those curious
questions, like why do our schools not have solar panels on every roof? Why would we build a
school today without a full solar installation on the rooftop? And it’s not just thinking about making
that specific school sustainable. We’re thinking beyond that. We’re thinking of, what can happen
when, as a Sustainable Schools Alliance, our roof is covered with solar panels and then we unite
that energy, combine that energy and then deliver it to our communities in term break?
Jess: Oh, I love this story so much.
Ash: Right? And the cool thing is the kids are going home and talking about solar panels and
renewables to their parents, so that message is spreading into the community and encouraging
everyone to ask these big questions, like, if the kids know what’s up, why haven’t we done this
Jenny Whelan: Action is a great panacea for anxiety, and that’s why I think we’ve got to show our
kids that there’s things that we can all do, there’s numbers between 1 and 10 and they can make a
difference without having to march to Parliament House to do it. There’s just a lot of things that we
can do, particularly within a school setting, because you actually you’ve got hundreds and hundreds
of young adults and you’ve got teachers that are passionate to support the voices of those
students. And you’ve also got a connection with hundreds of families, and through that connection
with hundreds of families, you’ve got a connection with hundreds of workplaces. So the capacity
for schools to show leadership and transform how we live in our homes and how we work in our
businesses, it’s very powerful. There’s a great opportunity there. And I think it’s important not to
miss the opportunity.
Isla: On Monday I cleaned up the park!
Ash: Really? You know what, thank you for cleaning up the park. Some people leave things behind
and make things dirty and other people make things better and you’re making things better.
Jess: Ash, I refuse to leave it to the three year olds to clean up our parks and our backyards and our
atmosphere. Can we kick dirty old coal off our dance floor?
Ash: Yes! I mean, I don’t think we have a choice not to anymore. So what are we going to do?
We’re going to go back to our renewables 101. Get solar panels on your roof! You can look into
community solar gardens if you can’t do the whole rooftop solar thing.
Jess: You know how I was going to try and convince my Dad to get solar panels on his roof? Well,
he got wind of my plan and he and Mum started doing the research themselves.
Ash: Oh he got wind of it, did he? Was that a renewable energy pun?
Jess: It was an accident, I swear! But he’s getting it done, which is cool!
Ash: I think I’ll pass that on to my Mum. OK. Then think bigger picture, go right for those big
polluting businesses that are responsible for 70% of our electricity emissions. You can go to
reenergise.org and call them out to flick that switch. Greenpeace has literally done all the hard yards
for you, so this is now the easiest action.
Jess: And if you’re feeling really gung ho, then channel Albert Park kinda or the Young Henry’s
brewery and get your workplace, school, university, whatever, to flick the switch to renewable power.
All those things will get more fun, renewable dancers onto our dancefloor grid and kick old fuddy
duddy coal out.
Ash: The power is ours! and one final word from our future PM:
Will: Solar panels save the world!
Jess: To make this hella easy for you, the Greenpeace team have put together a step by step action
plan. It’s on the website at greenpeace.org.au. Everything you need is in there, and there’s a link
in the show notes too. Ash, I got another big tip from Simon Holmes à Court that I was holding
off telling you. He said that one of the biggest things that we can do to stop coal and fossil fuel
projects is actually to switch our banking in super.
Ash: Oh… I’ve been meaning to do that, but it seems like a big effort.
Jess: In the next episode, we’re going to work out whether our money is actually financing the
climate crisis and if it is, how we can fix that stat and use it as a tool for good, instead.
Ash: Subscribe to Heaps Better on Spotify, Apple or wherever you listen. And if you like what you
heard, please write and review this podcast, it’s a huge help!
Jess: Heaps Better is a podcast made by us, Jess Hamilton and Ash Berdebes, with Greenpeace
Australia Pacific and Audiocraft by our side. The mixing engineer is Adam Conolley, EP is Kate
Montague and the Creative Lead at Greenpeace is Ella Colley.
Ash: We acknowledge and pay respects to the traditional custodians of the lands this podcast was
created, and their enduring legacy of sustainability and caring for country. A huge thank you to the
Greenpeace team for getting us out of the weeds and showing us the bigger picture, especially
Lindsay and the team behind the REenergise campaign and the Dirty Power doco.
Jess: Thank you to Simon Holmes à Court and the many experts who wrote books, papers and
guides that helped us make sense of all of this and who are all chipping away every day to bring on
the renewable revolution.
Ash: And thanks to Jenny and Lesley from Albert Park Kinder and of course, to Will and Isla for
cleaning up our parks and dreaming big. With kids like you, we know the future is in good hands.
And thank you for coming with us! Together we are heaps better.