Editor’s Note: This article is one submission in a live Masdar blogging contest (find out the entry requirements here). Very simply, the focus of the contest submissions is to: “Describe your city in 2030: what will occur due to changes in energy, transportation and water technologies, and how will they transform how you live?” We are sharing this submission here on CleanTechnica because we think it’s awesome and because Masdar is sponsoring CleanTechnica in order to raise awareness about this great competition. I have personally engaged in the contest in previous years, and I hope one of our readers wins this year since it would be great to meet you in Abu Dhabi!
When my editor asked me to contribute to Masdar’s 2015 Engage Blogging Contest, I was somewhat dismayed. I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and if you’ve paid any attention to the news of late, you will be well aware of Australia’s current energy and environmental policies — in short, they’re not good. To international audiences, Australia’s government is passively-aggressively labelled as being “conservative” — which is the “nice” way of saying Australia’s government is making very backward and outright absurd policy decisions.
Others have not been so kind.
Australian Environmental Politics Condemned
Former energy advisor to US President Obama, Steven Chu, described Australia’s climate policy as “unfortunate.” Speaking at the UN climate talks in Lima, Chu’s comments spread around the world:
“They’ve shifted a little bit the current government from the previous one. I’ll say quite candidly, it’s unfortunate, especially for Australia’s own economy.”
Needless to say, those of us within the country are less-restricted with our condemnation of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government:
“Tracking the imbecilic policy decisions of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government through CleanTechnica archives should be easy — simply search for the word ‘Tony Abbott’ and you’ll find yourself confronted with coverage of bad decision after bad decision.”
“I think future generations will look back on these bills and they will be appalled… at the short-sighted, opportunistic selfish politics of those opposite and Mr Abbott will go down as one of the most short-sighted, selfish and small people ever to occupy the office of prime minister.”
“The Federal Government’s proposal to slash the RET is a clear broken promise that would result in a reduction of the future target by more than 60 per cent, decimating the renewable energy industry and risking the $10 billion worth of investment already made in good faith under the policy.”
But as we have seen in the United States and California, where national policies may prove inadequate, state and local policies can navigate a way.
A State and Local Hope
The Australian Climate Council released a report in November highlighting which Australian states are winning the race to renewables, “and which are not.” It shone a spotlight on the success of the United State’s state-based actions, with many states setting independent policies and targets separate to national policies.
“The US is the second in the world for installed renewable energy capacity due to the majority of US states implementing targets and incentives for renewable energy,” the report’s authors wrote.
Similarly, Australian states “have historically led the way on emissions and renewable energy policy, influencing national action.”
So it was with great relief that, in the lead-up to the most recent Victorian elections, the Labor Party led by Daniel Andrews made it clear that renewable energy would be a part of any Labor Government, if they were to win the election. In November, they promised to “wind back the restrictive planning controls the Liberals implemented in 2011,” and vowed to “get our wind energy industry back up and running, employing thousands of Victorians and creating energy for Victorian homes.” A few days later, Labor promised that they would make Newstead Victoria’s first ‘Solar Town’ “through solar power and energy storage.”
Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party won the state election on Saturday, the 29th of November, giving Victoria a chance to move forward towards a renewable energy future.
Even closer to home, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle gathered together a group of councils and businesses to investigate the possibility of transitioning their collective 100 GWh to renewable energy.
“The City of Melbourne has united other like-minded local governments and businesses to challenge the market to supply us with the right energy at the right price,” the Lord Mayor said. “We have launched a Request for Information Process to combine our purchasing power and signal our interest in securing a competitive price for a long term electricity supply from renewable sources. We hope this scale of demand will stimulate investment in a new renewable energy project that is shovel-ready and has planning approvals in place.”
Melbourne in 2030
I realise it has taken a while to get to just what I imagine Melbourne to look like in 2030. I could have started out with a starry-eyed version of the future, something along the lines of:
“I want Melbourne to have unicorns and puppies, and solar panels on every unicorn and puppy.”
But the reality is, if Victoria and Melbourne do not have the political willpower to stand up to bad national policy, then Melbourne in 2030 is going to look a lot like Melbourne in 2015, just with more smog.
But with a new State Government in place, willing to defy national policy, and a Lord Mayor who seems to be doing more in his role now than he ever did when he was Leader of the Opposition, I can look forward to see a brighter future for Melbourne.
Melbourne’s current target aims to see 25% of its electricity sourced from renewable energy sources by 2018. Given the promising political backing currently in place, new policies could soon be in place to set Melbourne on target for much more by 2030 — 50% sourced from renewable energy, relying heavily on wind power to supply energy to the grid, and increasing solar leasing and subsidies to make solar panels and solar hot water a more attractive and affordable option to Melbournians.
Melbourne’s public transport network is in sore need of support as well, a vital backbone to any “clean city.” While parties will undoubtedly continue to expand the road infrastructure, by 2030 a more efficient and affordable train and tram network will be in place, reaching suburbs currently out of reach and providing everyday citizens, and those simply unable to afford vehicles and toll-roads, the opportunity to travel wherever they need.
Buildings throughout the CBD have been retrofitted to meet the most stringent of restrictions, but with none of the negative associations. Energy is being generated by the building, almost enough to meet the needs of all of those working within, who are themselves helping to minimise energy needs by working with the latest innovations in lighting, energy-saving technology, and cooling and heating apparatus. These buildings are as green on the inside as they are in planning, with indoor gardens the norm rather than a rare-luxury, minimising the need for air purifiers and other contaminants to be pumped through the building.
The rise of the electric car has matched the rise of the sustainable building, and e-capable parking lots are slowly replacing ordinary parking — out of need, rather than hope. Petrol stations were forced to choose adding charging capabilities five years ago to keep up with the demand of electric and hybrid vehicles.
And, arguably, most importantly, primary schools across the whole state are not only being run by solar power due to the many panels provided by business and crowdfunding, but they are also educating their students on the future of energy, environment, and sustainability. Veggie gardens flourish next to the playgrounds, and compost bins are filled each term, ready to be emptied and spread on the garden by the end of the year. Children are interested in the environment, and don’t understand why energy generation such as solar and wind would ever be considered “less.” As they grow up, they will look at their parents and grandparents generations and shake their heads, wondering what it was that led them to so endanger the planet.
All in all, Melbourne in 2030 is a city that I love, that I am proud to be raising children in, and proud to have been a part of — through all its many changes.
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