Friday, November 29, 2013

Community-based renewables - what future now?

We have been shareholders of Hepburn Wind, a community-based renewables cooperative since inception.  Hepburn  have just had their AGM and released this report.  Lots of good developments threatened unfortunately by the changing policy context.

"On Saturday 23 November we held our AGM at the Daylesford Secondary School theatre and are most grateful to the 100+ members who showed up and participated in the official business of running our co-operative. We also had a good additional crowd show up to hear the keynote address by Professor Tim Flannery.
With Tony Gill and Simon Holmes à Court co-chairing the meeting we managed to successfully pass a number of special resolutions, present the 2012/13 annual report and share ideas with and answer questions from our members.

Members ratified the election of Candy Broad and Daniel Magasanik to the board. We are looking forward to Daniel’s second term and to welcoming Candy and her unique skills and experience. At the AGM we took the opportunity to farewell and thank Dan Cass who retired having served a full three year term on the board.

Professor Tim Flannery gave a compelling presentation updating us on the latest climate science developments and the work of the new Climate Council. Tim commended our community for our local response to the challenge and the leadership we have shown.

Aaron van Egmond, CEO of the Hepburn Shire, updated members about council’s renewable energy plans and our energy partner Red Energy explained our joint retail offering, the Community Saver. We were also pleased to host representatives from both VicWind and Yes2Renewables — two important groups who do great work in supporting and educating communities in the area of wind energy.

Carbon tax repeal submission

When our community committed to building its own wind farm, we knew we'd have a lot of challenges to overcome. But with each of the major parties committed (at the time) to both making carbon polluters pay and growing the clean energy sector, we knew we could count on our leaders to provide a favourable policy environment.

Or so we thought.
Changes in Canberra are radically shifting the goalposts for clean energy and for our co-operative. Just 18 months after big polluters started having to pay for dumping carbon pollution into our atmosphere, Australia is on the cusp of unwinding these important environmental gains.

Our members are watching the proposed legislative repeal with great concern and last week we made a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications’ Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013. We have explained the likely impact of the repeal on our project and ultimately on our community. We encourage members and supporters to read our submission.

Along with the millions of Australians who are investors in renewable energy infrastructure through their superannuation funds and the thousands of Australians who work in the clean energy sector, the members of Hepburn Wind have a reasonable expectation that changes in government policy will not harm their interests.

Hepburn Wind farm was built by our community for the benefit of our community. The repeal of the Carbon Pricing Mechanism introduces a significant sovereign risk to the member investors of our co-operative."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Death of Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris passed away on November 16th.  He made a very significant contribution to Systems scholarship, often in collaboration with the late Don Schon. That said he may not have claimed such an achievement as his work has usually been framed as in the field of organisational learning.

Only today I found myself using the distinctions these authors made between espoused theory and theory-in-use, which is explained on 'Resource Papers in Action Research' in the following terms:

"Argyris and Schon (1974) assert that people hold maps in their heads about how to plan, implement and review their actions.  They further assert that few people are aware that the maps they use to take action are not the theories they explicitly espouse.  Also, even fewer people are aware of the maps or theories they do use (Argyris, 1980).
To clarify, this is not merely the difference between what people say and do.  Argyris and Schon suggest that there is a theory consistent with what people say and a theory consistent with what they do.  Therefore the distinction is not between "theory and action but between two different "theories of action" (Argyris, Putnam & McLain Smith, 1985, p.82).  Hence the concepts Espoused theory and Theory-in-use:

Espoused theory
The world view and values people believe their behaviour is based on
The world view and values implied by their behaviour, or the maps they use to take action"
Based on: Anderson, L.  (1994).  Espoused theories and theories-in-use: Bridging the gap (Breaking through defensive routines with organisation development consultants).  Unpublished Master of Organisational Psychology thesis, University of Qld.

My appreciation to Rupesh for alerting me to Argyris' death.

Congratulations Ian Dunlop

Unfortunately few individuals have the courage of their convictions when it comes to acting ethically in response to human-induced climate change.  Ian Dunlop is a notable exception. He is to be congratulated for taking on mining heavy-weight BHP/BHP-Billiton. In the process he has demonstrated how unethical major institutional investors still are in managing their portfolios and how much into groupthink the big miners are. Dunlop’s platform for nomination to the BHP board identified climate change as the single greatest strategic risk faced by BHP. In making his unsuccesful bid for election he said:

"The future prosperity of BHP Billiton is of great importance, both in Australia and globally,” ......"Climate change poses a major strategic risk to that prosperity, and to shareholder value that is a risk which has the ability to fundamentally alter the direction of the company, or indeed to destroy it.  "In common with the boards of most major global corporations, I believe the board has fallen into the trap of 'groupthink' in failing to grasp the enormity of the challenge that climate change poses to the business,”

Importantlty Ian has gained significant coverage in the business sections of the press.  This exposure is welcome; it enables greater awareness of major systemic flaws in how we think about and respond to future climate change in terms of governance. We have known for a long time that big emitters have brought immense pressure to bear on governments and have at times effectively run government policy.  But companies like BHP are in the top 20 of global carbon emitters - and are thus much more significant than most nation states.  Yet our governance regimes and the social licence to operate for companies like BHP are not yet able to effectively hold them to account. Recent shifts in government policy in Australia do not help.

Ian Dunlop is a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive. He chaired the Australian Coal Association in 1987-88, chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading from 1998-2000 and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors from 1997-2001. Ian is a major contributor to CPD (Centre for Policy Development).

PS If you think I am a little over the top with some of the arguments I am making read this - 'coal the new tobacco'!