Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 16/8/2011

Here we are living in the Great Southern with three towns on the cusp of powering themselves entirely with renewables: Albany, Mt Barker, and Esperance. And even, possibly, maybe, Denmark.

You’d think a government in the current climate, both weather and debate, would relish the opportunity to proclaim: “In WA we have four major towns powered completely by renewables.”

We are living in a state rolling with money and every quarter the Royalties for Regions team hands out buckets for all kinds of lovely new things that sparkle and glitter.

Meanwhile, power bills head for the sky while the sky shines on empty rooves and power authorities reap huge profits. Since the new man with the puffed chest came to the helm we are paying about 53 per cent more for electricity.

The money stacks up, the surpluses stack up, the bills go up.

Hang on, let me run through it all again just to make sure I’ve got it clear.

We have gas in abundance, but we can’t guarantee supply because we’ve given the selling rights to blokes who export it to make bundles of money for themselves and a State that makes us pay double the price of states that don’t have abundant gas.

We have solar energy in abundance but the puffed up team dumped the solar panel subsidy because solar power is too popular and too many people are supplying all their domestic energy needs, at their own cost, and thus relieving the under-the-pump power grid.

Is there something in this simple picture I am missing? Can someone explain to me why the R for R team is unable to recognise that it has an opportunity to do something lasting with the buckets of money, something smart that will ease the State’s energy crisis.

Minister for Regional Development, Brendon Grylls, said in a public forum that the grid is the problem and that it is unable to take all the power coming back at it from our rooves.

My mates in the solar panel business tell me that’s a load of old fish. Others say solar and wind will not fulfil our complete energy needs.

If the grid is a problem, fix it and if you remove four major towns from relying on power stations 400ks to the north, that surely makes sense and adds to the mix of energy sources.

Late News: The Premier seems to be insisting the major gas producers retain 15 percent of their output for domestic use. Well done, sir.

What next? Solar subsidies for the Great Southern? Our breaths are bated.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 2/8/2011

We didn’t have to go out. We could have cancelled, stayed on shore in the warmth and comfort of our homes, our workplaces, our holiday homes. But we didn’t. We were brave.

The rain was already pelting down as we left the boat pen. The Zimbabweans climbed on deck but three of them decided very quickly to return below. One of them never ventured on deck again.

I stayed up top with the actuary. I didn’t get his name but he said he was doing his honours in actuary studies. About six others stayed with us.

Once we were out of Princess Royal Harbour the weather took a nastier turn. The rain came in harder, the swells got deeper and the boat rocked and rolled as though Bon Scott himself was at the wheel.

The Captain of the day, Tony Harrison, did his best to yell above the roar of the Great Southern Ocean and the flapping of the spinnaker.

He told us all he could remember about hump back whales, why they were out there, why they were there this time of the year and why they were giving birth when they normally saved that part of their lives for the Indian Ocean.

The actuary and I stayed with him and helped each other with the words we collected on the wind, putting them together to make complete sentences that made sense.

On shore not far from Ataturk the lookout spotted a whale slightly north of Bald Head. Off we went in hot but careful pursuit.

We found her and hers and Tony said it was probably last year’s calf.

With the weather refusing to improve the support crew refused to be intimidated and clambered around the deck with Anzac biscuits and scones.

The actuary and I screamed: Whale ahoy! Four of the beauties.

Tony pulled the boat around and we were treated to a marvellous display of hump back gymnastics. Whales were leaping out of the water, twisting, turning, flapping their great tails.

People struggled on deck, laughing, screaming, cheering. The rain pelted, the ocean washed on board and drenched most of us, including me and my mobile phone which never worked again.

We stared in awe as the great mammals calmed, then swam around us, checking us out to decide if we were friend or foe, then heading off for the Indian Ocean while we headed back to Princess Royal Harbour.

What a day. It’s a tradition for me now. Every year I go twice, once for the hump backs and once for the southern rights.

As I said goodbye to the actuary and his friends, I said: You wait, tomorrow the weather will be glorious. And it was.