GreenPower: keep it real

Consumers shouldn't pay more to pollute less so big business can pay less to pollute more.
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  • Updated:10 Mar 2009

05.Campaign news and updates


23rd October 2009

GreenPower: Keep It Real - Just One Month to Go to be Heard

With less that one month until the government votes for a second time on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, it is more important than ever to let your elected members know your concerns on GreenPower and voluntary action!

Thanks to your efforts, this issue is hotting up! Your concerns on GreenPower and voluntary action have been recognised by all major parties and many Australian citizens and businesses.

Both the Greens and the Liberal Party support consumers being able to take action voluntarily, and for that action to be considered over and above the mandatory requirements of the CPRS. And they are not the only ones, state and local government, non-government organisations and industry associations also want voluntary actions to be recognised.

Now we just need the Labor Government to better reflect your concerns in their legislation. At the moment they are still only recognising new sales of GreenPower (using 2009 sales levels as a baseline) and no other voluntary actions. But we want all your actions to count.

We’re partnering to make sure your actions count
To make this happen, CHOICE with Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia, Total Environment Centre, Alternative Technology Association, Environment Victoria, and Moreland Foundation recently created a coalition of organisations dedicated to ensuring that your voluntary actions are accounted for.

We are calling on the federal government to amend the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to:
• Establish a voluntary market mechanism within which accredited, verifiable emission reduction activities that are additional to the CPRS can be registered;
• Extinguish a carbon pollution permit under the CPRS within 12 months for each measurable and verified unit of voluntary action undertaken in covered sectors in Australia;
• Extinguish Kyoto Units equivalent to the measurable and verified voluntary action undertaken in Australia within 12 months, ensuring that aggregate greenhouse emissions in Australia are actually reduced;
• Remove the 2009 baseline and accredit all GreenPower purchases in such a voluntary market, as additional to the mandatory CPRS and Kyoto targets; and
• Incorporate other voluntary actions including carbon offsets, installation of small scale renewable generation units and energy efficiency programs into this voluntary market.

What you can do
We are continuing to take your concerns to the highest levels, but we need your help. Your continued backing sends a persistent message to the government on just how important this issue is to you.

• See our collaboration on voluntary action – CHOICE with the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia, Total Environmental Centre and others are working together to press government to lead on this issue.
• Tell your friends and family about the challenge of GreenPower and voluntary action. Ask them to sign the campaign. The government are starting to think that your voluntary action is a non-issue, lets show them that its not!
• Write a letter to your local member and tell them about your concerns – they will vote on it later this year in parliament, so now is the time to say something.
• Listen to our podcast on GreenPower at CHOICE Radio – then send it to your friends.
• Read our editorial on GreenPower in The Punch – then send it to your friends, and/or make a comment.



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9th October 2009

Read our media release Consumers robbed of GreenPower

22nd September 2009

Government consults on GreenPower and voluntary action

In June 2009 the Department of Climate Change held workshops around Australia to discuss how voluntary actions might be accounted for under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The workshops, held in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were attended by experts and community members alike.

We were delighted that several CHOICE members volunteered their time to join us in attending the workshops. Their participation was critical to consumers having a voice at the workshops. The feedback that we’ve received has provided CHOICE with valuable insights into consumers’ views of voluntary action.

The government highlighted the different types of voluntary action that they will consider taking into account:
• GreenPower, above 2009 levels
• the construction or renovation of houses to a star-rating above the minimum required;
• the use of public transport and the expansion of public transport services;
• the uptake of more energy efficient appliances beyond regulated levels; and
• the overall fuel efficiency of the passenger vehicle fleet.

Other ideas generated at the meeting included accounting for:
• behavioural changes like walking to work or eating less red meat;
• household waste reductions;
• small scale renewable energy generation;
• purchase of low-emissions vehicles beyond price signals;
• public transport patronage; and
• telecommuting.

The workshop also discussed measuring voluntary action at a macro level or bottom-up approach:
o a ‘bottom-up approach’ in which individual voluntary actions by households are summed to produce an estimate of total emission reductions from voluntary action; and
o a ‘macro-level approach’ in which total household emissions are compared against a projected benchmark. The difference between actual measured emissions and the projected benchmark is considered to be the level of voluntary action.

The conclusion being that each had its own benefits and challenges and that a mixed approach would be best with different measures being appropriate for different types activities.

Despite some successes at the workshop, CHOICE was concerned that the government was unwilling to discuss their position on GreenPower. This was a particularly important subject given there had been no community consultation for the decision. Debate ensued none the less, highlighting the significance of the government’s decision to put in place as 2009 baseline on GreenPower, and to account for it in the caps only after a five year delay.

CHOICE continues to call on the government to:
a) remove the 2009 baseline and instead account for all GreenPower purchases as additional to the mandatory target;
b) clearly define voluntary actions and the activities that will be considered under this definition for the purpose of counting them as additional to the mandatory emissions reductions target;
c) require that voluntary actions result in the abatement of greenhouse gases additional to mandatory emissions reduction targets;
d) retire a CPRS Permit and an Assigned Amount Unit (AAU) for every tonne of abatement from voluntary action;
e) require that voluntary action is accounted for over and above the 2020 end point target; and
f) develop complementary measures which describe the process by which voluntary actions will be accounted for and reported upon. And set a realistic timeframe for measuring emissions saved through voluntary action. An annual reporting timeframe is proposed as it would to inspire consumers and business to take even more voluntary action.

31st July 2009

Operator: Give me the dirtiest electricity you’ve got!
by Victoria Coleman
Editorial published in the Punch 5th August 2009

I recently rang my electricity company to discuss GreenPower. I knew I wanted 100% GreenPower but I didn’t want it now. I wanted it in January 2010. Right now, I want to do my bit to keep the government’s 2009 GreenPower baseline as low as possible – so my efforts towards emissions reductions really count.

‘Give me the dirtiest coal electricity you have,’ I said to the operator.

I explained that under the government’s proposed emissions trading scheme, me paying extra for GreenPower wouldn’t actually reduce Australia’s carbon emissions – beyond what would happen if I didn’t take any action at all.

But it would from 2010 - so I didn’t want to buy it until then.

The operator replied tersely, ‘Victoria, I can guarantee that our GreenPower is fully accredited and it does reduce Australia’s carbon emissions.’

The call left me with 100% dirty electricity and lingering questions over why GreenPower energy retailers were still guaranteeing emissions reductions even when they weren’t able to demonstrate it.

We all cheered when Kevin Rudd committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on 3rd December 2007, but implications of ratification means that any current action taken voluntarily by consumers or business to reduce carbon emissions - like purchasing GreenPower - is in vain.

Last year the ACCC released new guidelines - Carbon Claims and the Trade Practices Act – in response to a proliferation of misleading carbon claims. The guidelines state that misleading carbon claim occurs when an energy retailer can not demonstrate that the emissions reduction is ‘additional’ to what would normally happen, or ‘business-as-usual’.

By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the government guaranteed Australia would achieve a 108% emissions reduction target on 1990 levels by 2012. If we fail to meet this target domestically, the government will purchase additional credits internationally. Either way – we will achieve 108%. This essentially means that all present voluntary action, like GreenPower, is accounted for as ‘business-as-usual’.

The government has tried to overcome this by making GreenPower additional to emission reduction targets under the CPRS using 2009 GreenPower sales as the baseline. But what about the 984,024 GreenPower customers that already pay a premium for GreenPower, without receiving any personal benefit other than knowing they are supporting renewable energy and thinking that they are reducing Australia’s greenhouse emissions?

Since we committed to ratifying the protocol over 18 months ago, GreenPower, a government-accredited program guaranteeing renewable energy, has done remarkably well. It has increased its customer base by 243,144 customers, or a third – not bad for tough times. But are GreenPower retailers really being honest with their customers?

I suspect the government-run GreenPower has known about this misleading carbon claim issue for a while but only this week have they contacted the retailers of GreenPower products to advise of a new communications strategy, the language of which is designed to keep you guessing:

The tag line:
GreenPower. A simple switch for you, significant results for our environment.

Has been replaced with:
GreenPower. A simple switch for you, renewable energy for our future.

You will continue to support renewable energy, but you will no longer achieve positive changes for the environment…

The tag line:
GreenPower. You have the power to make a real difference.

Has been replaced with:
GreenPower. You have the power to choose.

You will no longer make a difference, but you will have a choice to not make a difference…

And energy retailers have been struggling to get their marketing pitch right. Many GreenPower retailers are misleading hundreds of thousands of households and that’s not okay, so far as CHOICE is concerned.

Of course all this tricky marketing-speak would be irrelevant if the federal government were to remove its ridiculous 2009 baseline and made sure that every current and future GreenPower purchase is additional to Australia’s mandatory emissions reduction target – which is exactly what nearly a million households want when they choose GreenPower

7th May 2009

Climate changes leaves GreenPower Consumers in the dark

The government has responded to your calls on voluntary actions, but it isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.

This week the government announced amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that included making 'GreenPower' additional to the mandatory target. This is an important win!

The government will calculate new GreenPower purchases annually and take these into account in setting Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme caps every five years. The government has guaranteed that this will achieve emissions reductions beyond Australia's national mandatory targets.

But like all good wins, there is a catch. Under the government’s changes GreenPower consumption levels in 2009 will be set as the baseline for futures measures. It is only any measure above that amount – or new sales – that will count.

In 2008, GreenPower provided over 1.8 million megawatt hours per annum to over 877,000 households and 34,000 businesses. Under the government proposal all 1.8 million MWh generated each year through GreenPower simply won’t count as additional to the mandatory target.

This means that for consumers, like you, who already purchase GreenPower, the actions you’ve already taken to reduce your carbon footprint won't be included in these measures, and won't serve to reduce Australia's emissions beyond the mandatory target.

We think this is unacceptable. This clever accounting amounts to nothing more than smoke and mirrors. All GreenPower purchases should count!

And it doesn't finish there; in April the Senate's Economics Committee review of the government's climate change bill agreed that 'voluntary action' broadly should be accounted for above mandatory targets. However, this week’s announcement only takes GreenPower into consideration and ignores all the other voluntary efforts that consumers are taking such as installing solar panels, switching light globes or purchasing fuel efficient cars.

We know that all consumers want to be assured that their individual actions count. CHOICE will continue to talk to government on the behalf of all consumers that have already taken steps and want to be able to take more steps to the future to reduce their own and Australia's carbon emissions.

What we want:
a) remove the 2009 baseline and instead account for all GreenPower purchases as additional to the mandatory target
b) ensure that voluntary actions result in the abatement of greenhouse gases additional to mandatory emissions reduction targets
c) retire a CPRS Permit and an Assigned Amount Unit (AAU) for every tonne of abatement from voluntary action
d) ensure that voluntary action is accounted for over and above the 2020 end point target

The legislation has not yet passed, and we will continue to lobby for changes. Keep taking action to reduce your emissions.

What you can do:
Email to Minister Wong
Learn more about other changes to the CPRS