Big energy users agree to switch off in peaks

ELECTRICITY demand will be cut by the amount of power needed for 50,000 airconditioners on the hottest days this summer under a deal between NSW transmission network operator TransGrid and big energy users like manufacturers, universities and data centres.
Nanjing Night Net

The deal – a forerunner of the kind of demand management arrangements recommended in a Senate report to be tabled on Thursday this week – means the big users are paid to switch off an agreed quantity of power for an agreed period of time on days when electricity demand peaks.

It was brokered by demand side response company EnerNOC, which aggregates and guarantees the demand reduction, and will help cut the huge peaks in demand that occur for fewer than 40 hours a year but require infrastructure spending that accounts for about 25 per cent of household power bills.

It could pave the way for similar deals with businesses and even households if smart meters are rolled out nationwide.

Smart meters collect more information about electricity use than ordinary meters. They can also send and receive information and remotely control electricity use, such as a proposal in a Senate report that households agree to savings by letting power companies shut down their appliances during peak periods of demand.

Iain MacGill, an electrical engineer and director of the University of NSW centre for energy and environmental markets, said the state government must ”bite the bullet” and commit to a potentially costly roll-out of smart meters to manage NSW’s electricity.

The Senate report, which will form the basis of the federal government’s package of power price reforms to be put to the states in December, proposed a national roll-out of smart meters.

Only about 20,000 NSW homes have the meters, compared with 1.3 million in Victoria, where the government aims to put them in every home by the end of next year.

As revealed by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, the Senate report into electricity pricing will recommend accreditation for demand side management companies, as well as a shift to ”cost reflective pricing” – allowing consumers to avoid the expensive peaks.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Purler of a yarn on how women kept troops in comfortable socks

Duty calls … Janet Burningham inspects a sock knitted using a pattern probably similar to that used by the women below during WWI.HERE is a story from the days when love meant a clean, warm pair of knitted socks.
Nanjing Night Net

Nobody knows how many grey wool socks Australian women knitted for the boys at the front during World War 1, but volunteer Janet Burningham of Heathcote can tell you exactly how long it takes to knit a pair.

Using a rare and annotated grey sock pattern, it took two weeks (squeezed in while catching the train or watching television) and about $20 worth of Patons’ 8-ply grey wool for Ms Burningham to reproduce the seamless socks. (Each sock would take about a day to knit without life interfering.)

Ms Burningham, a member of knitting group Wrap with Love, used a pattern that belonged to Irene Read, a keen knitter for the war effort nearly 100 years ago. About the size of today’s iPhone, ”The Grey Sock” kit is small enough to slip into a woman’s handbag. Its instructions were meant to be followed exactly to ensure the woollen hosiery was comfortable and warm.

Two copies of the pattern, one with handwritten reminders presumably learnt over repeated knittings, were found in a bequest to the State Library of NSW by descendants of Mrs Read, who accompanied her husband to Egypt in 1915 where Dr Read cared for the first Anzacs wounded at Gallipoli.

According to the library’s war specialist, Elise Edmonds, the grey sock is a symbol of how women on the home front contributed to the war effort. ”The First World War activated knitting needles across the country as women and girls mobilised their skills to support soldiers overseas,” she said.

In much the same way as today’s Wrap with Love volunteers meet to knit woollen blankets to send overseas, women during WWI would meet to knit socks for the troops overseas.

The troops never had enough socks because the wool rotted in the wet, muddy trenches. When socks went bad, so did feet, causing trench foot, which caused feet to swell, smell and rot. Corporal Archie A.Barwick wrote in the trenches of Ypres, Belgium, that he had not ”been dry since leaving Fricourt Camp some time ago” and his feet ”suffered so”.

Some days later, his platoon of 30 to 60 men received 14 pairs of clean socks, which were ”not enough but better than none at all”.

While today’s knitting patterns are the size of an A4 sheet and leave little to the imagination, Ms Burningham said the original pattern was a little hard to read because it was so small.

Once she got going, it was easy for Ms Burningham, an experienced sock knitter who recalls her mother knitting socks for the World War II effort. By the time Ms Burningham had turned 12, her mother had given her the ”tedious” task of knitting socks for her father.

”He was an army person, and he used to wear long stockings. And it is a long way down from the knee to the heel when you are knitting. [There’s] no interest at all,” she said.

The Grey Sock pattern and other war memorabilia, including a map and a diary, will go on display at the State Library of NSW from November 9, to mark Remembrance Day.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Greens deal opens way for delayed national poker machine reform

CONTROVERSIAL watered down national poker machine reforms are set to be implemented after the Greens agreed to back the Gillard government’s scheme, which will also give the green light for a trial of mandatory precommitment in the ACT.
Nanjing Night Net

After months of negotiation and several offers from the Greens to compromise if $1 bets were accommodated, the reforms will eventually lead to every poker machine in Australia offering punters the option to preset how much they are willing to lose.

The independent Andrew Wilkie has already ”reluctantly” declared support for the bill and lashed the Greens for standing in the way of unprecedented federal poker machine reform. Poker machine regulation is currently the domain of states.

Other key independents, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, have previously said they supported the ideas of the bill, without having actually seen it.

The Greens support should allow the bill to pass the lower house and guarantees it will go through the Senate.

The Greens will continue to campaign for a $1 maximum bet limit as the best way to curb problem gambling on poker machines. The gambling lobby is vehemently opposed to $1 bets.

To secure Greens support, funding has been pledged for a national gambling research institute.

In January the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, reneged on her deal with Mr Wilkie for a national scheme that would force all punters to preset how much they were willing to lose before they started gambling.

Facing a multimillion-dollar campaign from the clubs and pokies industry, particularly in marginal NSW and Queensland seats, the government said it did not have the support of the Parliament to pass the reforms.

Instead, the government offered a national voluntary scheme under which machines would allow punters the option of setting a loss limit. Mr Wilkie reluctantly agreed to back that option, but the government was unable to pass the legislation, with the Coalition and Greens against it.

Under the government’s plan all new machines would also have to be ready for mandatory precommitment, and all machines will have to have the technology by 2016.

If a trial was conclusive then a national network of mandatory precommitment could be activated by a future government.

Under the scheme there would be a national regulator and all pokies within a state would be eventually electronically linked.

The government’s bill also will include a $250 ATM withdrawal limit in poker machine venues where state laws do not already apply withdrawal limits.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

A few more hard knocks

Songs of joy: Jonathan Welch and the Choir of Hope and Inspiration, which grew out of the original Choir of Hard Knocks.JONATHON Welch, the Hard Knocks choirmaster who shone a musical spotlight on the homeless and hopeless five years ago, is visibly pained to speak about it. Fact is, this Australian Local Hero for 2008 has tried to avoid discussing the subject until now in the hope that his tribe of unlikely choristers might eventually get what they regard as their just rewards.
Nanjing Night Net

But no, Welch has come to accept the fact that they are never going to resolve a dispute over the income from the CDs, DVDs and concerts from those glory years of 2007-08. This was the cause of the regrettable split in 2009 that saw musical director Welch and most of his ramshackle band of singers split from the charity organisation that partnered the concept, RecLink.

It was a bitter and regrettable end to what had been an inspiring project. A few choristers, upset at what they saw as an injustice, sought legal advice and even turned on Welch. One claimed his life had been ”ruined” after his name and criminal record appeared with one of the choir’s DVDs.

Welch says he has learnt some lessons from the experience, one being that the name ”Choir of Hard Knocks” was a problem from the start, ”because it was trademarked by the production company, which I didn’t know. I never went into making the TV series thinking it was going to be a huge success.

”Everybody kept saying, ‘this is going to be enormous’, but I just kept thinking: ‘I just want to get on with running the choir’.”

Welch says it was like a ”bushfire behind the scenes” during the break-up. ”There was a lot of money that came in from the concerts, sponsorships, donations – I know that 150,000 copies of the first CD were sold – and the choir members became increasingly upset, wanting to know where the money was and what was happening to it.

”My proposal was to set up the choir independently, with an independent audit of accounts, with RecLink remaining in partnership, but they said no.”

RecLink CEO Adrian Panozzo is adamant that all money raised – including more than $1 million in 2008 – went towards the Hard Knocks singing program. ”We are a registered charity with the Australian Tax Office, so every year of our operations we are required to be publicly audited,” says Panozzo.

”I feel it was more a difference in philosophy. But it was definitely a separation and it was upsetting for our staff and volunteers at the time. RecLink continues to have personal relationships with some of the people. We see them in our daily lives moving around town and a lot of choir members still attend our programs.”

When the dust of conflict eventually settled, Welch and his choir regrouped as the Choir of Hope and Inspiration and now, three years later, the concept that won the hearts of TV viewers across the nation is being reborn, bigger and more ambitious than before.

From a humble office in the arts district of Southbank, Welch and associate David Jones have just launched the School of Hard Knocks Institute, a broad-range educational facility that will teach singing and many other facets of the arts.

”I thought, why just have a choir when you can have an entire school?” says Welch, who this time made sure he registered the new name, cheekily linking it with the ”Hard Knocks” brand.

The school has a range of arts and wellbeing programs including creative writing, drama, and keyboard and drumming tuition. There is even a course in how to play the ukulele entitled ”Ukelear Power”.

In its first three months, the new school has gained the backing of 22 Australian arts, education and welfare organisations, including Mission Australia, Open Family, Brotherhood of St Laurence and Box Hill Institute.

In their role as de facto classrooms, Federation Square, Queen Victoria Market and even the Melbourne Cricket Ground have made space available.

”At the moment the programs are being piloted with many of the participants from our choir program,” says Welch.

”So we probably have about 100 [students] and they range across what you might call the disadvantaged spectrum. So we have five blind members, three guys in wheelchairs who have either had accidents or strokes – we have people with acquired brain injury. Most ranges of mental health, going from bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, you name it.”

Welch says he had been pondering the idea of a school since the TV series screened. Many people had expressed interest in being involved but he wasn’t quite sure how to do it. ”I realised I was only one person, there was only so much I can do, and I had an enormous weight of responsibility on my shoulders with the choir and the demands on me after the documentary.

”I’ve just turned 54, so for me the next 10 years are really important in my working life. What I really want to do is build the capacity of many more people to run the programs.”

Contrary to popular belief, it was not Jonathon Welch who came up with the Choir of Hard Knocks as a TV concept. History credits TV producer Jason Stephens and his company FremantleMedia for that brainwave, although Welch had founded the Sydney Street Choir in New South Wales a decade earlier.

”Jason created the construct,” says Welch, ”and I think it was his wife who came up with the name, Choir of Hard Knocks.”

The idea has given birth to hundreds of choirs being created around the world: a Choir of Warm Socks, a Choir of One Knocker (a group of Brisbane women who have had breast surgery) and even a Choir of Hard Knox at Knox Grammar School in Sydney.

”I got an email the other day from Mackay – there’s a new one up there, Choir of Hidden Names or something. It is a great compliment but I don’t take credit for that and neither should Jason Stephens – that belongs to Pierre Anthian, who created Montreal Homeless Men’s Choir 20 years ago.”

That was where the story began for Welch. The Melbourne-born opera singer was staying with a friend in Canada in 2000 when a blizzard kept them indoors for three days.

”We were reading or watching movies,” recalls Welch. ”My friend had a copy of Reader’s Digest and pointed out an article he thought would interest me. The headline was ‘With a Song In Their Hearts’ and the story was about Montreal Homeless Men’s Choir.”

The article told of the 22 homeless men whom Anthian had formed into a ”ragtag collection” of choristers who had made their debut singing Christmas carols at a Montreal subway station in December 1996.

Their ages ranged from 19 to 68 and they had become the toast of Montreal, Toronto, Paris and New York.

”A light bulb went on,” says Welch. ”There was a picture of them and I could see the joy in their faces. I thought it was a great idea and when I got home to Sydney, I went about forming a Sydney homeless men’s choir.”

Unsure how to start, he had some flyers printed and quickly learnt his first lesson: the word ”homeless” was a no-no.

It might have worked in Montreal but in Sydney the street people were offended.

”I realised I would have to think more carefully about labels,” says Welch. ”Many of the homeless don’t identify themselves that way – they regard the street itself as their home.”

Welch said he eventually met Anthian, the pioneer of the street choir concept. ”Funnily enough,” says Welch, ”they had moved on from singing because they had similar problems to us with the organisation that was auspicing their funds.”

The Sydney Street Choir was officially launched on October 16, 2001, with the help of a variety of welfare agencies. There were 10 potential choristers at the first session, ranging in age from the late teens to early 20s. Welch’s partner, Matt, provided morning and afternoon teas.

They decided to put on a Christmas concert at Paddington Uniting Church with help from singer Marissa Denyer and the audience was boosted by members of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir, of which Welch was a musical director.

The success of the street choir led to an approach from Stephens in Melbourne, where the TV documentary was recorded in conjunction with the ABC and RecLink. It screened over five weeks in 2007.

The choir went on to record two CDs, perform before then-prime minister Kevin Rudd at Parliament House in Canberra, at the Melbourne Town Hall and the Sydney Opera House, a performance that was telecast by the ABC and won a Helpmann Award.

”We’re looking to the future now with the School of Hard Knocks,” says Welch.

He is positive about predictions by governments that in 20 years a quarter of the population will be retired. ”We’ll have all these wonderful professional retired teachers of music and arts and drama who may like to come back and give their services for a day or half a day a week.”

Welch has recently returned from working with choirs in Uganda, where English is widely spoken but in a less than fluent manner. ”However, you can teach them a song. I taught them Absolutely Everybody, that big hit from Vanessa Amorosi, and all of a sudden you had 400 little black faces and 50 white people singing along. Singing just bridges all languages, all cultures and all ages.”

The Choir of Hope and Inspiration still practises weekly and holds regular performances. Twenty of the original 47 members are still with the choir.

”The choir remains a really important stake in the fabric of their social life,” says Welch. ”No one yet has gone on to professional singing but many have gone to part-time work or study. One of them is just this year finishing his masters in psychology. He has a brilliant mind.”

Welch envisages his new Hard Knocks school as being along the lines of the Victorian College of the Arts – down the road from his office. ”This is a college for the disadvantaged,” he says. ”Many of the people involved won’t have had the chance to explore their own creativity or to work with professional artists and teachers. It’s a great gift to be able to pass on skills and give people opportunities.”

Lawrence Money is a senior writer.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Draw puts Hvasstan in the zone – Gelagotis

MANNY GELAGOTIS says Hvasstan has ”the whole package” after drawing gate nine for Saturday’s $1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500 metres) at Flemington.
Nanjing Night Net

Gelagotis, who is stable foreman for his brother Peter at Moe, went to Wednesday’s barrier draw worried it could ruin the Fastnet Rock colt’s chances in the Derby.

”The barrier was more critical to what I thought about the horse’s chances than anything else,” Gelagotis said. ”Now we have drawn in the middle of the field, it will give Glen [Boss, jockey] options. He should be able to help to find a spot and put him to sleep, it’s one less thing that can go wrong. I couldn’t be happier with that gate.”

The draw has three of the favourites next to each other in the barriers, with $2.70 top pick It’s A Dundeel to Hvasstan’s ($7) immediate outside and Mark Kavanagh’s Super Cool ($7.50) in gate 11.

However, it was Gelagotis who was oozing confidence about the Norman Robinson winner heading towards Saturday.

”We have thought for a while he was one of the two best colts in Melbourne. His lead-up going into the Norman Robinson was excellent but it was there he showed how good he is,” Gelagotis said. ”He had to find a way to win, and I just liked the way the horse picked himself up off the deck there. He showed he had taken a massive step.”

Hvasstan overcame a bumping duel with Kabayan in the straight to drive through the inside and win the Norman Robinson. ”This horse has got the whole package. He has shown he can accelerate off a slow tempo and a fast one as well,” Gelagotis said. ”There are no chinks in his armour, he can quicken, he can stay, and I have no doubt he will run the trip.”

The Derby is likely to be run at a good pace, with Fiveandahalfstar and the Gai Waterhouse-trained Our Desert Warrior likely to push forward and set a solid tempo.

That will suit New Zealand trainer Murray Baker with It’s A Dundeel, which maintained his place at the top of betting even after he was beaten in the Mitchelton Wines Vase by Super Cool as a long odds-on favourite at the weekend.

”We aren’t going to be changing anything. He is going to get back,” Baker said. ”It is a very big field, and we will need to get the right run because there are a lot of horses that just won’t stay and will be out of gas on the turn. That [staying] isn’t a problem for us. He has tightened up a bit from that run last week, and it has really helped him.”

It’s A Dundeel will probably be better suited to the long stretches of Flemington but so will his conqueror at Moonee Valley, Super Cool.

”Before he went to Moonee Valley he was getting back and finishing off, and you would have thought Flemington was going to be the track he was looking for,” trainer Mark Kavanagh said. ”I’m happy enough with the barrier because it looks like it’s going to be a truly run race. It is up to Michael Rodd now, but if he can get him relaxed and settled, we know he has a real turn of foot at the end.”

Honorius ($6.50) firmed after drawing gate two to be $6 second elect in the TAB Sportsbet market.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.