The History of BREAZE

BREAZE History, Progress and Achievements

Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions (BREAZE) is a non-profit grassroots organisation, which has come about because members of the Ballarat community want to demonstrate that individual and community-based actions can make a difference in our response to climate change.

BREAZE was officially formed during a public forum in December 2006 when 40 people signed up to become members. After just 12 months, interest in BREAZE and its activities has grown to the extent membership and the email distribution list are numerically very strong. The beginnings of BREAZE as a grassroots organisation underpin its emphasis on engaging and supporting the Ballarat community, implementing actions and working with partners. We also advocate government policies that embrace climate change, while not aligning ourselves with any political party.

Over time, BREAZE hopes to become a trusted and authoritative voice for the Ballarat community on all climate change issues. This position will be re-enforced by BREAZE actively helping the community embrace carbon neutral and sustainable lifestyles.

If you are concerned about climate change and would like to take local action to respond to it, then join BREAZE. We’d love to have you with us!

Policy Documents:

pdfStatement of purpose V3 2-06-09.pdf62.02 KB20/05/2017, 01:44

2010 - pdfBREAZE Incorporation Rules V.4.0 2010-11-15.pdf1.49 MB20/05/2017, 01:44

2015 - pdfBREAZE Incorporation Rules V.5.0 - 2015-11-18.pdf1.00 MB20/05/2017, 01:44

“What we have achieved has left us overwhelmed and overjoyed.  The response from the community is that they are clearly eager to do something about climate change.”
Graeme Drysdale, inaugural BREAZE Committee

Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions (BREAZE) is a non-profit community organisation, established because members of the Ballarat community wanted to demonstrate that individual and community-based actions could make a difference in our response to climate change.

The Beginning

BREAZE began at the 2006 ‘Walk against Warming’ that was attended by about 175 people. As inaugural president Nick Lanyon remembers, “It seemed a shame that so many people had come together on the day seeking to take some action, only to find that there was no local group to focus their desires to do something positive and practical about the climate crisis that they had all gathered to hear about.

“Faced with the likely dissipation of this community energy and goodwill, and in the absence of any organising group, the microphone was commandeered in a somewhat ad hoc manner and people who were interested in forming a local group, dedicated to taking community-based action on climate change were asked to gather around at the end of proceedings. Many did and thus, BREAZE was born.”

This event was closely followed with Nick setting up a rickety card table with a homemade sign in a corner of the ‘Sustainability Tent’ at the ‘Springfest’ festival held in December 2006 around what used to be a water-filled Lake Wendouree. Interested members of the public were pointed to a public meeting held at Ballarat Grammar where after hearing inspirational talks on the subject of community climate change groups by Terry White (CVGA), Bronwen Machin (MASG) and Per Bernard (HREA), 40 people pledged to become members of a new Community Climate Change action group and provided the basis of the first BREAZE committee. The working title for the group was the fairly uninspiring (and fairly unpronounceable) acronym ‘BREIG’ (Ballarat Renewable Energy Interest Group).

Inspired by the local focus of Daylesford’s ‘Hepburn Renewable Energy Association’ (HREA) and Castlemaine’s ‘Mount Alexander Sustainability Group’ (MASG), BREAZE began with the aim of ‘taking responsibility for our own patch of the planet’. Faced with the seemingly overwhelming and global scale of an ever-heating world, it was felt that helping ordinary people address emissions reduction by exerting practical control over their own domestic situation was a critical first step in providing a sense of hope and a way of gaining community credibility. With so much talk about climate change, it was important to give people at the local level a way of taking practical action and thus provide an antidote to hand wringing and hopelessness.

From this solid base, it was hoped that larger ambitions would be achieved. After the appointment of an interim steering committee, the organisation was incorporated in February 2007 with a new name, new logo, inaugural Committee, association rules, statement of purpose prepared, subscriptions agreed and a website.
Within two years BREAZE had over 600 financial members and more than 1,100 people signed up to receive the BREAZE e-newsletter.

The beginnings of BREAZE as a grassroots organisation underpin its emphasis on engaging and supporting the Ballarat community, implementing actions, working with partners and advocating government policies that embrace climate change. Renewable energy and a community wind farm were at the heart of the organisation’s vision, although in its first two years, the focus has been on solar energy and finding affordable emissions reductions solutions for members.

Over time, BREAZE has become a trusted and authoritative voice for the Ballarat community on all climate change issues. This position has been reinforced by BREAZE actively helping the community embrace carbon neutrality and sustainable lifestyles.

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How things really got going
In February 2007 the new BREAZE committee organised a forum featuring guest speaker John Seed (Australian Environmentalist and director of the Rainforest Information Centre) and showed segments of the Al Gore film. This event illustrated the need for an organised approach to taking local action against climate change.
This led to the Big BREAZE Brainstorm on 21 April 2007
“I have never seen an issue like this (climate change) fire-up the way it has in Ballarat.” Steve Burns, inaugural BREAZE Committee member.

The BREAZE Committee was clear that political non-partisanship was the only policy that would allow the entire community to feel empowered. Climate change solutions need a broad-spectrum ‘whole of society’ response and BREAZE needed to engage with politically divergent members of the community and our politicians. This policy has been a critical ingredient in BREAZE’s success as it has received wide acceptance from businesses, the media and ordinary citizens from all sides of the political spectrum.

Success for the group was identified as being able to provide practical and easy solutions that people could easily adopt to do their part for the environment. During the early stages it was commented that BREAZE ‘punched beyond its weight’ that the organisation projected an image of being bigger, more organised and more influential than what it really was. The comment was probably a reflection of the image that BREAZE projected through its consistent and clever use of graphic design, clear climate policy and systematic use of the media - and this was important to establishing a presence and credibility.

The Committee

The instigator (Nick Lanyon) of what evolved into BREAZE naturally became the President, and around him gathered a dozen other individuals who brought relevant skills to the table:

  • Sustainability - a sustainability teacher, sustainability officer, sustainability researcher and planner
  • Practical experience - an electrician with experience in renewable energy installations, others with management and planning, IT management and graphic design skills.
  • Experience in operating community organisations, in campaigning and advocacy

The inaugural committee:
Sophie Akers, Joe Boin, Jim Brown, Steve Burns, Graeme Drysdale, Edith Fry, Michele Harvie, Nick Lanyon, Anna Lohse, Melissa Pirie, Melanie Woolcock and Michael Weadon.
It was these people, all focussed on contributing to the establishment of BREAZE and being able to implement practical solutions at a local level, who provided a strong and stable platform for growth.
What is clear is that there were no issues of ego or personality clashes, whether by chance or design and this was a group of people united in their determination to contribute to tackling climate change in and around Ballarat.
A central ethos within BREAZE is the commitment to work cooperatively and constructively across all facets of community to achieve sustainable outcomes.

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BREAZE has maintained its intent to provide opinion and information supported by evidence, backed up with facts. This has assisted the organisation in developing credibility, and helped to attract a wide membership base, including many ‘influencers’ in the community.

BREAZE has maintained a non-aligned, non-political stance, although not afraid to speak out - further enhancing its credibility and influence. Future challenges include membership ‘churn’ and continuing to make membership worthwhile, after members have utilised bulk buy discounts etc.

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A Catchy Name – BREAZE – has caught people’s attention. Graeme Drysdale came up with the acronym whilst lying awake at night. BREAZE rolls off the tongue, is easy to remember, and has proven to be very ‘media friendly’ in the scope for sub-editorial punning (‘A fresh BREAZE in Ballarat’, ‘Climate action is simply a BREAZE’ etc).

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One of the early developments was recognition that BREAZE needed a strong brand and image. It helped that there was a graphic designer on the inaugural committee. Melanie Woolcock volunteered her time to develop a logo and branding for BREAZE and this has ensured recognition, consistency in quality and presentation.

BREAZE was founded on an active membership and on day one BREAZE had volunteers offering to put up a website. This meant that from the start there was a communications hub, a hub that is currently (2008-09) going through another upgrade to better meet the needs of BREAZE members and the broader community.

Media Relations

It is imperative to meet with local editors, journalists and presenters for local media outlets. BREAZE did this early in its establishment and has strong relationships in place, including the Earth Matters partnership with the Ballarat Courier and University of Ballarat, and regular contributions to ABC Regional Radio. These strong relationships with the media are crucial and are highly valued by the organisation.

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Establishing a structure for the organisation

Objective
The principal objective of the association is to protect and enhance the natural environment and increase environmental sustainability within the region by promoting and developing renewable sources of energy and significantly reducing the region's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

BREAZE seeks to achieve its objective by:

  • focusing on climate change and the need to initially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately restore atmospheric balance
  • involving community, including businesses and other organisations, in energy sustainability programs and helping them make changes in their ‘own back yard’
  • operating education and awareness programs, including community capacity building programsconducting research and development into ways in which our society can become more energy sustainable
  • networking with, and, where appropriate, supporting local, national and international organisations with similar objectives
  • supporting sustainable locally-based businesses
  • working with the media to promote sustainability and sustainable energy practices
  • conducting advocacy on the energy-related public policy issues (e.g. built environment, transport, urban form) and
  • establishing a public fund called the BREAZE Renewable Energy Public Fund

BREAZE is an organic organisation. It needs to continue to be flexible and responsive to what the community needs and to harness the passion of its members. Most activities are carried out through Action Groups, made up of volunteers with special interests. For BREAZE, it is crucial that it is seen to be doing, not talking, and as a result members will become involved.

Policies, Protocols, Policies & Planning

Policies and processes
The structure and operating procedures of BREAZE Action Groups is primarily at the discretion of each Action Group, but BREAZE is developing guidelines to support these groups and asks for certain protocols to be followed.
The priorities are for each group to establish mechanisms that permit it to operate as part of BREAZE, and to work towards attaining the goals and objectives articulated by the members of each respective Action Group, as well as complying with the BREAZE Strategic Plan.
Action Groups are asked to:

  • Operate within the boundaries of the BREAZE Mission
  • Nominate a chair and note taker
  • Develop their own objectives
  • Complete a report/minutes after each meeting and forward on to the delegated BREAZE Committee member for each Action Group
  • Implement projects only when approved by the BREAZE committee or delegate committee member
  • Inform relevant sub committees of specific support needed or opportunities identified
  • Encourage new Action group membership
  • Remain non-partisan, non-discriminatory
  • Be aware of the responsibility of communicating BREAZE and its achievements
Protocols and Policies

Protocols and policies were not the highest priority when the organisation was established.
Requirements for incorporation as an association, tax status and establishing a constitution were all met in the first few months of the organisation, using Consumer Affairs Victoria templates where applicable.
This was followed with the development of protocols with the specific purpose of preserving the reputation and independence of the group. When acting in an official capacity as a representative of BREAZE these protocols must be observed, they include:

  • Protocol for Political Engagement
  • Policy on Localisation

In more recent months, as BREAZE has grown and taken on bulk buy projects, it has sought grants and philanthropic funding, and addressed the need for support staff. Policies and procedures including for business engagement, human resource management and volunteer support have been (or are being) developed.
Also, as the bulk buying schemes have moved in-house, significant effort has been required to establish and implement policies for insurance and financial management.

Strategic Planning
BREAZE’s original strategic plan was prepared in 2008 and updated following a facilitated workshop to establish directions and objectives. In 2009 BREAZE has reviewed and rewritten its strategic plan into a very concise and accessible document (will be available on the website). Each Action Group and the Committee will use this document to prepare an action plan for the next three years.

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Committee and Staff


The committee meets monthly and guides policy and directions for the group and where possible, individual committee members are linked to action groups or areas of activity. Recognising the need to provide administration and operations support, in 2008-2009 BREAZE has begun the transition to having paid employees.
In late 2008 BREAZE employed a part-time executive officer and began the process of engaging a volunteer coordinator. By May 2009 BREAZE had part time employees:

  • Executive Officer (3 days)
  • Volunteer and Member Support Coordinator (2 days)

Other project-based employees work on the organisation’s solar bulk buy programs, Solar in Schools program and the Climate of Change project.

Active Members
One of the major activities of the Big BREAZE Brainstorm, held in April 2007 was to have participants gather into groups designed to appeal to their specific interests and to formulate targets and strategies designed with Ballarat in mind. Prior to the event an online consultation helped to select key areas of interest.

These groups became what were called CompAction Groups (CompAction’ stands for ‘COMmitted COMmunity People for Action) and have facilitated a broader participation amongst members. In more recent times BREAZE has adopted the simpler ‘Action Groups’ to avoid any misunderstanding of the meaning. The benefit of these groups has been that individuals can participate at a level at which they are comfortable with, be involved in establishing achievable goals (without the administrative complexities of being on the committee), and attaining those goals.

Action Groups are comprised of BREAZE volunteers who have a passion about a particular area of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, be it sustainable home design, local food production, large scale renewable energy provision, government policy or otherwise. The groups meet regularly to organise events and discuss practical ways in which BREAZE can act to increase the efficiency of our energy use, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, increase our use of renewable energy and generally live in ways that are more sustainable. The inaugural action groups were:

Retro-Fitting and Renewable Energy BREAZE aims to actively build the skills and capacity of residents to adopt sustainable principles into their lifestyles. To achieve this BREAZE will create projects that explain the need for such lifestyle changes and make it easier for residents to make a transition to more sustainable practices, including retrofitting for energy reduction and efficiency. BREAZE will also undertake to implement community-owned renewable energy projects and encourage residents of the Ballarat region to adopt micro-generation at the household level.

Community Engagement The 2020 vision for BREAZE is a Ballarat where every resident, business and industry has been contacted and is aware of and is incorporating the basic elements of sustainable living into their lifestyles. To achieve this vision, BREAZE will aim to increase the awareness and understanding of climate change among Ballarat residents.

Engaging Government The 2020 vision for BREAZE is a Ballarat that is carbon neutral and sustainable in economic, social and environmental dimensions. To achieve this vision an option for BREAZE is to engage and partner with all levels of government on sustainable development issues/projects.

Local Food Production The 2020 vision for BREAZE is a Ballarat that has a secure food supply and is producing 80% of its own food and reducing the emissions based transport miles of Ballarat-imported foods. To achieve this vision, BREAZE aims to encourage local food production and encourage residents to purchase locally produced food.

Activities and achievements

Events
A series of community events help to provide a vehicle for engaging with the community and raising the profile of issues through the media. Events enable members and the community to congregate, connect and contribute, and an opportunity to boost membership.

An early event was the Ballarat Climate Change Forum in December 2006. At the forum - Climate Change – Despair and empowerment, John Seed (Australian Environmentalist and director of the Rainforest Information Centre) spoke and there was a discussion of how the people of Ballarat could own and be responsible for emissions reduction in the region and generating the power they use. It gave real impetus to people to become involved.
At this meeting Nick Lanyon asked the audience who had a solar hot water system – with six hands being raised. He then asked who would like one and almost the entire audience raised a hand. Thus began the BREAZE bulk buy program.

The event that launched BREAZE to the wider public was the Big BREAZE Brainstorm. The event had a gestation period of months and a professional facilitator (Brett MacDonald) volunteered to assist in the management, planning and delivery of the event. This event provided an opportunity for people to discuss ideas and suggest ways they could become involved in local action against climate change.

Soon after, BREAZE was approached by the Australian Conservation Foundation to organise the local end of their ‘Green Homes’ program, a series of six evenings where participants are taken through introductory information about climate change and how to reduce their personal GHG emissions. Approximately 90 people attended each session. The workshops were aimed specifically at those in the community who are at the start of the climate change learning curve. Due to the success of these workshops, a second series was held in 2008.

One event that attracted media interest was the Ballarat region’s Climate Change Forum in April 2008, attended by nearly 500 people. Podcasts of the addresses delivered by the four speakers are available on the local ABC radio website. Another forum was held by the Community Engagement Action Group on 8 August 2009.
The Climate Change Forum was an absolute turning point for BREAZE. With a large attendance and a range of eminent speakers, BREAZE was taken seriously by Ballarat.

The Community Engagement Action Group is also behind the Bi-Monthly presentations launched in 2009. These presentations are open to members and the public and address relevant and current issues. These early events clearly brought people on board and attracted media interest. At an interest group level, the Pot Luck dinners are one means for the Food Action Group staying active and in touch. Each month they invited fellow BREAZErs for a convivial evening of food, beverages and friendship. They bring along a main dish, dessert or wine to share and are working towards a 100% local food and wine at the March 2009 dinner.

Bi-monthly community forums have brought members and friends together to discuss a particular issue or interest. Other forums have brought speakers and guests to Ballarat such as Helen Caldicott and Dr Mark Diesendorf from the University of NSW to speak about the transition of Australia’s fossil fuel dependent society into one powered by renewable resources.

BREAZErs have also joined in with national community activities such as the Walk against Warming, Clean up Australia Day, Ride to Work, World Environment Day and Earth Hour. In 2008 the Food Action Group introduced a prize for the best home-grown organic vegetables at the Ballarat Show. The group was also behind the establishment of a Permaculture Design Course over 2009/10. BREAZE is also represented at Ballarat’s fortnightly Farmers Market and other community events.

Online

The BREAZE website is a comprehensive source for information. It has undergone a major upgrade to enable subscription newsletters and member database management.
BREAZE has also established online forums for members through the website to enable members to share thoughts and ideas, and swap and sell.

Media: Earth Matters
In October 2007 BREAZE negotiated a partnership with the Ballarat Courier to provide a monthly Earth Matters article. Often prepared by a BREAZE representative, these articles are up to half a page in size and cover very practical sustainability issues such as transport, insulation, and helping householders cut electricity and water consumption.
The Earth Matters partnership has expanded and now includes the University of Ballarat.

Submissions and engaging government
BREAZE has submitted 13 comprehensive submissions and lobby letters on a range of topics to a range of organisations including the City of Ballarat, Victorian Government and Federal Government.
Topics include:
-    Feed in Tariff for Renewable energy
-    Solar photovoltaic rebates
-    Australia 2020 Summit
-    Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper

Courses
BREAZE has organised a range of courses and sessions ranging from a few hours for insulation, weekend for introduction to vegetable growing, through to a 12 month Certificate III permaculture course for 2009/10.

Advocacy and lobbying
Behind the scenes the committee and action groups have been active in meeting local politicians, council representatives and other interested parties in the local community to raise matters of concerns or to direct policy.
During Council elections in 2008 BREAZE asked all candidates to answer a series of questions relating to their attitudes to carbon emissions, sustainable housing and leadership on climate change. Their responses were provided on the BREAZE website. Within four days of receiving the email from BREAZE 15 candidates had responded.

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Food Coop – BREAZE Local
The Local Food Action Group is now moving to implement a food cooperative outlet supplying food and products with a low-emissions footprint in Ballarat. A survey has been completed and BREAZE is compiling the information about the type of food members would like to buy and how it would suit them to buy it. It's possible BREAZE may even branch out into sustainable non-food items if there is member interest.

Getting a Deal Happening – Solar photovoltaic electricity and Solar hot water
There was, and still is, an ethos in BREAZE that if you can make sustainability more affordable more people will install the necessary appliances required to reduce their carbon footprint.

Following interest at the first BREAZE Climate Change Forum BREAZE gave members the opportunity to purchase Solar Hot Water Services at 15% off the recommended retail price. An important factor in this offer was that there was previously no local distributor for the particular unit on offer. BREAZE facilitated the installation of almost 120 of these units in less than 12 months and interest continues.

In 2008 BREAZE launched a program that allowed members to install solar hot water systems for the cost of installation, that is - the unit was at no cost. (See Solar Hot Water Initiative for the lates costs.)

Another bulk-purchase scheme that has attracted an overwhelming response has been the photovoltaic solar panels offer. This scheme has generated considerable interest, and got panels on roofs. BREAZE helped to facilitate over 200 Federal SCHP Rebate Pre-approval applications and with demand has now implemented its own bulk purchase PV systems. However, changes to the Federal Government rebate, currency fluctuations and the economic downturn have slowed the scheme. People want to install solar, but cost is their major consideration.

These schemes have certainly attracted members and established for BREAZE a reputation of being more than a lobby group. BREAZE is actually doing something about sustainability. The challenge will be to ensure continued member satisfaction through a range of member benefits.

Strategic alliances
BREAZE has established links, and in some cases partnerships, with a number of other agencies and organisations, including other climate action groups, local governments, peak environment and climate action groups, educational institutions, projects and local businesses.

The list continues to grow with alliances now established with the Ballarat Courier newspaper and the University of Ballarat for the regular Earth Matters feature.

A Climate of Change
In August 2008 BREAZE and its project partners were successful in achieving funding for a 12-month project – ‘Evaluating BREAZE and Creating Effective Community Action for a Sustainable Future’. The project is supported by the Victorian Government Sustainability Fund and managed by Sustainability Victoria.

The Challenges

As BREAZE has grown and appointed part time staff, it is important to maintain strong connectivity between all parts of the organisation and to remain strongly connected to our original community and volunteer base. With a more defined organisational structure, in response to increasing demands and the need to manage large projects and bulk-buy schemes, special effort needs to be made to ensure that members do not lose contact and involvement with the organisation they helped to establish. This is a real and valid issue for BREAZE and other growing groups to manage.

The Committee has been proactive in dealing with any issues as they arise, establishing a Human Resources sub committee to assist with staff and volunteer policy setting and staff selection.

Maintaining communication is crucial to engagement with members and volunteers, and BREAZE has a regular e-newsletter to help as well as a revamped website. More recently BREAZE has begun to hold volunteer celebrations to recognise the efforts of both volunteers and paid staff.  Our Volunteer Support Coordinator is crucial in ensuring that our members and volunteers are well supported and engaged in all aspects of our operations.

Groups also need to consider turn over in membership. Members join BREAZE for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to join bulk buying schemes. When their solar cells or solar hot water units are installed, the initial drive for joining has passed and BREAZE must look at ways to maintain interest and retain members. It is important to have an ongoing program of practical and interesting events and workshops.

An ongoing challenge is financial viability of the organisation.  BREAZE has focussed on some income generating activities, such as solar PVs and Solar Hot Water, as well as general fundraising and grants.  Continuing to explore alternative "social enterprise" activities that are in line with our objectives will be crucial to our financial viability.

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