After a welcome sleep-in, there is barely any morning left on this last Sunday of an iconic Aussie Summer. As I drink my coffee on the back deck, the heavy grey clouds over my part of Brisbane are a worrying sight, because I imagine like many people, I’ve got a barbie to get to.

"We have a barbecue and a front lawn and we have friends" - Mark. Credit: Kate Donnelly (supplied to author).

“We have a barbecue and a front lawn and we have friends” – Mark. Credit: Kate Donnelly (supplied to author).

By the time I get to South Brisbane, the clouds have let some sun through and my mate Mark Thompson who is hosting the barbecue with his flatmates does the rounds with a bowl of chips and some sunscreen for the few of us who have turned up on time.

Now I think a large part of what makes Barbecues so popular here in Australia is that it ties in so well with our love of the sun and what makes this particular barbecue so special, along with about 30 others being held today around the country, is that it celebrates of not only our sun but also the 1.5 million solar systems installed in homes all over the Australia that take advantage of our great sun.

The “Summer Solar BBQ” initiative by the 100% Renewable Energy organisation aims to raise awareness in the local community and government on how far solar has come in recent years and this is what Mark is hosting in his front yard and has invited us and all three of his local members of parliament; Local Councillor Helen Abrahams, Jackie Trad (State) and Kevin Rudd (Federal) along to.

Councillor Abrahams rides up on her bicycle and seems genuinely pleased to meet everyone.

As Mark is heavily involved with AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) and EWB (Engineers Without Borders), so many of his guests are from these two groups.

There is also the usual mix of friends of friends and even a couple of neighbours who had shown up after finding a flyer stuffed under their front doors.

While his housemates were manning the BBQ Mark shared some “Fun Facts” with us on solar

~The total capacity of installed solar as doubled on average every year for the last 5 years
~The current capacity of installed solar is 2.2 gigawatts of power, which equates to 3 medium sized coal powered plants.
~The price of solar panels has decreased dramatically, they are now about a quarter of the price they were 3 years ago
~Solar panels peak output closely matches consumer peak usage, so the more solar panels are installed the less infrastructure is required to transmit the peak load for the few hours per day it is required.

~Solar isn’t just for rich people, Mark uses himself as an example as he is renting in a share house full of uni students, and the panels help keep the power bills down.


Quick group shot before the rain starts. Credit: Kate Donnelly.

Quick group shot before the rain starts. Credit: Kate Donnelly (supplied to author).

Mark Thompson presents Local Councillor Helen Abrahams with Summer Solar BBQ certificate. Credit: Kate Donnelly.

Mark Thompson presents Local Councillor Helen Abrahams with Summer Solar BBQ certificate. Credit: Kate Donnelly (supplied to author).

Mark finished by delivering the apologies from Jackie Trad and Kevin Rudd who couldn’t make it, which was a shame because Mark has a certificate for Kevin saying there are 6300 homes in the electorate of Griffith with solar power and then hands over to Isaac Astill from AYCC who mentions their upcoming summit “Gamechange” and the possibility of 7 new coal ports being built along the QLD coast which they feel isn’t such a good idea.

There is enough time to eat and chat until the heavens finally lose patience and decide that a downpour is in order. While everything gets shifted under cover Independent Senator Greg Rudd shows up too late for a sausage but comes inside for a chat and a beer on the couch.

Once everyone has headed off and the clean-up is done I get a chance to chat to Mark about the day.

Me: How did you find out about doing a solar barbecue?

Mark: I’m on the mailing list for 100% Renewables, which is a campaign to get 100 per cent of renewable energy as the name suggests and they just put the word out saying that they would have a barbecue today to promote solar power.  And I signed up because we have a barbecue and a front lawn and we have friends.

Me: So how many people ended up coming I countered about 20 something at one stage?

Mark: Well, 30 people said they would come on facebook, but I think that translates to about 25, because we have 20 chairs and I and my house mates were standing up most of the time.  So 25 or something, which is really good.

Me: Did you know your local councillor?  How did you get her to show up?

Mark: No I didn’t know her before today, I just did a bit of a research and found out who my members were, so I invited Cr Helen Abrahams and she came along which was really good of her. I invited Jackie Trad (State Member) and Kevin Rudd (Federal Member), but they couldn’t make it due to other commitments, but it was really good to see Cr Helen come along and get to meet the locals and also to see how much we support solar.

Me: So how did Greg (Rudd) come along?

Mark Thompson presents Independent Senator Greg Rudd with Summer Solar BBQ certificate

Mark Thompson presents Independent Senator Greg Rudd with Summer Solar BBQ certificate

Mark: Greg?

Me: Yeah, was he just a substitute for Kevin or was that different completely, do you know him separately?

Mark: (Laughs) No Kevin Rudd didn’t reply “I can’t come along but here’s my brother”. I actually met Greg at the gym with my housemate and basically invited him to the solar BBQ. My housemate Harvey and I met him, yeah working out at the local gym.

Me: So was this (the BBQ) just something you believe in? It wasn’t something you did with one of the groups your involved with, like AYCC?

Mark: No, it’s just something I took the initiative with and I decided I would do it myself, but it is part of the 100% Renewables campaign. I decided to do it because I’m studying electrical engineering and I’ve done a few placements in the industry, I really believe that renewable energy is the way to go, it’s got a lot of potential, it just needs the investment and the political will power to take it on.

Me: So how did you find out about the AYCC?

Mark: The AYCC, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, it’s a group of young people taking action on climate change. I found out about them in year 11 while I was at school. My local councillor told me that they were offering a scholarship for a young person in my region to go down to Sydney. It was for the “PowerShift “ Conference which AYCC ran, and it was really cool to see all these other young people concerned with climate change and wanted to do something about it, ever since then I’ve been involved in their campaigns and activities, it’s a really interesting and I think successful organisation. So it’s been about three and a half years now I’ve been involved. And I’ve been with EWB a couple of years now and they’re awesome, there’s “Stepping Stones” on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to that.

More info on AYCC, EWB and the events mentioned in this article can be found here:



100% Renewable Energy

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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