Community Energy Opportunities in Regional Australia

In 2016 the ACT government committed to a target of 100% renewable energy by 2020, moving the target forward and reflecting a growing commitment by sub-national and local governments, and city administrations to changing their energy dependencies and the energy mix, and decentralising the energy production process (reference – Paris Council of the Parties on Climate Change in 2015).

Governments are recognising the growing interest in renewable energy in their constituencies, and in fact the public is arguably leading the political agenda.

Dr Kate Auty

The regional Victorian experience in relation to community energy is instructive.

Daylesford began a conversation about two community owned wind turbines a decade ago.  That community is now held up as an example of change. They engaged in a massive amount of community discussion, forged a new way of funding the proposal, built constructive relationships with government, and then built two turbines which now produce the energy for the township. Recently they celebrated their success.  Soren Hermansen, the Danish community energy advocate from the island of Samso, a world energy transition leader embraced their work. Regional small towns Newstead and Yackandandah are working towards a 100% commitment.

Seymour and Euroa have formed a community alliance and been afforded a small grant to conduct a pre-feasibility study for pumped hydro energy storage in respect of three dams in the Strathbogie Ranges and the Trawool reservoir above the Goulburn River.  Recent scholarship recognises this as a significant component of any energy future. Changing conditions in the energy market, networks with experts and community determination made this submission possible.

Beyond the engineering, academic expertise and commitment to changing infrastructure, however, there are compelling social and cultural reasons why a submission such as this comes together.

Communities which start where they are, in the places they know and care about, will always be capable of and interested in driving change. Baseline knowledge – social, economic, cultural and political – is already available. Communities want to see the co-benefits. In regional settings communities also understand the need to organise, share and take responsibility to attain outcomes.

The final attribute in a regional theory of change should always be a desire to show what has been done. It is important to provide demonstration sites for innovation, illustrating successes and reflecting on mistakes.

Author: Dr Kate Auty, Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment

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