Experts pass on the power
PROFITS returned to the community from shared electricity powered by renewable energy were among key benefits advocated by industry experts at a forum held in the Beechworth Memorial Hall earlier this month.
The Totally Renewable Beechworth (TRB) event was jointly held with representatives from a community network retailer (CER) project - the first of its kind in Australia.
As a retailer owned by the local community, the CER project well underway will source renewable energy from across North East Victoria where profits will be kept in the region for the economic benefit of local communities,
CER’s Cam Klose said the project stretched from Corryong to Seymour, and from Benalla to Bright.
The expanded project originated from Totally Renewable Yackandandah’s initiative four years ago with its goal of being 100 per cent renewable energy powered by the year 2022.
Mr Klose said people in the community could share different skills through collaboration and working together.
“We have the power of community and that’s what makes us different,” he said.
He said the retailer would support and work with local community initiatives.
Guest speaker Nicky Ison from Sydney-based Community Power Agency which aims to grow a community renewable energy sector across Australia, said since 2011 close to 100 community developed projects were on the go around the nation.
Ms Ison said the highest level of interest around Australia was in the North East Victoria.
She also said community renewable energy had been long-standing projects in many countries around the world.
Among those that had embraced the change switching from carbon fuel to clean energy included Denmark, England and Scotland with its 249 projects, and Germany where the country had achieved 47 per cent of its renewable energy produced and owned by households, communities and cooperatives five years ago.
Another guest speaker Ben Johnson from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), said moves in the North East were consistent with Victorian government goals.
“I grew up in the North East and it’s encouraging to see this happen,” he said.
Mr Johnson said DELWP was leading Victoria’s renewable energy strategy for the Hume region over the next 12 months where feedback from forums around the region would contribute to its outcome.
Moreland Energy chief executive Alison Rowe spoke about energy poverty with traditional energy sources, an equitable zero carbon society and access to affordable renewable energy for everyone.
“Since 2000, electricity and gas has increased by 200 per cent,” Ms Rowe said.
TRB’s Bev Smith said community energy was about the trading and sharing with technology an important part of the picture for it to happen.
She said a community energy retailer provided the social mechanism for the technology to work.
Beechworth›s Sandy Geddis said solar panels on the roof of his home generated the family›s power needs.
«If we can make a contribution we would like to be part of the conversation,» he said.
«We want to see the change not just for us but one that will benefit our children and grandchildren.»
Mr Geddis said social justice was an important factor with affordability for everyone as well.
The Indigo Shire Council supported TRB event followed an initial community conversation, and then a drop-in educational energy marketplace, battery storage workshop and presentations earlier this year.
GAME CHANGERS: (from left) Totally Renewable Beechworth’s Bev Smith and Community Energy Retailer project’s Cam Klose with guest speakers Alison Rowe, Nicky Ison and Ben Johnson at the community renewable energy forum held in Beechworth earlier this month.