Ex­perts pass on the power

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By CORAL COOK­SLEY

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.

PHOTO: Coral Cook­sley.

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.

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