The energy revolution will not be centralised!

19 November 2008

This week has seen yet another round of protestations from the big end of town about how difficult it will be to cut greenhouse emissions, and how they are going to have to move offshore if a decent emissions trading scheme is introduced. Meanwhile, another renewable energy manufacturer has just announced that they are actually doing it - shutting up shop and moving overseas. BP Solar will be closing their Sydney factory with a loss of 200 jobs. Well Kevin, where is that bailout plan for renewable energy? How many other renewable energy companies will relocate overseas before Australia adopts sensible policies for renewable energy (like a national, gross metered feed-in tarrif). Meanwhile, seemingly on another planet, local communities are getting on with the job of creating a renewable energy future. There is a growing movement of people all over the country that are taking action in their own local communities to get off the grid. One inspiring example is the Hepburn Wind Co-operative in Victoria, which is Australia’s first community owned wind farm. Community ownership of renewable energy has been widespread in Europe but has been slow to develop in Australia. It presents a stark contrast to the centralised provision of coal powered electricity from massive, far flung, polluting power stations. There is a growing ‘localisation’ movement that includes sourcing food from farms in the local area, through to buying locally made goods and soon it will include locally generated community owned electricity. This is one of the real advantages of renewable energy. Not only is it pollution free but it also has the potential to provide decentralised energy and enables individuals and communities to take responsibility and have control over their own power. It is easy to keep on polluting if the source of that pollution is distant, and people don’t see or experience the effects directly. We see with all kinds of environmental issues that when the feedback loops are closed, and people experience the consequences of their actions, change happens quickly. It’s a kind of stewardship ethic where people take responsibility for their relationship with and impacts on the natural world. So wind co-ops and other local renewable energy projects are an encouraging sign. While the Hepburn Wind project is still in development, once it is up and running it is likely to provide an inspiring model for other communities around Australia. The energy revolution will not be centralised!