SEEING THE LIGHT: Byron Shire could be running on 100% locally owned renewable/solar power within the next two years.
SEEING THE LIGHT: Byron Shire could be running on 100% locally owned renewable/solar power within the next two years. Christian Morrow

EDITORIAL: Action stations on renewables in Byron Shire

WHILE our federal pollies stand on the jetty as the trillion-dollar global emission reduction ship sets sail, Byron Shire is looking to climb aboard.

Our shire hasn't created the current national energy crisis but we are poised to become part of the solution.

We Byronites must be part of the global response to global warming and we can reap the benefits of being so.

With this in mind, on Friday, September 1, a Byron Energy Action Tank was convened.

The four-hour gathering brought local and national renewable energy experts together into one room to move us beyond thinking and into action.

Our aim was outlined at the start - 100% renewable energy for the whole shire that is 100% community owned by September 1, 2019.

The meeting brought together local players including the council, Enova, COREM, Zero Emissions Byron, local energy providers, specialists and investors, with their national counterparts including the Clean Energy Finance Corp, Hepburn Wind, former ACT energy minister Simon Corbell, the New South Wales Government, Essential Energy and change enablers Small Giants.

As the meeting was all about actions, we focused on the key requirements for a transition to renewable energy future - land, energy amounts, technology and finance.

The discussions also focused on the additional considerations of working within the current electricity grid and network and developing models to establish the pathway to community ownership.

Crammed into a small space for four hours, we achieved monumental breakthroughs and clarity.

We identified the need for the approximately 70MW ofpower generation, $50-60million in finance and70ha of land.

We identified the council and community have the land, finance, technology and community ownership models. We have the capacity on the existing grid and network to receive and handle the 70MW to be produced.

In fact, there is a great possibility we can produce more than we need. Imagine that - Byron Shire as a renewable energy exporter.

This can be achieved within two years, by September 1, 2019.

It will take deliberate, inclusive, positive and committed collaboration in action that would be ground-breaking for our community, creating new jobs, social benefits and support for our economically disadvantaged residents.

We will now be rolling up our sleeves to get cracking.

Over the next two months, a number of groups are forming to assess the technical requirements, the governance and guiding principles to ensure the whole community is engaged and owns the process, establish investment models and coordinate the roll-out of large-scale solar.

This will not be a council project - it will be a community project. It will not be one project on one piece of land but a variety of projects of various forms taking place at multiple locations.

The council will be a leader, as it should, but success isn't dependent on the council. It may invest in and profit from owning solar infrastructure and use this for wider community projects or we may support others to do so on our land while enjoying the cost savings from lower energy bills or a combination of both.

Over the next two months we will delve into the economic, technical and governance details and bring something tangible to the community in November.

If you believe you have something to add to this work, please get in touch.

I've written previously about the power of collaboration - this is collaboration in action.

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