ORGANISERS of this year’s North Coast Energy Forum at Mullumbimby tomorrow (June 3) are hopeful it will kick-start funding for a regional energy strategy.
Mark Byrne, one of the organisers, said the challenge set by organisers of this year’s forum was to look at how the North Coast could make more of its own energy.
One of the main speakers will be Professor Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures.
Professor White’s institute has established that local energy options in NSW could save between $1.4 billion and $3.8 billion between now and 2020 and reduce emissions in 2020 by between 2.2 and 8.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Other speakers include NSW Greens MLC and spokesperson on energy John Kaye, and Matthew Wright, founder and executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions.
Interest in an energy strategy has been gathering pace since last year’s forum, according to Mr Byrne, from the Environmental Defenders Office Northern Rivers.
Mr Byrne said electricity made up about 40 per cent of national carbon emissions.
“On the North Coast we get almost all of our electricity from outside the region, and about 90 per cent of it is from coal-fired power stations,” he said.
“While other regions have been targeted for big new wind and solar farms, this region risks becoming a brown-energy backwater.”
Mr Byrne said the very things that made the region good for farming and biodiversity and a great place to live also made it hard for large-scale renewables.
“Lots of rain, expensive land and not much wind mean that we are unlikely to ever attract big solar or wind farms,” he said.
“But we have the highest uptake of solar power and hot water in the state, and there is still huge potential for much more small-scale renewable energy like bioenergy and for energy efficiency initiatives like low energy street lighting.
“We are interested in looking at ways to grow our regional economy while also providing more of our own power needs and protecting this unique environment.”
Mr Byrne said the involvement of community groups was essential in making the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“While we want industry and government to come along and talk about what they can do, we are also particularly keen to encourage community groups to look at what projects they might take on,” he said.
The forum, which is being sponsored by Byron Shire Council and the State Government, will be held in the Mullumbimby Civic Hall.
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