By Daniel Jones.
It’s true that people can create ‘energy’. Not the kind that powers lights, but it can be felt and has an effect just the same.
A day before the congress started and it was already buzzing, after settling in we heard from two Churchill Scholarship holders and at this little side event. You can only imagine what it was like the next morning; walking through the CBD of Melbourne, up the red carpet staircase of the Town Hall and into the main chamber. Here hundreds of Community Energy Congress attendees were checking in and meeting each other to the soundtrack of the cinema screen sized organ; the Indiana Jones theme was probably my favourite.
Congress Day 1 - Plenary Session
Being at congress, seeing new innovative models and tech, hearing about challenges that have been overcome, I sat back and wondered: where did all this start? We don’t need to be involved in energy generation and ownership; we could just pay our bills that would be that. As I thought about this during the congress, value was the one reason that stuck with me.
With a desire for Australia to take advantage of our abundant renewable sources and sick of being wacked like cash-filled piñatas by energy retailers, networks and generators, communities got involved and as one social enterprise puts it, they’re ‘taking the power back’. Different parts of our communities connect with different parts of this story, but everyone understands or feels this lack of value at one level or another. And so here we are!
This was a powerful exercise as I thought about Repower and it energised me to keep doing what we are doing and to make sure we are generating as much value as possible in our community.
A few highlights for me from the Community Energy Congress were:
Hearing from government in the U.S. and at a State level in Australia. There has been excellent leadership in Victoria, the ACT and South Australia on climate change and renewable energy, even NSW are pulling their socks up. Hearing the passion of our leaders and seeing it backed up by the progress they have made was very encouraging.
We spent a session workshopping our community models, hearing what other people do and getting input and feedback on the way we operate here at Repower. In another session we listened, listened as indigenous people from across Australia shared about their communities and lives. Giving them the chance to be heard was a privilege.
Shoalhaven Councillors Kaye Gartner sharing our plans for renewables in the Shoalhaven.
We held a Shoalhaven Council round table meeting just below the stage on Tuesday morning. This included current and past Repower members as well as three very excited Shoalhaven Councillors. Everyone learnt something new that morning, it was a highly productive, completely spontaneous one hour meeting that could shape energy supply in the Shoalhaven for years to come. I finished the congress with two of these councillors, staying behind an extra day for a master class on community energy and local council.
The final highlight was staying with two old friends from church who now study and work in Melbourne and going to see a Tesla Model-X up close, leaving just enough seconds to make my plane back to Sydney. Everyday the sun shines on bare roofs, our local businesses are missing opportunities to save money, support local economies and create a more sustainable energy system. Repower’s vision is to support and partner with the renewables industry until every business and community organisation in our local area that is reached by the sun is using that energy and we are excited about it!
Community Energy Coordinator
Repower Shoalhaven Incorporated
PO Box 2226, Bomaderry NSW, 2541
ABN 73 379 383 110