Energise Gloucester with community renewables

A MOVE to bring a community-owned renewable energy project to the region has taken the next step. 

The initiative evolved from last year’s Sustainable Futures Conference, which was held in Gloucester in October. The legacy left by speaker Jarra Hicks from the Community Power Agency spurred a group of locals to explore what viable options suited Gloucester.

“After the conference, we thought – how do we go ahead from here? We need to create a goal for the whole community, use the energy behind the meter and create jobs for those in town,” Cam Laurie said. 

Subsequently a steering committee was formed, consisting of Cam, Di Montague, Stef Pillora, Pat Burrows and Paul Collett with a mission statement which “empowers the community to develop and run its own locally controlled, environmentally responsible, financially successful renewable energy project.”

“We’re taking a stepped approach,” Stef said. 

“By engaging locals, towns can be transformed.” 

Emphasising an approach of ‘what can I do for my town’ rather than ‘what can my town do for me’, the committee is hoping the community will decide for itself, following holistic principles and a vision of where they want their region to be in five years time. 

“At the moment, there are so many possibilities, we can’t limit it.” 

Helping sort out the plausible options from the implausible is Enhar, a Victorian sustainable energy efficiency consultancy firm which is compiling a report for ‘Energising Gloucester’.

“We’ve been funded for a scope study to look at what energy mixes might be possible to use.”

Though the group is reluctant to be drawn on any specifics, emphasising the importance of keeping an open mind, they put forward wind, solar, hydro and bio-gas as examples of energy sources for educational, health or manufacturing clients, subject to financial and environmental considerations.

“The project needs to make money for industry and residents,” Cam said, adding that the power usage needs to match the power generated for optimal returns.

He listed a powdered milk plant as just one of many potential projects that could be considered, which as a high end product would generate employment, income, and a market for dairy farmers.

He also cited composting as a means of turning city waste streams into fertilisers to be reapplied to land.

“Innovation is about invention with a bit of help from others,” he said.

The group is focused on several facets of social capital which can emerge from projects such as these, but they are also keen to ensure the result is commercially focused so it can fund professionals to oversee the project. This would overcome the problem of the lack of volunteer manpower in today’s time poor society, which can so often let down good intentions. 

To this end, they have formed the Gloucester Community Energy Industry and Innovation Hub. This is bigger picture stuff, which could feature local expertise in renewable energy building up over time.

“Who knows, perhaps Gloucester could become a centre of excellence,” Cam said with a laugh.

Well, why not. 

A seminar and workshops will be hosted by the Community Power Agency on Friday May 13 and Saturday May 14 to discuss the outcome of the Enhar’s report and possibilities for the future, at the Senior Citizens Centre. 

Anyone interested in the project can check out the Energising Gloucester Facebook page, or ring Cam on 6558 5559; Di 6558 2598 or Stef 0408 887 996.

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