Australia will continue to lag behind countries like the United States and Germany in heeding the United Nations’ latest call to urgently switch to clean sources of energy unless the community energy sector is allowed to thrive, according to a senior researcher at the University of Technology, Sydney.
UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures researcher, Nicola Ison, said community-owned renewable energy generation in towns and cities around Australia could stimulate regional development, provide more resilient and inexpensive energy security and significantly contribute to climate mitigation targets.
Ms Ison said a growing number of communities and councils were recognising the need for renewable energy generation, but there were significant regulatory and institutional barriers that needed to be overcome.
“Across the world renewable energy is changing the way citizens and organisations think about and use energy. In the United States, more than 1,500 wind farms are owned by communities across 27 states and, in Germany, customers own two thirds of all renewable energy generated.
“Councils, as large energy users in communities and facilitators of local action in their own right, can play an increasingly important role in this transition.”
The City of Sydney has recognised the potential of community energy in its roadmap to move the city towards 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had again underlined the extreme urgency of action on climate change.
“Addressing climate change will require action at all levels. Empowering communities to develop their own local, renewable energy projects will help deliver more clean energy,” Cr Moore said.
Community-owned models of power generation are popular in regional areas overseas. A leading renewable energy village in Germany, Wildpoldsried, generates over 300% of the electricity it needs from a mix of wind, solar PV, biogas and hydro power plants.
Mayor Arno Zengerle, instrumental in the village’s 10-year transition to self-sufficient renewable energy, will visit Australia to encourage Australian towns to achieve the same success.
Mr Zengerle will address the Community Energy Congress, which will bring together community energy groups from around the country for the first time. The congress, to be held in Canberra on 16-17 June, aims to address the large gap in support for community energy between other countries and Australia.
Applications are encouraged for your town, council, group, club, school or business if they have been involved in environmental and/or community projects in regional NSW in the past year.
The 2013 winner was Nundle ~ recognised for their rich cultural history, community spirit and for living and breathing sustainability.
Since 1981, Tidy Towns | Sustainable Communities has been rewarding and recognising the civic pride, community spirit and environmental commitment of regional communities across NSW. The Awards celebrate achievements of communities who implement projects to improve their town’s natural and built environments.
Tidy Towns is about rewarding long-term sustainability – in the social, economic and environmental sense – and investment in the future of regional towns. It aims to keep them lively, dynamic and beautiful places to both live and visit. This is reflected in eleven different award categories which address various aspects of sustainability.
Entries are open until Wednesday 18th June. For more details and to make your application click here.
Starfish’s Board of Directors are very pleased to welcome LegalMinds as Starfish’s newest Associate.
LegalMinds is a boutique legal practice and was founded Christopher Serow. Chris was a founding Director with Starfish, recently completing near three years on our Board of Directors.
LegalMinds has a wide client base throughout the New England region as well as nationally and internationally. Like most innovative regionally-based businesses, communications technology is used to provide clients with easy access to their solicitor, migration agent, notary, mediator or conveyancer ~ with professional staff located in Armidale, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle and Hong Kong.
Starfish Associates take on a long-term role with Starfish’s work, as partners as well as specialists in aspects of sustainability. As such, they contribute to Starfish’s development as well as being the core pool of professionals engaged to work on our initiatives.
LegalMinds brings to Starfish its particular legal expertise and interests in charity, business, environment, education, migration, local government, insurance, estate planning and litigation.
What if we could create suburbs that are designed to function in harmony with their surroundings?
That’s the concept behind Village Homes in Davis, California. From passive solar housing through neighborhood fruit orchards, chicken coops and beehives to a carefully designed system of swales which is intended to let rainwater percolate into the ground, this 70 acre, 225-home site is about as harmonious as one can image any suburb to be.
Of course, the main problem with suburbs is location—and the associated transportation footprint that comes with it. But the FAQ over at Village Homes suggests that it is biking distance to the university, where many residents work. And Davis has already been recognized as one of the likeliest cities in the world to go truly car-free. So here too, Village Homes seems to come out on top.
Check out Geoff Lawton’s homage to this “permaculture suburb” below. The full video is viewable here.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being harangued by tweedy academics and tree huggers about global warming. David Suzuki’s baleful countenance seems to hover everywhere, like the bitterly disappointed father figure of your worst Freudian nightmare, inconsolable at how we’ve screwed up humanity’s habitat with our stupidity and lassitude. It’s enough to make you want to Occupy a Prius.
It’s no longer reasonable to question whether it’s really happening ~ Monday’s release of the latest dire news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reinforced that. And it’s no longer reasonable to think that the cause of our inaction is a lack of awareness of the problem, or how we might be contributing to it. Enough of us already know what we need to do. We just don’t want to. That makes this a marketing problem.
If I shut off my car at red lights or turn my thermostat down to 19 degrees, I have to contend both with the fact that these gestures will not be understood charitably by the people around me, and with the feeling that I’ve somehow capitulated to someone’s moral judgment. As much as we may not like it, this is how humans, social animals that we are, function. If we want people to change their behaviour, we have to pander. Pointing a bony finger at them will only make them defiant; making change personally relevant and socially useful will motivate them. This is, after all, how we sold them those SUVs in the first place.
It’s time we started selling sustainability rather than treating the threat of climate change as some kind of punishment for capitalism. We know how to do this. The basic principles of marketing have proven themselves over and over, for better and for worse. The marketplace is our commons, the place where we agree on what matters and what does not, from politicians to lattes. That’s where this battle must be fought. All we have to do is get activism off its bully pulpit and pander a little to the people. In this battle, maybe more than in any battle in history, it is far more important to be happy with the outcome than to be right about it. If we aren’t careful, it won’t be SUVs that destroy the world. It will be sanctimony.
This endorsement marks the second stage of a three-stage process for Starfish to become approved to receive tax-deductible donations (known as DGR, or deductible-gift-recipient).
Starfish’s application for DGR was first lodged nearly three years ago! The final stage of approval is now with the Australian Government Department of Environment ~ and requires formal sign-off by Ministers Greg Hunt (Environment) and Joe Hockey (Finance).
Starfish’s tax exemptions have been back-dated to 1 July 2011 (which was when we officially first began operations) and include:
Starfish also gratefully received its first ever individual donation ~ from Claire Campbell. Thanks Claire!
The Starfish Throwers explores how three fiercely compassionate individuals fight hunger and struggle to restore hope to the hopeless in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways. Half a world apart ~ a five-star chef, a retired school teacher and a sixth-grade master gardener ~ each work for a seemingly lost cause—until they discover their impact may reach further than their own actions.
“The experience has been both humbling and unforgettable. Seeing them reject cynicism and transcend mass apathy with every act of kindness they committed reminded me of the lost idealism of youth. While many of us have put aside some of those innocent dreams of changing the world and making a difference, I believe that sharing these stories will help us all to rediscover our own potential to affect positive change.”
~ Jesse Roesler, Director + Producer + Cinematographer
Bill Gresham, a member of Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA), describes the ‘hands-on, can-do’ attitude of this group in helping fund community energy projects … inspirational to say the least. Check them out at http://corenafund.org.au.
Bill will be attending the Community Energy Congress in Canberra 16-17 July 2014.