“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” Eleanor Roosevelt
Australians have dreamt of and fought for a future powered by renewable energy for more than half a century. We’ve made some progress. Today 1.2 million Australians live in solar powered homes and 13,000 people are employed by the solar energy industries. Australians believe that their Government should be doing more to increase renewable energy use. Recent polling by the Climate Institute shows 72% of Australians want to keep or expand the renewable energy target (RET), and 76% of people think state governments should do more to provide incentives for renewable energy.
So where to from here?
In the very near future it’s possible that every building in the country could be acting as a networked micro-power station, capturing energy from the wind and sun and re-distributing excess power cost-efficiently across a grid that supplies all the energy needed for our homes, transport, schools, hospitals and industries. In fulfilling this realistic aspiration, we will be creating technologies and models that can be exported to the rest of the world.
The reality is: we’re lagging behind. While Australia generated 14% of its total electricity from renewables in 2013, Austria led the world by generating 68%, followed closely by Sweden which achieved 67%. Germany has a target to produce 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and our largest export market, China, has named renewables as one of their seven new strategic industries.
This is a critical time for our renewable future. Vested interests have been effectively lobbying our government to: remove the modest financial support that exists for those wanted to choose renewables, cut the Renewable Energy Target, terminate the profitable Clean Energy Finance Corporation, abolish funding for research and development through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, limit public access to expert information by axing the Climate Commission, get rid of an important source of independent expert advice to government by abolishing the Climate Change Authority.
It is now quite evident that our current national government is unlikely to step up as leader for a renewable future. However, we have seen hundreds of examples where citizens in Australian and from around the world have shown they can and will move forward without government leadership if this is required using democratic models and principles. For example:
- Thousands of Australians raised $1 million to save the Climate Commission in the week after it was axed by the Abbott government.
- Hepburn Wind is the community co-operative responsible for the first community initiated and owned wind farm in Australia.
- Westmill Solar Park in the UK consists of 30 acres of polycrystalline PV panels generating 4.8GWhr/year; it is the largest cooperatively run, community-owned solar farm in the world.
- REpower Shoalhaven when installed will be Australia’s largest community-owned commercial solar energy system.
- Farming the Sun is an award winning Australian community solar energy initiative.
This event has been imagined as a journey with a very practical aim in sight: to reclaim a clean energy future for Australia. We will discuss the models of change that are currently working and we will consider what more we can do to develop models, practices, relationships and infrastructures that will move us from a position of laggards to leaders.