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Community energy: a fast and fair energy transition

14 March 2017

Group photo speakers from 2017 Community Energy Congress

From the huge number of attendees and standing-room only sessions, to the personal meetings, conversations and events – it’s clear that the Community Energy Congress 2017 was something special. Acting against the backdrop of geopolitical and social uncertainty, the Congress provided a much-needed forum for change, and an avenue to facilitate a fast, fair energy transition. More than the conversations that occurred on the floor of Melbourne Town Hall, the Congress provided inspiration, action and progress on many fronts across the community energy sector, by bringing together community energy practitioners, policy makers and innovators, and allowing them to develop skills, foster networks and celebrate success.

ISF was heavily involved in the organisation of the first Community Energy Congress in 2014. For more details regarding the Community Energy Congress 2014, click here.

Read more about the Community Energy Congress 2017, from the Coalition for Community Energy below.

The conference began with Congress Lead Nicky Ison, communicating some key messages around a fair, fast transition towards renewable energy. Nicky demonstrated how within an aging energy infrastructure system, widely transitioning to renewable energy will reduce costs and provide fast and equitable access to energy, by leveraging Australia’s resource advantage in relation to solar and wind power.

Following this, keynote presentations from two of the world’s most prominent and respected voices in the community energy space inspired the conversations to follow. Soren Hermansen, the spearhead behind the 100% renewable energy transformation of Denmark’s Samso Island, provides evidence of the possibility of change towards renewables, through his leadership of community energy mobilisation. Highlighting the key pressures facing communities around the world – climate change, security of energy supply, and the challenges for industry, economy and employment – Soren stated that to create change, “it takes reliable policy and brave politicians.” Furthermore, the themes of grassroots pressure and political will were further enforced when Soren stated that for change to be possible, “the voice of the community needs to be enforced”, to ensure popular support.

We were also lucky to be joined by Candace Vahlsing – Barack Obama’s energy and climate change policy advisor. Candace explained how despite political upheaval, that community energy has continued to build momentum. When asked as to how community energy has developed a power of its own, Candace stated that “in an uncertain political climate, we must turn to what works. Community solar can make communities more resilient, and will be lasting – community solar does this.” Candace also reiterated that politics was only one sphere of influence, and that change “is larger than the US, it’s larger than one leader. It has started and it’s not stopping.”

Additionally, Breakout Sessions held throughout the Congress provided opportunities for further in depth learning about specific topics, to great success. Sessions were held about the success stories surrounding the launching of community energy projects, fossil-fuel affected communities and their transition to community energy, building relationships and encouraging participation with retailers and communities, and pitching stories and developing content for use in the media. New connections between attendees were formed as participants shared their experiences and developed new solutions for ensuring seamless implementations of, and transitions towards renewable energy.

The Congress also featured the exciting launch of the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance, formed by Aboriginal representatives in attendance. Fred Hooper of the Murriwarri Nation stated “what this Congress has given us is a chance to get those people in one place and build something for us, in partnership with all of you in the audience today.” Ghillar Michael Anderson of the Euahylia Nation added that taking ownership of energy security was a big leap towards addressing poverty and disenchantment, as “poverty has been created by the system that governs us.” With the support of 360 Energy, the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance aims to change these systems and assist with the transition towards renewable energy systems within indigenous communities.