A grassroots initiative founded in 2010 to help the north coast to develop its own sustainable energy system is back this year and will be holding a day long forum in Lismore in May.
‘After two highly successful events in Bellingen in 2010 and Mullumbimby in 2011 we thought it was time to take a step back and see how things developed locally,’ said forum convener Mark Byrne.
The earlier events were each attended by more than 100 people from government, industry and the community, and were influential in instigating and supporting regional initiatives like a ‘green skills’ training report, bioenergy research and the creation of a community local group in Byron Bay that has financed over $100,000 worth of solar systems on commercial buildings.
‘This is the tip of the iceberg,’ said Mark. ‘The north coast is suitable for deployment of small and mid scale solar farms as well as commercial and residential rooftop installations. We have abundant natural and human resources to create a sustainable energy system, which will strengthen employment and the local economy, help tackle climate change and empower our community.
‘This region has almost the highest uptake of rooftop solar systems in Australia, and there is much more scope for this mature technology, especially on public and commercial buildings. We have enormous bioenergy potential using waste products from our primary industries. And we can combine both of these with our mild climate and resourceful population to build housing that helps reduce energy inputs and even be ‘carbon positive’ over their lifecycle.’
‘Part of the role of the forum is also to create a space where we can relate our local knowledge and experience to what is happening in the broader energy market. We can hear about how viable it is to go off grid, or what progress is being made to wean ourselves off the centralised, fossil fueled grid. We also want to broaden awareness of other energy solutions, like energy efficiency, which are often the cheapest ways to save energy and reduce emissions.’
A range of energy industry experts, regional leaders and local innovators has already committed to taking part in the forum, which will be bigger than previous years. As usual, there will also be lots of opportunities during the day for participants to engage in the debate.
‘The forum won’t end at 5pm on 31 May,’ said forum facilitator and social change agent Adam Blakester of Starfish Enterprises. ‘We’re already having talks with stakeholders about holding the event again in 2014. There is enough energy in the community for the forum to take on a life of its own between the annual events. The forum is an opportunity for a wide range of people and organisations to be involved with making this happen.’
The North Coast Energy Forum will be held 9am–5pm on Friday 31 May in Lismore. Go to www.faceboook/northcoastenergyforum for more details, and www.ncef.eventbrite.com.au to register. Earlybird prices to 30 April only. For forum enquiries please call Robyn on 0413 698 104. For media and sponsorship enquiries, please call Mark Byrne on 0403 070 442.