The rise of community energy

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People in Geelong have embraced solar power on their rooftops. The next step is to take that success and enthusiasm to move into big community renewable projects that create local manufacturing jobs. Meet someone who is doing just that: the Australian scrap metal recycler Andrew Thaler, an aspiring Solar Electricity Mogul since he bought a 407kW solar PV farm in Singleton, New South Wales, two years ago. Why did he do that?



Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 35:

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In the 35th Sustainable Hour, we talk with this interesting 41-year-old entrepreneur, engineer, energy expert and business man about the rise of community energy in Australia, and about why in his opinion it is shortsighted and wrong to think that the way to rebel against the dominant, coal-powered and polluting electricity providers is to disconnect from the electricity network, to go “off the grid”, as it is called. “Instead, go into politics and start the debate from within,” suggests Andrew Thaler.

Andrew Thaler runs as an independent candidate for NSW Upper House in 2015. He is also a dad to three small children, based in Nimmitabel, New South Wales on the Monaro.


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“We all sat around the camp fire as apes. One person didn’t get the wood and sell it to the other apes. It was a community affair. Civilisation has been built on the participation of the community, so we are not really suggesting anything new. It is just a sligthly new way of thinking in the modern world. Politicians don’t need to be involved, it doesn’t need rules.”
Andrew Thaler in The Sustainable Hour



Andrew Thaler is accustomed to a challenge. He has recently purchased the 407kW PV Singleton Solar Farm in NSW, which was once the largest solar facility in the Southern Hemisphere, and aims to restore it to its former glory.

He came to Geelong – a city which has lost some (not all) of its manufacturing glory – with a message of hope: Renewable energy can benefit jobs, manufacturing, communities and the environment.

As Federal and State politicians prevaricate over renewable energy schemes and targets, community members around Australia have moved in to take matters into their own hands. Community renewable schemes give all members of the community the opportunity to participate in, and take ownership of renewable energy.

Andrew Thaler has identified a unique opportunity for Singleton to be one of the first major “community participation” solar sites in Australia. For him, this is not just about making money from solar PV:

“This is me addressing the future for my kids with the means I have available to me now: motivation, muscle, money and management,” said Andrew Thaler.

In the afternoon on 23 July 2014, Andrew Thaler was joined at Geelong Sustainability Drinks by Alex Houlston, director and co-founder of Energy for the People and the Community Energy Enterprise The Peoples Solar, and Martin May, former Director and Treasurer of Hepburn Wind, Australia’s first community owned renewable energy generator.

Martin May now works with LIVE (Locals Into Victoria’s Environment) who have launched a solar panel bulk buy, a community solar project for renters, and a partnership with a 100% green energy retailer.

Aaron Lewtas, president of Surf Coast Energy Group and local solar business person, running the company Green Energy Options gave an update on community solar on the Surf Coast. The Sustainble Hour audio-recorded the event and will broadcast it within some weeks.


Andrew Thaler’s video channel on YouTube contains recordings and video blogs about this solar farm projects.

» See also:  www.about.me/andrew.thaler

» Andrew tweets on: @SingletonSolar and @andrew_thaler


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» Geelong Independent – 25 July 2014
Solar spruiker sees jobs hope
By John Van Klaveren

» Geelong Independent – posted online 17 July 2014:
Take charge of energy: expert
By John Van Klaveren



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The Sustainable Hour contained a short audio clip with Tosh from The Peoples Solar.



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Mik also mentioned a statement which was broadcasted on ABC in the 45 minutes documentary by Four Corners:

“Well, the other state governments have vested interests in maintaining the status quo. They collect royalties from the coal mines. They collect the dividents from the coal fired generators – they own these assets. And they are not interested in disrupting that business model. Even though that is locking consumers into high energy costs over medium to long term.”
~ Simon Corbell, ACT minister

» ABC Four Corners: ‘Power To The People
While the rest of the world moves to embrace renewable energy production, why is Australia drawing back? Stephen Long reports.



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Hope

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The Guardian – 30 July 2014:
10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change
From action in China and the US to falling solar costs and rising electric car sales, there is cause to be hopeful. Article by Karl Mathiesen

1) Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues
2) China has ordered coal power plants to close
3) The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds
4) People are taking their money out of fossil fuels
5) Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians
6) Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power
7) European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000
8) Cutting emissions has become a business imperative
9) Oil is becoming much more expensive to find
10) Electric car sales are doubling each year



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‘Community-Owned Renewable Energy: A How To Guide’

This guide is intended as a first port of call to get an idea of how to start a community owned renewable energy project.

» Download link:  www.cpagency.org.au



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Solar Edge: ‘Scream and Shout’

Happy solar vibes from the solar company SolarEdge in their 2013 Happy Holidays clip.
Published on Vimeo.com on 16 December 2013



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CALENDAR

The National Tree Day marked in Geelong
he upcoming community tree planting day, 27 July 2014, will be marked in Hamlyn Heights, at the Dog Rocks Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, and on the Bellarine.
» Read more

Anti-fracking Strategy Meeting
Members of the Frack Free Geelong group call for an open anti-fracking strategy meeting on Thursday 31 July at 7pm at Trades Hall in the Auditorium, 127 Meyers Street, Geelong.
RVSP: frackfreegrovedale@gmail.com
» Read more

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Podcast: Beyond Zero Emissions Community Show

Beyond Zero Emissions Community Show is a one hour podcast focusing on activism and campaigning is recorded live every Monday at 5pm. The show aims to provide up-to-date news about community campaigns, actions and events from around Australia, including interviews with members of the climate action group community.
» Listen to the show and read more:  www.bze.org.au



Many sustainable hours of listening online

You can listen to all of the radio shows in full length as well as in selected excerpts. Use the links below. You will also find links to more information about the topics and sites that have been mentioned during the hour.

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» Facebook:  Overview of all the programs




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