While Australia’s Federal Government continues to operate in the vacant white noise of an energy policy vacuum, Byron Shire Council in New South Wales is demonstrating that framing policy, the kind Australia desperately needs at the federal level, is not empty space, but space for transformation.
The Byron Shire Council has already committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2025 and 100% renewable energy by 2027, two ambitions put into policy in the Net Zero Emissions Strategy for Council Operations 2025. But now Council has drafted a Net Zero Emissions Action Plan (currently open to community feedback), to complement the Strategy adopted last year in order to track Council’s progress.
For instance, one key commitment of the draft Action Plan is for Council to transition to renewables at a minimum rate of 20% each year. Currently, Council has just over 600 kW of solar installed on its buildings, but that figure is about to shoot up considerably when its 5 MW solar farm comes online sometime mid next year.
The Action Plan sets out a series of objectives and measures so as to proceed step by step to zero emissions neutrality. The first objective of this Plan is the shift to 100% renewable energy, with the completion of the 5 MW solar farm at Dingo Lane, Myocum as a first priority. This is to be supported by a potential bioenergy facility at West Byron STP, and a rollout of energy efficiency measures such as LED streetlights.
The Action Plan is not anything particularly new, although comprehensive energy transition policy in Australia will always seem novel until the Federal Government leads by example. The Byron Shire Council is framing its policy so as to ensure that its actions toward its goals are achieved by gradual increments, as Cézanne would paint a sky not with a big messy wash but by an accumulation of a great many small brushstrokes.
Byron Bay is certainly a sunspot for solar, with many of its residents, including Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth, investing in solar for their homes. Hemsworth, who had to learn to harness electricity from lightning in his role as Thor, has now learned to harness electricity from the sun with the installation of hundreds of solar panels atop his Byron Bay hideaway.
Moreover, Byron Bay is home to the head office of Smart Energy, a nationwide solar company with plans for offices in the U.K., the U.S., and New Zealand. pv magazine sat down with the guys from Smart Energy in August 2019 to discuss their move to the Northern Rivers region, and their success with a business model that allows customers to pay for their solar install with the savings it provides.
The Byron Shire Council’s Net Zero Emissions Action Plan is open for contributions until 5 October 2020.
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