By ERWIN CHLANDA
RePower Alice Springs says the town’s “300 days of sunshine a year and higher radiance” means it can do a lot better than the NT Government’s policy of 50% solar by 2030.
RePower’s objective is 100% solar by then. Still, that may not conflict with the government’s intention when measured across the Territory.
The volunteer group is inspired by thousands of community energy groups around the world, and 80 in Australia so far, who generate and distribute electricity.
The “how and when” are the questions the group is now beginning to grapple with as major installations are already in place down the road at Port Augusta – an ambitious example to follow.
Group members say Port Augusta was the “kick-off point” for the movement in Alice Springs, in addition to the expenditure by Adam Giles of $75m for gas powered generators.
Harshini Bartlett, David Jagger and Neil Woolcock spoke with the Alice Springs News Online ahead of a public meeting on Thursday at which the result of a survey of 816 locals will be announced who – unsurprisingly – are very much for solar power.
With massive progress in technology in Germany and China there is “nothing to stop us,” they say.
To pick a management model from the cocktail suggested by organisations such as Community for Community Energy (C4CE) is the group’s next task, with the dependance on, or independence from, the government owned company a major question – or even going into competition with it.
What will the government-owned PowerWater and Territory Generation do when their income from some (many?) consumers will drop 80% or more?
It’s an issue still unfolding, they say: “We have to work with these people.”
“The political masters want 50% renewable by 2030. They are going to be supportive.”
“We are talking with a number of potential partners.”
Including the government?
“It’s premature to talk too much about that in case these guys think differently.”
“We don’t have authorisation from these potentially partners to say any more. There is confidentiality there, we need to be certain we’re not breaching it.”
Clearly, there is a lot still on the table.
The transmission system – the wires – are a “huge technical question we’re not able to answer at this point of time”.
The options, of course, are to use the government-owned wires or string their own – would they be allowed to do that?
“It is a very early stage.”
But there is no question “the group is independent from the government”.
The group says selling the solar power they generate into the established system “somewhere along the line” is the vehicle for many community based producers around Australia.
Do they need the grid? “Yes, somewhere along the line. Most put their power into the system … augment that system.”
While communities are crying out for a solar future, “policy and systems in place are too frequently blocking this”.
What’s the answer?
“We’re not talking about a revolution here.”
What’s wrong with a revolution? They laugh.
“There are the three Ds – decentralise, decarbonise and democratise. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Will they form a company? “We have not yet chosen a model.”
The three members make it clear they will proceed with great caution. They may be dealing with financial contributions from community members to co-own a power generation facility.
“You’ve got to do it right. You’re effectively selling shares in something. The investors would need to get a small return – and this is all being done by volunteers.
“And that’s the technical stuff aside, that’s another ball game.”
PHOTO: Promotion from the period when Alice Springs was a solar city.
By ERWIN CHLANDA