A city in southern California has become the first city in the world to be zero net energy with solar farms powering the entire city, and now it is inspiring Australian cities to follow its lead.
Being zero net energy means the city produces more solar electricity through solar farms than it can use.
Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris has attributed an increase in employment, new manufacturers moving to the city, and a reduction in crime to the approach to alternative energy.
This week, Mr Parris has been in Kiama on the NSW south coast at the Cities Power Partnership summit, speaking to local council representatives from around Australia about how they might be able to do something similar.
He said he had decided to take the lead on alternative energy for the safety and wellbeing of his constituents, and this continued to drive him forward.
“Climate disruption poses the greatest threat to the public, and the primary function of government is to protect the people,” Mr Parris said.
“It’s the greatest threat the world has ever seen.”
Communities inspired to invest in alternative energy
Local councils have been inspired by Lancaster and its alternative energy approaches, with many council representatives saying the Federal Government’s lack of climate change policy makes it even more imperative that they take the lead.
One council that has been particularly inspired is the Lismore council, which has established a community solar program.
Using investments from residents, the council has installed a number of community solar farms, including a floating solar farm and one on the roof of its leisure centre.
The council also has a 100 per cent renewable energy target by 2023 for all electricity generated and used by the council.
Lismore Deputy Mayor Elly Bird was at the climate summit in Kiama and said the Northern Rivers was leading the way when it came to renewable energy in Australia.
“Unfortunately at a federal level climate policy is a complete shambles,” Cr Bird said.
“In the absence of any significant action at the federal level, Local Government can really play a leadership role in this space.
“We can work with our communities to provide renewable energy infrastructure we know they want.”
Local governments have crucial role to play
Macquarie University academic and climate change researcher Lesley Hughes, a keynote speaker at the summit, agrees with council representatives that they must step up and fill the vacuum left by the Federal Government.
Professor Hughes said councils were the ones who bore the brunt of a changing climate.
“Whether it’s building roads or telling people where they can put their houses, Local Government is where the adaption rubber really hits the road in terms of climate change,” she said.
Professor Hughes said alternative energy community projects were crucial in generating interest among citizens about the impacts of climate change and what they could do to help the planet.
“What we are facing is a planetary catastrophe,” she said. “People need to act now.”