Regional communities around Australia have been hit hard by extreme weather events over summer. Townsville has been devastated by flooding that has driven hundreds of people from their homes after a year’s worth of rain fell in just nine days. In the Huon Valley, homes have been lost and almost 200,000 hectares lost to bushfires across Tasmania.
Small, vulnerable communities are hit particularly hard by climate change. But not enough is being done to mitigate its effects. This is especially true in New South Wales where the state is dithering on climate action.
Tomorrow, the Climate Council will release a new report examining the NSW Government’s poor performance on climate change. In contrast, strong initiatives are being taken by local councils.
Take the City of Newcastle, for example. The council’s power bills doubled over the past two years to $4 million, but by building a solar farm in the Hunter region, it expects to save $9 million over the next 30 years.
Lismore City Council is another switching to renewable power, building a floating solar farm at its sewage treatment plant, providing 12 per cent of the treatment plant’s energy requirements.
These councils understand that wind and solar are the cheapest forms of new power, can be built quickly and, paired with storage, can provide a reliable supply of power 24/7. And it’s not just NSW councils jumping in on the action.
Greater Shepparton City Council in Victoria is supporting local businesses to install rooftop solar, helping them reduce power bills and greenhouse gas pollution. Moreton Bay Regional Council in Queensland is home to Elimbah, the top solar postcode in Australia, with rooftop solar on more than two-thirds of homes.
In New South Wales, more than 2,000 jobs are being created in construction of large-scale renewable energy and thousands more in the rooftop solar industry. Many of these are in regional areas.
Small, regional communities may be at the frontline of climate impacts, but they’re also leading the way and proving the transition to renewables can be achieved with sufficient support. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
As our small-town trailblazers take huge strides, it’s about time federal and state governments follow their lead. By throwing more support behind renewable energy such as wind and solar, not only will governments help pump money into local economies, they will also protect the future of regional communities.
Louis Brailsford is a Climate Council Energy Advisor. His op ed appeared in The Standard.