Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tathra Imagines a Renewable Future

We have come down to Tathra, as part of our fact-finding mission for our upcoming solar forum.  We are fortunate to be able to arrange a meeting with Dr Mathew Nott, the man who is responsible for starting the micro generation revolution in this town. 

It was New Year’s Day and the hottest day on record for Tathra and Matt was settling in for surf life saving duties.  He was also reading Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers when he felt inspired to do his bit toward creating a cleaner environment and averting some of the consequences of climate change. Matt, an orthopaedic surgeon by day, formed Clean Energy for Eternity, a group dedicated to promoting renewable energy in the area.

In May 2006, he galvanised the community to gather on Tathra beach.  They initially formed a sign which read Clean Energy for Eternity from the air, which then dissolved to read IMAGINE.  Imaging a future powered by renewable energy is exactly what this community has proceeded to do. 

The community of Tathra has adopted an ambitious energy target of 50/50 by 2020.  This means they must reduce their consumption by 50% and also get 50% of their energy from renewables.  The initiative by this community has also led to all of local governments in the South East adopting this target, which then propels them to act toward achieving it.

The community of 30,000 people in Tathra came together and got to work, enabling their first solar and wind installation to go up on the Surf Lifesaving Club.  Tathra also boasts Australia’s first community-owned solar farm, on Council’s sewerage treatment plant which generates 30KW and is an initiative between Clean Energy for Eternity and the local Council.  The community raised $100,000 in the space of 10 months, with community contributions and contributions from both Council and State Government.  A number of sporting events including swims in the Bega River and Lake Jindabyne, and a mountain biking event all added to the pool.  The savings from the project are invested back into renewables, resulting in a 3KW system being installed each year in the area.  Unlike many other community solar projects, where investors recover their capital with interest, this scheme is purely philanthropic.  Given that Tathra is not a particularly rich area, this is truly commendable.

The list of project completed in the area is impressive, including instalments in surf clubs, RFS buildings, churches and other community building.  More information is available on the website:

We are inspired to see the results of grass roots action as a response to climate change, a clear signal to politicians that Australian’s are not buying the rhetoric from Canberra.  The donations made by local people were of the order of $250, the cost of a panel.  This project has already been a catalyst for similar projects in other parts of Australia, with the birth of a chapter in the Northern Beaches already gathering momentum. 

We felt motivated by our meeting with Matt.  He invited us to visit Tathra again so we can share ideas with the community there. We are encouraged to see the transformation that is taking place in Tathra and leave knowing we will be back to learn more and share with this wonderful community.

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