Regeneration in Rural Communities

August 17, 2009

Early in July 2009, representatives from Gwydir Shire Council and Bingara and District Vision 20/20 responded to an invitation from our Federal Member of Parliament Tony Windsor, to meet with him at his Tamworth office.

The meeting resulted from a discussion between Tony and V2020 President Rick Hutton, regarding progress from the Regenerative Energy for Rural Communities Forum jointly hosted by GSC and V2020 in Bingara in July 2008. Tony had also invited representatives of Country Energy including the General Manager Craig Murray, and the New England/North West Manager Matt Patterson.

The purpose of the meeting was to consider the opportunities for communities like Bingara, Warialda and the villages within Gwydir Shire to be part of the new technologies being developed in electrical energy generation and distribution especially in the light of the global concerns for CO2 emissions, global warming and a prospective Emissions Trading Scheme.

The current electricity industry in NSW consists of three levels of operations. Firstly there are the generators. These are corporations operating power stations. 95% of the electricity in NSW is currently generated from black coal burning power stations like Bayswater and Liddell in the Hunter Valley. Others are on the Central Coast, Lithgow and the Illawarra.

Less than 5% is generated from hydro systems like those in the Snowy Mountains and from other “green” sources like wind turbines.

The second level in the industry is the main line distributor TransGrid. It takes the power from the generators and distributes in a ray of high tension power lines out to major sub-stations across the state. From these, the regional distributors like Country Energy take over, distributing electricity in several levels of capacity to towns and farms.

Each level of the system acts independently under guidelines set down by  Government.

The Regenerative Energy for Rural Communities Forum heard from guest speakers with experience and expertise from a wide range of fields representing many aspects of energy production and distribution.

The Forum identified a number of opportunities for Rural Communities. Briefly they are:

1. Become involved in the Intelligent Network being championed by Country Energy and have our Gwydir communities “first up” participants in this project.

2. Consider prospects for a true grid system of electrical distribution so that the risks of outages is reduced and the prospect for local energy generation is enhanced,

3. Explore the prospects for a passive solar panel system in our towns using the same technology as those used on individual houses, but aggregated on our main community buildings to gain economies of scale and a mass up-take of solar energy technology.

4. Pursue the prospects for a Solar Thermal Power Station to be built within Gwydir Shire, and,

5. Look to ways for our communities to be better informed and prepared to take on other developments in energy options including transport, town planning, technological systems and related industry prospects.

In the next two weeks these projects, options and opportunities will be presented in a series of articles looking towards making our communities more sustainable and better places to live as we progress further into the 21st Century.

Submitted by Rick Hutton
Ph: 0428 255 380