Byron Bay goes for net zero emissions target

Byron Bay is targeting “net zero emissions” in its desire to become the first regional shire to reach that goal. This move is in line with the direction that the northern area of New South Wales is taking towards renewable energy and solar power.

The idea was discussed between Stephen Bygrave, head of Beyond Zero Emissions and Mayor Simon Richardson on the Mayor’s Friday morning radio show in early March.

In order to achieve the net zero emissions target, Bygrave and Richardson agreed that it will take a blue-print from BZE, and apply it to the consumption of energy, agriculture, waste, land use, forestry and transport.

“All revolutions start from the bottom up, and what is required is a revolution,” stated Bygrave in an interview with RenewEconomy. “Politicians will follow what action happens in the communities,” added Bygrave.

He noted that this had been the case in Europe, particularly Germany and Denmark, where “people power” had driven the major uptake of renewable energy.

“The creation of net zero energy towns is fantastic, but it gets you half way there,” Bygrave told a news conference held at the beach-front of Byron Bay.

Bygrave says the research of his group had shown that any building can be retrofitted to make it a zero net energy, or zero emissions structure. However, energy only accounts for half the emissions.

The future of renewable energy generation in Byron Bay

If the plan is properly deployed and implemented, the result is expected to be a considerable increase in the use of renewable energy in Bryon Bay, especially in solar power as well as the introduction of electric vehicles infrastructure.

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The location of Byron Bay is perfect since it is at the heart of a proposed community energy retailer. This retailer is Northern Rivers Energy, which is also planning to establish a new, renewable energy-cantered model for Byron Bay which could be the first in Australia. This company hopes that it can deliver its first sales in the Byron Bay area from July, 2015.

Byron Bay would also like to try other concepts such as peer-to-peer trading. This arrangement allows owners of residential or commercial rooftop solar systems to trade or sell their energy outputs to interested buyers.

NRE is also eyeing the locations of Balina, Lismore and the Tweed area for their scheme. The nearby Lismore regional council has promised to be 100 per cent renewable by 2023.

Labor to fund community solar farms

In addition, the Labor government also announced in mid-March that it will provide additional funding to the Farming the Sun Initiative. This program encourages the development of community solar farms, and will help Lismore achieve 100% reliance on renewable energy.

The Coalition government is also lending its support to the plan of making Uralla, an area in northern NSW, to be the first zero net energy town in Australia. Clean energy consultants were recently brought to the town to help finalize the plans for this initiative.

Also in mid-March, the Lismore City Council voted on the proposal to stop investing its funds in financial institutions that support fossil fuels. Councillor Simon Clough has lodged notice of a motion that requests the council to give preference to institutions that do not support, finance or invest in fossil fuels.

Photo courtesy of Richard Rydge on Flickr

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