Some Lessons for Canberra from Australia’s Solar Cities

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Canberra can learn some interesting lessons from the experience of Australia’s “Solar Cities”.

Solar Cities is a $94 million Australian Government initiative designed to trial new sustainable models for supplying and using electricity. Seven separate electricity grid-connected areas around Australia are participating in the initiative:

  • Adelaide Solar City, South Australia
  • Blacktown Solar City, New South Wales
  • Townsville Solar City, Queensland
  • Alice Solar City, Northern Territory
  • Central Victoria Solar City
  • Moreland Solar City (formerly known as Coburg Solar City), Victoria
  • Perth Solar City, Western Australia

Alice Solar City

alice solarcity1

The climateXchange team caught up with Alice Solar City General Manager Brian Elmer (pictured) during a visit to Alice Springs in May 2010.

Alice Solar City offers households incentives for over 20 different energy efficiency measures. Once households have had a home energy survey, they receive up-front rebate vouchers they can use to receive discounts of up to 35% for work by suppliers and installers to improve their energy efficiency.

Alice Solar City also held a competition in which the winning household received a complete energy and water efficiency makeover, including solar panels, a grey water system, double skin thermal walls and other measures. In return, the household agreed to participate in an open-house to the public once every two months for two years to demonstrate their energy efficient home to the local community.

According to Brian, some of the lessons learnt so far from these and other initiatives are:

  • The importance of word-of-mouth and face-to-face contact
  • The need for constant outreach activities to keep the issue in people’s minds, for example, attending community events, weekly newspaper column, e-newsletters, and letter drops, and a car with their branding emblazoned on it that is used for outreach activities
  • The importance of addressing barriers to action. In this respect, he said that Doug Mackenzie-Mohr’s book “Fostering Sustainable Behaviour” is very useful

Alice Solar City collaborates with COOLmob, another important player in the Alice Springs community. Set up jointly by the Arid Lands Environment Centre (an NGO) and Desert Knowledge Australia, COOLmob is a network of over 500 households committed to reducing their energy and water usage. It runs workshops, conducts water and general home audits, produces quarterly newsletters and other resources, and has a weekly article in the local newspaper. A key success factor for COOLmob also has been its effective outreach. An exciting new project on the horizon is the possibility of developing a community based solar farm.

It is fantastic to find out about all these initiatives in other parts of Australia as they offer us other perspectives on addressing similar sustainability challenges to those we face in Canberra.

Watch this space for other overviews of Solar City initiatives. Or else, if you happen to visit one of the Solar Cities, let us know your perspectives on what they are doing and their potential relevance to Canberra.

View their website here


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