A number of regional communities across Australia have a long and divisive history with energy generation. One of these communities is Gloucester, a small town in the Mid Coast region of New South Wales.
In 2019 Gloucester made headlines after community members fought to win a landmark case in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, which rejected the application for an open cut coal mine near the town on environmental grounds.
I know the issue well, having spent the first 18 years of my life in Gloucester I am all too familiar with the community disconnect around mining. Issues like jobs futures, tourism, the environment and the economy dominated local discussions, and it wasn't pretty.
In this week's episode of Voice of Real Australia's podcast, I talk to people in Gloucester fed up with the antagonistic nature of the debate and learn how a group of local residents took renewable power into their own hands.
Diane Montague is one of these residents and she says the years spent fighting the coal mine left her drained.
"When I came to Gloucester, there was talk of a mining company. I ran the group that was against them establishing a new mine for about eight years. It was exhausting. It was dividing, it was demoralising."
Energise Gloucester was established in 2016 and is focused on alternative energy, which is provided with and for the community. They're in the process of building a 500-kilowatt solar farm to produce clean, cheap electricity that keeps the profits local.
Projects like the one in Gloucester are popping up all over the country.
In Denmark, Western Australia, the locals have funded a small wind farm, similarly, outside Daylesford, Victoria, the community have purchased three turbines, and volunteers in Yackandandah aim to make their town 100 per cent renewable by next year.
Ms Montague believes that projects like this are so important because they are community lead projects with community-based outcomes.
"Community energy is such a wonderful thing because it's a local thing. It's not a big company coming in and taking all the money somewhere else," she says.
Being from Gloucester, I see the positive impact a project like this can have. Not because of its sustainability or economics, but because it's a chance for the community to come together.
Having a project that can benefit the local residents in such a number of ways, I believe, will go a long way toward healing old wounds.
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