The redistributive potential of community owned renewable energy and what this presents for regional communities in Australia (17097)
Mainstream energy practices have profound ramifications on the environment, politics and society. Highly centralized fossil-fuel electricity generation has led to uneven distribution of benefit and harm that plays out in local, national and international arenas. Locally, recent experiences in Morewell (VIC) with a 45 day fire burning in a coal mine less than 5 km from the town, or that of Mayfield (NSW) residents suffering from coal dust along the train line to the export port in Newcastle, are two examples. Globally, the impact of climate change is, and will continue to be, felt across the world; often the countries most effected and least able to respond are those least responsible for historic carbon emissions.
The renewable energy transition currently under way opens opportunities for radically different social, economic, scalar and spatial arrangements of energy systems. The democratized, decentralized and decarbonized potential of community-owned renewable energy systems (Hicks and Ison 2011) offers an inherently re-distributive approach. For regional communities, this re-distribution can play out across social, environmental and economic outcomes with potential opportunities for sustainable regional development (Mulugetta et. al. 2010; Seyfang et. al. 2013).
This paper explores the nature of community owned renewable energy through a reflection on academic and empirical research and uses a community economies perspective to highlight the opportunities (and challenges) such an energy approach presents for regional Australian communities.