An agreement to install solar panels on fire sheds and council-owned facilities in the Bega Valley has been hailed as a win for the community.
At Bega Valley Shire Council's meeting earlier this month, councillors unanimously voted on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) to extend their partnership for the next five years.
The MoU means any net savings from renewable energy projects funded by CEFE on council-owned buildings, such as the Tathra Community Solar Farm at the town's sewage plant, will be returned to CEFE and used to fund more solar panels on other facilities in the shire.
Greens candidate for Eden-Monaro and Bega Valley Shire Councillor Cathy Griff said the partnership was a "grand win" for community leadership on climate action and was a model for community renewable energy projects that could be replicated throughout the electorate.
"Unfortunately, the federal and state governments have hardly supported the efforts of Australians transitioning to renewable energy, regardless of lackadaisical political leadership," she said.
"There is much more action on a local government level."
CEFE founder Dr Matthew Nott said the $28,000 in savings made from installing 30kilowatts of solar panels at the Tathra sewage plant about five years ago had helped fund an extra 40kW of solar panels around the region.
"That is the power of local government working in partnership with the community," he said.
He said these savings helped fund 20kW of solar at Tathra Public School, 12kW for the Aussie rules club at Lawrence Park in Tathra, a small installation on the amenities block at Kalaru, and most recently 3.5kW at the Quaama fire shed.
CEFE is now fundraising for solar panels and batteries for other fire sheds in the region, to help them become safer refuges in emergencies by giving them a reliable source of power.
"[The bushfires were] clearly a harrowing experience for the people of Quaama who used the fire shed as a last resort refuge," Dr Nott said.
"The fires were over the top of the fire shed, there was no electricity and they were in complete darkness.
"We are also looking at this being an income stream for the community groups we are getting the solar panels for," Dr Nott said.
The installation on Quaama's fire shed will earn around $400 each year as a "feed in tariff" and that money will go to the fire shed to be spent at its discretion.
Dr Nott said renewable energy was affordable, dependable and created jobs.
"The bottom line with renewable energy is that it creates jobs, and right now we need to be looking at how we can rejuvenate our community after the bushfires and COVID-19," he said.
"I realise that when you look at the global problem of climate change, South Eastern NSW is a small part of that problem. But we can be a very big part of the solution."