The RAPAD region is ready to take the next step in reinventing itself as one of the most resilient communities in Australia underpinned by renewable energy.
In February 2018 a determined cluster of seven central west local government areas shared a vision, which was endorsed by government and industry, for the region to generate Queensland’s electricity needs from renewable energy, in turn facilitating transformative economic and social benefit for the region, while becoming an energy super power of the low carbon world.
A confidential concept report “Realising the RAPAD Big Vision” has just been completed by Sharon Denny, Global Futuremakers, fleshing out what the region could look like and highlighting varied methods to realise the region’s vision.
“The RAPAD region has an opportunity to make itself resilient and self-sufficient on all fronts, through opportunities opened up by access to low cost power. Energy is an all empowering resource, and access to reliable, cost-effective energy re-establishes a community's independence. It all starts with energy,” said Ms Denny.
The report paints a multi layered vision that has the capacity to generate a self-reliant region resistant to the impacts of climate, with high liveability.
"The region could grow a broader variety of foods through sophisticated production systems, access, manufacture and recycle more water, attract and grow diverse industry, create jobs and provide more educational options. "
"To embark on attracting and developing large scale green energy in the region without robust consideration of how that power enhances the liveability of local communities, councils and industry, how it’s integrated with digital technology and varied options for its utilisation, would be the vision half realised,” she said.
“That’s why we’ve taken a circular economy approach, which is basically applying a systems overview, that ensures today’s profit isn’t a result of tomorrow’s expense,” she said. Longreach Regional Council Mayor Ed Warren is keen to push the renewable energy agenda forward.
"This project is not being undertaken because RAPAD has a green agenda it is being undertaken to assist our region overcome the problems of depopulation, lack of economic diversity and to create new job opportunities and attract investment,” he said.
"We recognise the region’s strategic natural advantages in low emissions energy sources which can potentially make us competitive as a location for energy intensive industries and begin to diversify the local economy away from the impacts of weather," said Mr Warren.
The Barcaldine Regional Council area has already welcomed renewable energy generators into the community but on a harvesting and output model.
“We see the arrival of solar farms as a first step, as a region we need to make sure the model evolves so it can attract and retain new industries and create ongoing sustainable jobs here in our communities,” said Barcaldine Regional Council CEO Steven Boxall.
“If we can provide residents and businesses with very inexpensive power, money will be freed up to circulate through the economy and that will help, but if we can also attract new businesses with our clean low-cost power the impact on the local economy will sky rocket and our economy will be able to withstand the buffeting by markets and weather,” he said.
The report highlights industries like aquaculture, intensive horticulture, manufacturing that could be attracted to cheap clean energy.
The RAPAD board has accepted Ms Denny’s report and extends its appreciation to the Department of Environment and Science for funding the report which will now be used in future discussions with government, industry and private enterprise.
Councils have been asked to consider the concept report.