RAPAD continues to explore renewable energy approaches that offer transformative benefit in the region for the region which will:
- recognise the strategic natural advantages in low emissions energy sources which can potential make us competitive as a location for energy intensive industries;
- assist our region to overcome the problems of depopulation and lack of economic diversity, create new job opportunities and attract investment; and
- potentially assist the state government to reduce its CSO obligations via the introduction of local renewable energy generation opportunities.
The RAPAD region is in a prime position to take advantage of opportunities in renewable energy development with its warm, dry, clear conditions and underground water. These are definite competitive advantages especially in the solar sector. The challenge with current models, such as large scale solar farms currently built in the region, is that they do not help to lower local or regional electricity prices or provide sustainable jobs. Further, consumers in the RAPAD region continue to experience various energy supply issues, including increased unreliability (vulnerability to blackouts and brown outs), sensitivity to recent and future energy price increases, and inadequate access to alternative and possible superior options.
The RAPAD region has an excellent solar resource by global standards - the best in eastern Australia - and in some places valuable windy and geothermal energy, as well as gas to service a generator at Barcaldine. Renewable energy (notably solar PV) technologies have experienced considerable costs reductions in recent years and locally deployed renewable energy assets have significant potential to:
- mitigate the significant energy supply issues described above
- provide a more efficient means of deploying external subsidies (i.e. CSO, etc)
- generating savings which when spent elsewhere locally provides further local economic benefits
- diversify incomes and increase resilience to major seasonal, environmental and/or market events
- critically, can be the basis to attract significant new business and investment into the region.
Given the energy supply challenges in the region, and the increasing cost effectiveness of a decentralised energy generation solutions, a core guiding principal of RAPAD's work is to explore opportunities where "inexpensive local renewable energy as a key enabler for RAPAD region's economic development."
The RAPAD Renewable Energy Forum held in 2018 validated that the RAPAD region has a comparative advantage in renewable energy, in-turn facilitating transformative economic and social benefit for the region. Since the forum work undertaken by RAPAD includes:
- continue to facilitate and build relationships and hose energy experts from across industry into the region including Professor Ross Garnaut AC, Gupta Family Group (GFG) Alliance, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Grattan Institute
- delivered the Realising the Big Vision community consultation, testing the concepts of the strategy with communities across the region. Summaries of the report include:
- outlining the important role of energy in enhancing community resilience and opening up new opportunities through access to low cost power: energy is an all powering resource and a driver to mobilising RAPAD communities - it all starts with energy
- reinforcing that the RAPAD communities appetite for significant change is high: it has embraced the idea of self sufficiency and is eager to action it, is open to a range of alternative mechanisms and pathways if it means livability is enhanced and ready to take a significant economic transformations
- recognising and supporting RAPAD as the appropriate body to lead an economic transformation across the central west community
- emphasising electricity is the biggest threat to the regions economic development
- highlighting that the community clearly recognises investment in localised electricity generation needs to lead to lower electricity prices
Several RAPAD councils are engaging Professor Garnaut to:
- identify and implement solar on key council premises/community premises to support local communities to provide energy cost savings for council/communities, deliver flow on economic benefits and insulate against forward electricity price increases
- identify, assess and develop pathways for new businesses and investment into the region, enabled by renewable energy and aligned to the regions key capabilities and strengths.