Glasshouse forum backsCommunity clean energy workshop.

Communities all over Australia are setting goals for a more robust, locally independent and cleaner energy future - and Port Macquarie-Hastings is no exception.

A record number of area residents came to the Glasshouse on June 18 to explore what's possible for our community in a free Community Clean Energy Workshop, hosted by the Port Macquarie-Hastings Sustainability Network (PMHSN), in conjunction with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and with support from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.

The evening kicked off with an inspiring address from Mayor Peter Besseling. Councillors Trevor Sargeant and Rob Turner were also present. Tim Molloy, Group Manager of Environmental Services for PMHC provided a detailed update on the current status of Council’s Sustainability activities.

Attendees heard from local residents Stuart Watson and Rod Ware from the PMHSN, who introduced the Energy Forever project - a community-owned solar energy project that will generate ongoing revenue to be channelled into future projects to benefit the community. PMHSN received a NSW Growing Community Energy grant earlier this year which allows for feasibility and planning studies for Energy Forever and the hiring of Project Officer Anne Wilson.

Expert presenters who travelled to share their knowledge and experience with the audience included Gordon Fraser, Regional Clean Energy Coordinator from the OEH, who spoke about the Regional Clean Energy Program and Community Renewable Energy Projects; Tom Nockolds from the Community Power Agency; and Iain McGregor on behalf of Clear Sky Solar. Iain, Tom and Gordon were able to provide some very practical “nuts and bolts” advice for community groups seeking to establish energy projects, and plenty of examples of the benefits of successful projects in other communities.

The evening culminated with a very lively working session, when the floor was opened and the audience transformed into a discussion group to share ideas and suggestions with each other.

“We heard some very informative and stimulating presentations,” said Angela Frimberger, PMHSN member and MC for the evening, “But perhaps the highlight was the audience itself. We were thrilled to see a capacity crowd at this event – we even had to take over the adjacent room and order more catering, and nothing could have pleased us more! We can’t wait to move forward together with community on this exciting initiative. It is fantastic to hear all the ideas and suggestions and to see such a strong show of interest and support for community energy here in the Port Macquarie–Hastings area.”