An enthusiastic group of twenty people gathered for the inaugural meeting of the local Repower Port Augusta group on May 8 at the Cooinda Club in Port Augusta, South Australia.
The group said its purpose was to raise awareness and build broad support in the community for concentrating solar thermal power to replace the ageing coal-fired power stations in Port Augusta.
Melbourne-based renewable energy research group Beyond Zero Emissions recently released a report detailing how Port Augusta could become a renewable energy hub.
Repower Port Augusta agreed that there is a need to educate the community about the benefits this plan would bring to the town, which include in employment, health, tourism and the environment. Switching to renewable energy would also help make sure Port Augusta’s rural industries are sustained in the long term.
Annette, a local resident who attended a recent public forum in Port Augusta on the issue, said she thought setting up the group was a great step and was happy with the turnout to the first meeting.
She told Green Left Weekly: “It is important for us to support and encourage solar thermal to be built in Port Augusta for the benefit of the community, in terms of employment, clean energy and for the future of the town.’’
The group said it plans to work with the newly-formed Repower Port Augusta Alliance, based in Adelaide, as well as other groups working on this campaign elsewhere in South Australia and nationally.
Three members of the Repower Port Augusta Alliance travelled from Adelaide to attend the meeting.
Ursula, who has lived in Port Augusta since 1955 and has children and grandchildren living in the town, said her motivation for attending the meeting was a serious concern for their future.
“We have had enough dirt and filth from coal power and it has to go. This plan [for solar thermal power] is fantastic and is what we should be standing up for. But we can’t leave it up to politicians — she won’t be right mate — we have to fight for it.”
After brainstorming several ideas for activities, events and ways to build support in the community, the group voted to conduct a community vote as their key project for the next few months.
The vote, which will give local people the chance to have their say on the future they want for their town — solar thermal or gas — is planned to go ahead in six weeks, just before the state government is expected to make an announcement about the future of energy generation in the region.