In January, our New England Renewable Energy Zone (NEREZ) team received a boost with the recruitment of Heidi McElnea as Engagement Coordinator. Heidi lives within the New England REZ, and she’s been building local connections, facilitating information flow and working on strategies to increase local participation in the renewable energy transition since her role got underway.
We’ve been continuing our collaboration with community groups for support, connection and capacity building.
In March we hosted a community energy information evening with ZNET Uralla and local solar energy company Meralli. The focus of the evening was to walk though different models of community owned energy models and consider the opportunities of co-designing projects with developers. Kim gave an overview of the Haystacks Solar Garden project, a cooperative arrangement that Community Power Agency is facilitating which enables people to purchase a solar garden plot.
We worked with the UNE’s Smart Region Incubator on an Energy Roundtable and Innovation Challenge. Both were very successful, with lots of strategies developed at the Roundtable, and some new start-up enterprises with a renewable energy focus that grew from the Innovation Challenge.
Councils play a significant role in the renewable energy transition, and we’ve been meeting with Mayors and senior staff to co-design a joint council capacity building workshop which we will hold in August.
Other work has included an initial gap analysis of workforce training, employment and procurement, and taking a proactive role in information sharing with media and stakeholders. We strongly advocate for the importance of community participation in the current consultation around preliminary transmission line corridors at every chance we get. It is exciting to see the transition unfolding in the region and all the possibilities these activities brings to regions. Over the next few months we will continue our work on the ground to improve the social outcomes for communities in the NEREZ.