Fast and Fair
Early this morning at a strategy meeting, Nicky Ison, a fellow board member at Community Power Agency, recalled how in 2017 in the lead up to the second Australian Community Energy Congress, she and Erland Howden devised the term “Fast and Fair” to describe the important work of community energy. Here she is opening the Congress.
For me, this idea of a fast and fair transition speaks to the heart of my theory of change for why community energy is so important. We can implement a transition to clean energy without community input, but it is far too likely we’ll do things in ways that do not match the needs and expectations of the community at large when we take this road. When this happens we meet resistance and grassroots political opposition to renewables, which can and has slowed down the deplyment of renewables.
I’ve heard a version of the back-story behind Hepburn Wind, Australia’s flagship community energy project, that speaks to this idea. I do not know how true this story is, I should be clear. Years before the Hepburn Wind project, a industrial scale wind farm was proposed for this treasured corner of Central Victoria. Locals were not involved in the decisions about things like “how big”, “where” and “why” and they were upset when they saw the plans. They organised, and built enough policital power to successfully fend of the wind development.
Then, a single person in the community with experience of community ownership of wind turbines (a Danish migrant to Australia) started a conversation with his new community about building a wind turbine that matched the needs of the local area. These conversations grew over years and eventually the community themselves decided the right thing to do was to build two turbines on a nearby hillside, and for them to be owned by local people.
Fair means Fast, but Fast also means Fair
These days I see these two concepts as working both ways. There is the above – unless we make it fair, it is too likely to meet opposition and therefore won’t be as fast as it could be. But the more obvious climate change issue is that unless the transition is fast, it won’t be fair. More correctly, the faster the transition is, the fairer it will be.
Fairer and Faster
It does not roll of the tongue quite so easily when we swap the words, but we agreed this morning that Fair and Fast better represents what Community Power Agency is working towards. For us, fairness comes first but this order of words also highlights how we need to ensure the new energy system is not simply built along the same (unfair) model of profit extraction and exploitation.
The Three D’s of Community Energy
I recently purchased a second-hand copy of The Home Energy Handbook. A publication from the Centre for Alternative Technology from 2012. Authors Allan Shepherd, Paul Allen, Peter Harper, Nicky Ison and Jarra Hicks.
Co-founders of Community Power Agency, Nicky Ison and Jarra Hicks, wrote a chapter in the book on community energy.
This book is an important part of Community Power Agency’s origin story, and legacy. Before we started talking about “Fast and Fair” we were banging on about the Three D’s – Decarbonisation, Decentralisation and Democratisation. The reference source for this is Nicky Ison’s 2009 Masters Thesis
The exact wording in the Thesis is as follows:
For the purpose of this research, community energy projects will be defined as having the following three features:
Nicky Ison, “Overcoming Technical Knowledge Barriers to Community Energy Projects in Australia”, 18 October 2009 p.6
- Use of renewable energy or low carbon technologies – decarbonizes,
- Distributing/ localising supply; and
- Democratising governance through community ownership and/or participation.
So there you have it. The earliest known source that I am aware of of the Three ‘D’s’ of Community Energy. The second D Decentralise is listed as Distributing but that is just a synonym, meaning the same thing for intents and purposes.
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