Saturday, 24 November 2012

BLUESKIN ENERGY PROJECT

by Scott Willis

At last month's community meetings (Long Beach, Warrington, Waitati) we reported on the developments in the Blueskin wind cluster and sought further community participation in the project. There was plenty of positive community input, with many ideas shared and values reiterated. Wonderful new offers of practical assistance were also received. The Waitati meeting was even covered by National Radio on 20 November. The project has moved significantly forward in the 14 months since last year's open days, and the practical pathway options have become much clearer. Importantly, we have been in discussion with Port Otago and Pioneer Generation and their roles as potential institutional investors in the venture. Port Otago is 100% owned by the Otago Regional Council, and Pioneer is 100% owned by Central Lakes Trust, both already providing returns from their existing activities to their Otago owners. Both also possess experience and attributes that could bring value to this community project. We've confronted the realities of New Zealand's electricity market, with its regulations around generation and retail. We believe that while we can't in the short term achieve our 2006 dream of total control over our power and the price we pay for it, we can be confident at this stage that the wind cluster development can provide financial returns to the community and will, in turn, assist us to develop greater energy sovereignty and provide those benefits in the longer term.
A simple exit survey was held at each meeting, with results below:

Survey results: 'How do you feel about the proposed Blueskin Wind Cluster project?'
  •    Really dislike it – 0
  •    Um, probably not – 4
  •    No opinion – 0
  •    Yeah, OK – 10
  •    Love the idea! - 24
Our exit survey didn't capture all who attended and some couples just filled in one form, but in macro terms this reflects the range of support uncovered in our extensive community engagement (available in the Blueskin Library and soon on the Blueskin Power website – see "Blueskin People Power: A toolkit for community engagement"). Renewable generation projects in New Zealand typically only 'consult' when required to under the Resource Management Act. This project, initiated, owned and managed by the community is working on a very different model. Well before any formal requirement, we have been inviting participation and working to incorporate as many community dreams and desires as possible, and working them into a practical, realistic model. The great value of this inclusive approach is that it does allow great creativity. The big challenge is that some perspectives are mutually incompatible. It is our job to try to distil out the essential, maintain the community core, and work to make the dream a reality.

Blueskin residents are a passionate bunch and this is a significant project, for our community, and for New Zealand. We are proceeding at considered pace through data analysis, relationship building, regular feedback and professionalism. At its heart, this is about doing something well, and providing greater benefit to our community. Without local generosity of course, none of this could happen. We are so lucky to have well maintained community halls run by dedicated volunteers for community events; Thank you to Alistair and Bev for delivering all the flyers; Helen, thank you for sharing IT resources, and thank you to everyone who made the community evenings such dynamic events.

Visit us at: www.blueskinpower.co.nz, or at the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati (on Waitati School grounds). Telephone enquiries can be made on 482 2048  (the Wind Cluster) and 482 2207 (Energy Advice) and for any information about the solar project email Chris Le Breton at solar@blueskinpower.co.nz.

 

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