Quiet revolution is taking place

A QUIET revolution is unfolding in Cooran thanks to the efforts of a few dynamic Noosa locals. 

Spending an hour or two on a Saturday morning learning how to unlock the secrets of electricity bills (and inspecting a home for more clues on household energy usage), is probably not your ideal weekend activity. 

But this hardy group of locals begs to differ.

Following on from their Declaration of Cooran as a Coal and Gas Free Community on August 11 this year, members of the Cooran Earth Rights (CER) group have been meeting with volunteers from Zero Emissions Noosa (ZEN) to take back the power, one household at a time. 

The group's goal is to become the first community in Noosa, Queensland and maybe, Australia, to be a zero net user of coal and gas-generated electricity.

They aim to do this by reducing consumption, and installing more solar photovoltaic panels.

With assistance from ZEN's Repower Cooran Project Officer Geoff Acton, the community has learned that it currently draws 3.9million (mega) kilowatt hours from the electricity grid each year. 

That equates to the average Cooran household emitting 4.1 tonne of carbon dioxide from electricity usage due to the burning of coal. 

Furthermore, about 20 per cent of households are high energy users, with the remaining 80 per cent low-medium energy users. 

While more than 45 per cent of households currently have solar PV panels installed, and 22 per cent with solar hot water, the community wants to reduce its reliance upon coal as an energy source.

But making the switch to solar power is not that simple.

Surveys conducted in the community by ZEN and CER have found that the main barriers for Cooran residents in switching to renewable energy are: a lack of awareness about solar power and affordability issues; limited understanding of how people use energy in the home; and a lack of knowledge about how to decipher a power bill.

So, the group has embarked upon the challenging journey of becoming Energy Coaches for their local community.

ZEN volunteers, Michael Davis of Sustainable Energy Management P/L and Kerri Watson of EcoStrategy Consulting, are sharing their expertise with the group, using a simple energy audit process. 

The idea is that by transferring some basic knowledge about energy utilisation and potential solutions, the members of CER can then offer this expertise to other residents. 

A little bit of knowledge can translate into a lot of power, especially if the whole community is behind the initiative.

This is community-based social marketing at work, and it is being used increasingly around the globe as communities take action against climate change.