The THRIVE project would like to extend our warmest gratitude to Amy Gregorovich, Chris Weir and Paul Cassidy for giving guest presentations at our November Thrivability Matters Webinar. The theme of this webinar was the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, (SDG7) (Clean & Affordable Energy).
About Our Speakers
Amy Gregorovich is an early career sustainability professional, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) – Honours, and a Bachelor of Arts (Human Geography) in 2021. She currently works with the Yarra Ranges Council in Victoria, Australia, as their Energy Resilient Communities Officer. As someone with experience in environmental science and community advocacy, she is passionate about ecologically sustainable and equitable societal development – helping facilitate community engagement in local environmental projects. She discusses how the Yarra Ranges Council seeks to overcome extreme weather events and a changing climate to create sustainable and energy-resilient communities.
Paul Cassidy is a research assistant with over 20 years of experience in the sustainable housing and energy fields. He is currently working on several projects, including straw bale housing projects and bioenergy units. In his presentation, he discusses how smaller micro-scale units are more useful for transforming biomass into energy and useful byproducts, compared to traditional larger units.
Chris Weir is the President of the Bendigo Sustainability Group, an organisation that aims to foster a sustainable community for the Bendigo region in Victoria, Australia. Through their efforts, they have focused heavily on transforming their community through renewable power sources. He looks forward to discussing how renewable energy projects have benefitted buildings and the people who use them every day, and how communities can make use of renewable energy.
Summary Of the Webinar
The THRIVE Project – an organisation that directs humankind on the path towards a more sustainable future – was fortunate to have these three speakers as guest presenters for its monthly Webinar.
Amy Gregorovich on Energy Resilience in the Yarra Ranges
Amy began her presentation by discussing the beautiful landscape that lends itself to productive agricultural and tourism industries, boasting the attention of over 4.5 million tourists annually. She explained climate change as a global challenge, requiring a unified response, and the ways in which she supports her local community and economy. Amy spoke about the Livable Climate Plan that was released in 2020, which provides a framework for a unified response across the current decade.
Amy explained that during June 2021’s extreme weather, approximately 25,000 trees fell, damaging buildings, blocking roads, and wiping out power lines. Apparently, more than 1,000 homes and businesses were extensively damaged by the storm debris, many of which have been deemed unliveable since, with another 5,000 impacted by floods. Amy’s experiences around extreme weather have truly influenced the community’s approaches to meeting the priority areas in the livable climate plan.
In summary, she explained the path forward: an additional microgrid study (in partnership with Monash University and Birdwood Energy) titled the ‘Resilient Energy Precinct’ in the township of Monbulk. This microgrid is centred around the Living & Learning Centre, and the Recreation reserve, both acting as community hubs during emergency events. Overall, she said that the community will continue to be exposed to extreme weather as the climate continues to change, but that it is hoped that energy resilience measures will help to mitigate the impacts/ aid the community’s ability to recover in a fast and equitable way.
Paul Cassidy on Biomass: Micro-scale Energy and By-products
Paul began by explaining his learnings, with reference to recent research into biomass transformation technologies, and the advantages of microscale technologies. This includes the transformation of biomass into bioenergy and various by-products. He said that aside from transforming biomass into steam, which is the traditional energy process that’s been around since the start of the industrial revolution, he’s observed three major processes of transforming biomass into bioenergy/ by-products through micro-units. These include ‘combined heat and power units’, ‘gasification units’ and ‘pyrolysis units’- they all produce electricity and heat.
Paul explained that “transforming biomass with micro-scale units, at or near its source presents a strong alternative to the age-old economic edict of economies of scale”. After mentioning the effects of large-scale units, he focused on the advantages of the decentralised use of smaller units.
Finally, Paul spoke about biochar, wood vinegar, pyrolysis oil and syngas as the main by-products of the micro-units previously listed, giving us a bit of hope, when it comes to micro-scale energy.
Chris Weir on Community Energy in 2022
As an expert on solar power, Chris introduced his presentation by explaining that the Bendigo Sustainability Group was founded in 2007, and won the Premier’s Sustainability Regional Achievement Award in 2016. With a long history in community energy and solar photovoltaic, the group is involved in a bulk-buy arrangement that provided 650 systems to residents. They partnered with a solar farm to design, manage and fund community-owned solar installations.
He then explained the group’s community engagement project that supplied rooftop solar to individual sites and solar for social housing units. Chris says that after they were approached by the state government, (Sustainability Victoria), the Bendigo Sustainability Group became involved in a Community Power Hubs Project. Following this, he explained the government decided that the supply would be beneficial to the wider community.
Following a short video on ‘Community Power Hubs Supporting Renewal Projects’, Chris explained that the group made an effort to reach out to the community and engage heavily with many different zones across Victoria. He told us that they thoroughly monitor energy performance on each of their grids and that they recently became heavily involved in the development of a microgrid solar farm. According to Chris, the Bendigo Sustainability Group made massive progress, expanding and enhancing community awareness.
In summary, Amy, Paul and Chris informed us to better understand what Affordable And Clean Energy can do when harnessed correctly, as the seventh of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They also explained how the world’s current clean energy supply’s storage and conversion protects the environment. Moreover, our experts suggested that current policies encourage renewable energy, and that government should invest in courses and degrees with sustainability in mind. Lastly, our speakers presented us with data, elaborating on how global energy can be utilised for a better Earth.
If you missed out on the presentations or the live Q&A session, you can view the recording on our YouTube channel.
Make sure to register for the December webinar on SDG16 & SDG17 – Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions & Partnership for Goals.
Thanks, and do keep on thriving!
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