Electricity self-sufficiency a 'hard sell'

Energy-reliance has disappeared from communities and they need to look at how that can be restored, Waitati Energy Project co-ordinator Scott Willis says.

While people used to generate energy for their own needs, power was now being wasted, he told about 30 people at a Transition Timaru meeting last night.

"We turn on the light, we don't know where the power comes from and we don't know the cost of it."

Mr Willis is part of a group dedicated to helping Waitati become more self-sufficient, with the goal of having a community-owned power company so residents would not have to rely on the national grid.

The project, which started from an idea in 2006, had grown in popularity and Mr Willis said hundreds of homes had benefited from an insulation programme aimed at reducing the amount of power used.

He said it was not easy to get people practising power reduction and energy reduction programmes worked best if heavily subsidised, at the least.

"It's a really hard sell, transition. How do you tell people 'you've got to consume less'?

"Economic incentive is a great way of getting interest. You can talk the good talk ... as much as you like, but until you offer people something for free or have a great big subsidy, they aren't going to get involved."

Mr Willis said that was where there was real possibility for the Waitati community having its own source of power – in the form of wind turbine.

While it was still on the wish list and not a reality yet, he said a turbine had the possibility to generate enough power to have the excess put back in to the national grid in return for money, but could also keep power going to the area if the grid was failing.

The idea had already generated debate around the area, which was a good thing, Mr Willis said.

The Timaru Herald