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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Datong Cleaner Environment Project fact sheet cover

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The Bushlight Energy Project

Australian Greenhouse Office

PDF file

The Goal

To improve the livelihood choices for remote indigenous communities in Australia through access to sustainable renewable energy services.

The Challenge

Australia’s geography creates challenges to the supply of electricity, with Australians living in remote areas often having to make do with variable and intermittent power. There are about 1200 remote indigenous communities in Australia, and a large number of these are not connected to electricity grids.

Remote communities often rely on diesel or small petrol generators for electricity, have limited access to and awareness of renewable technologies, have a scarcity of trained personnel to install and maintain equipment, and experience high costs associated with capital, travel and installation.

This case study

The Bushlight programme was designed to increase access to sustainable renewable energy services for remote indigenous communities. The program began in 2002 and was initially funded for 4 years through the Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme.

The Bushlight program objectives are to:

How did we make it happen?

The Bushlight programme is implemented by field officers based in Derby (Western Australia), Cairns (Queensland), Alice Springs and Darwin (Northern Territory), with a head office based at the Centre of Appropriate Technology in Alice Springs.

Field officers provide technical and community support to remote communities through the planning and installation of renewable energy systems. Bushlight has developed a Community Energy Planning Model that provides staff with methods and resources designed to develop increased community awareness, capacity and confidence in relation to energy services.

The planning model provides activities, charts and resources for community energy planning and training as well as renewable energy system user manuals, maintenance logs and system signage to simplify system use. Planning discussions have also involved attempts to ensure future maintenance and support activities are available through appropriately skilled and resourced organisations.

Bushlight staff provide community members with three training modules, including:

  1. Renewable Energy operation and basic maintenance;
  2. Trouble-shooting problems or issues with energy services; and
  3. Sustainable management of energy services.

Bushlight staff visit communities at least once every 3 months in the first 12 months after systems are installed to ensure capability and confidence to manage renewable energy services is established. A 12 month review of services is undertaken, including system servicing and maintenance, with feedback from community members gathered regarding the success of the system and how it has impacted on their communities.

How far have we come?

Bushlight officers have discussed renewable energy plans with more than 450 remote communities and over 90 renewable energy systems have been installed. Installation costs have been reduced by 30% over the life of the project, through standardisation of equipment, improved procurement and increased competition for contracts. Communities have benefited from the reduced use of generators, with significant savings derived from reduced cost and labour required to refuel, transport and maintain generators.

With a reliable 24 hour power supply, provided by the installed renewable energy systems, communities are able to reallocate resources away from inefficient energy services and towards community development projects. Improved health and welfare has resulted from a desire for community members to stay on the homeland, the reduced need to visit town for diesel, food or entertainment, the ability to refrigerate perishables, use small power tools, wash clothes and re-establish schools.

What have we learnt?

A key element in the success of the Bushlight programme has been a focus on improving community capacity and confidence to choose and manage renewable energy services. Bushlight has developed a participative approach to energy planning and capacity building at the community level.

For further information please visit: http://www.bushlight.org.au