1st World Community Power Conference

In a burst of spontaneity, six of us spent 24 hours on a bus within two days to attend the 1st World Community Power Conference in Fukushima. One of our International Business classes centres on renewable energy and the professor mentioned the conference to us, since he would be absent for another one of our classes due to attending. Free to register, and relevant to our course – I think he was surprised by our enthusiasm but the moral of the story is that less than two days after hearing about it we’d sorted out some tickets and were on our way.

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The six of us with our Ritsumeikan professor, who was a facilitator at the conference

The subtitle, for lack of a better word, was “1 year since Paris (Climate Agreement), 5 years since Fukushima”. The keynote speaker was an Australian, which surprised me. Hon. Peter Rae AO spoke about the effect of the decisions made in Paris, the potential of distributed power generation to empower communities and the vital component of community consultation in planning and providing for the future. Speaking about the  Paris meetings he said:

“It is not often that the world has come together and decided that they will take a positive action.”

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Søren Hermansen spoke about his hometown, the small Danish island of Samsø, which became the world’s first 100% renewable island (super interesting, look it up!). A very quotable presentation:

“The global perspective is only useful if you are creating change at a local level. We thought we were too small to make a change, but from where you are is where you change things.” – Søren Hermansen talking about Samsø.

“When you accept that you don’t know everything it becomes easier to ask the right questions and invite the right people to the table to make a plan.”

I was very interested to hear his take on wind turbines, which are a major generator of the island’s energy. He spoke about “Wind Turbine Syndrome” the (incorrect, repeatedly disproved, and damaging) idea that wind turbines interfere with human health. I was reminded vividly of growing up on the Tablelands, and the signs we would often pass nailed to trees beside the road – “Windmill make you sick”, accompanied by crude drawings of a turbine and a sad face. Hermansen’s comment was that “education can offset the erroneous psychosomatic effects” of this issue.

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The mayor of Fukushima reads the Fukushima Community Power Declaration to close the conference.

NOTE ON THE TITLE IMAGE – on display at the conference was the first and smallest prototype of the ‘Sun Child’ by artist Kenji Yanobe. The English translation of the explanation was:

“Sun Child is a big figure of an adorable smiling boy wearing a hazard suit and taking off his mask. The artist says that Sun Child is like today’s David who faced Goliath taking off his armour. Sun Child was created hoping revival of Fukushima from the ashes of the nuclear power plant accident.”

Below is a much larger version, about a fifteen minute walk from our university campus in Osaka. I’d never known what it was, so it was interesting to discover where it had come from.

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Sun Child outside Minami-Ibaraki station

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