A DESIRE for future generations to enjoy this “fantastic” world is what motivates WA Volunteer of the Year Steve Gates.
The Gooseberry Hill resident was given the honour at Volunteering WA’s annual awards last month, recognising his environmental, sustainable energy and disability work over the past 20 years.
“It’s not one of those things you really expect, it was quite a surprise,” he said.
“It is good to be recognised.”
Mr Gates’ passion for volunteering started as a teenager, when he was involved in a newspaper recycling group, and is influenced by his work as a mechanical engineer.
“Ever since I was a kid, building or designing things was what I wanted to do,” he said.
“I saw an opportunity to help people and help our environment.”
He is co-founder of Sustainable Energy Now (SEN), part of the Nature Reserves Preservation Group and in 2005 developed a customised beach wheelchair prototype for Technology Assisting Disabilities WA, which featured on ABC TV’s The New Inventors program and was manufactured for purchase and hire.
For the past four years, he and other volunteers at SEN have been working on software for renewable energy modelling and launched it in April.
SEN’s Integrated Renewable Energy Network (SIREN) computer simulation allows people to create, cost and evaluate scenarios for supplying electricity using a mixture of renewable energy sources and can be applied for anywhere in the world.
“It’s free because we want everyone to use it; we’ve already had interest from other countries,” Mr Gates said.
“We’re using it as a tool to provide vision and planning capabilities to any organisation interested.
“Our recent study outcomes show that we can have an 85 to 100 per cent renewable electricity grid in WA’s southwest grid by 2030 which is competitive with replacing our present ageing electricity generation plants.”
He said volunteering was “empowering, satisfying and mind broadening”.
“The environment is something close to my heart (and) helping people and animals that can’t speak for themselves is what drives me,” he said.
“We live in a fantastic place; I want to make sure future generations are going to experience what we do.”
Other award winners included Greg Elliot, a volunteer teacher at Centacare in Midland who won the Volunteering Award for Ethnic Communities, and Kalamunda resident Hank Koster, who was presented with the Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering Award for his more than 50 years helping people in WA.