The Community Power Agency was established in 2011 to support community groups in navigating the complex process of setting up community owned renewable energy (community energy) projects. We believe that democratically controlled, distributed community energy projects will bring social, environmental and economic benefits to communities across Australia.
We also work to grow a vibrant community energy sector in Australia, through working collaboratively with other organisations to address systemic barriers facing the sector as a whole.
The Community Power Agency engages in three main areas of work:
- Supporting and building the capacity of community projects on the ground
- Engaging in sector level advocacy, collaboration and development, specifically through our role as Secretariat of the Coalition for Community Energy
- Developing resources and doing research
Here’s what we’ve been up to recently…
Supporting Community Energy Projects
We are working with a number of community groups working towards developing exciting community renewables projects. The main groups we are currently working with are Pingala, Mount Alexander Community Renewables, New England Wind, CANWin in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and a consortium of groups in the Blue Moutains. Watch this space for more projects to come!
EmPower Our City: Community Renewables for Sydney
In March 2013, Community Power Agency put on a forum in Redfern Town Hall entitled Empower our City: Community Renewables for Sydney. The forum was attended by 130 people, with inspiring speeches from Community Power Agency’s Nicky Ison, Embark’s Andy Cavanah-Downes and Muriel Watt from the Australian PV Association and ably MCed by Giles Parkinson from reneweconomy.com.au.
The forum was followed up with a workshop attended by 25 people where one of Sydney’s first community renewable energy groups was formed – Pingala: Community Renewables for Sydney. Pingala is in the process of establishing a community solar project in Sydney. To find out more or get involved contact Pingala Coordinator, Tom – email@example.com.
Repower Shoalhaven Launch
Community Power Agency was exciting to be part of the recent launch of Repower Shoalhaven at Nowra Entertainment Centre. Repower Shoalhaven is the brainchild of Chris Cooper, energy Research Consultant at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and Shoalhaven local. The project is one of the most recent in a wave of community solar projects that are popping up across Australia. The launch was attended by over 150 people and was chaired by former ABC news anchor Richard Morecroft. With a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm, the forum went well over time, with many people sticking round afterwards for a chat. See more at http://www.repower.net.au/.
New England Wind
Currently, the Community Power Agency is part of the consortium of groups developing New England Wind, NSW’s first proposed community wind farm. Specifically, the Community Power Agency undertook a study into the different definitions of community and the different organisational models available to the project as part of its pre-feasibility study process.
After attending and helping to facilitate a successful energy visioning afternoon for the Southern Highlands, the Community Power Agency along with the Institute for Sustainable Futures and Fresh Energy Consulting will be working with groups in the Southern Highlands to undertake a feasibility study for a community renewables project.
At the invitation of Katoomba Climate Action Network and Blue Mountains Transition Towns, the Community Power Agency recently gave a talk and ran a half day community renewable energy project inception workshop for the Blue Mountains community. This process, which was very well attended, has helped initiate a Blue Mountains Community Renewables Project.
In March 2014 CPA was invited by the Climate Action Network to give a talk at Wollongong Aboriginal Community Centre to inspire the local community about community renewable energy with stories from around the world.
The attendees were really engaged and keen to get involved in setting up their own community energy project. We were happy to see that this community group is joining the emerging sector and committed to set up a community energy project in the city.
Working at a sector-level
Renewables for All – C4CE Strategic Initiative
In our new Renewables for All advocacy project we work with state policy makers and key stakeholders to help establish policies that will increase clean energy accessibility and affordability in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT.
The first project milestone was the creation of five Discussion Papers, which identified a range of policy mechanisms and business models that would help customers that haven’t been able to access new clean energy technology due to either technically (inappropriate roofs) or financially (low income households) limitations. The presented mechanisms and examples are structured around two key barriers: accessing the benefits of clean energy beyond the bounds of your own home and affordability and ease of repayment.
The second milestone was stakeholder workshop in all the participating states. The workshops held in the last 10 days, have been extremely well attended with 20-25 people at each workshop. From the workshops, 3-4 policy and model priorities were identified for each state, these will become the basis of policy briefs that will be used in advocacy with state policy makers.
The discussion and policy briefing papers can be downloaded here.
The project is a strategic initiative of the Coalition for Community Energy, led by the Community Power Agency and auspiced by Starfish Initiatives. This project was funded by Energy Consumers Australia (www.energyconsumersaustralia.com.au) as part of its grants process for consumer advocacy projects and research projects for the benefit of consumers of electricity and natural gas.
Community Energy Congress 2014
Community Power Agency is working with eight other organisations to initiate the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE). C4CE is a true collaboration to grow a vibrant community energy sector in Australia. It is based on principles of mutual benefit, shared leadership, responsibility and accountability and responsiveness. C4CE applies cutting edge collective impact and collaborative governance processes to the community energy sector. Community Power Agency has and continues to play an essential coordination role for C4CE. At the Community Energy Congress (see below), C4CE will be formally launched and open its membership to organisations who share a vision and active commitment to growing community energy in Australia. Look out for more information in June about C4CE at www.c4ce.net.au.
Initiating the Coalition for Community Energy
The Community Energy Congress is being held on June 16-17, 2014 in Canberra. The Congress is the first time the emerging community energy sector has come together at a national scale. Community Power Agency is working with eight other organisations to help develop and deliver a program for the Congress that most benefits community energy proponents, policy makers, regional development actors, financers and other interested parties. To find out more and register head to www.c4ce.net.au/congress.
Australian Community Energy Strategy
Community Power Agency is part of the project led by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS and funded by ARENA to develop a National Community Energy Strategy. This strategy, based on a significant body of research tapping into the status of 38 projects across Australia, proposes a series of objectives and priority initiatives to grow the community energy sector. It seeks to:
- Ensure the 45+ community energy projects in development are up and running, benefiting their communities, and
- Successful models are replicated in communities across Australia.
The strategy includes five priority areas: Capacity Building, Profile Raising, Finance and Funding, Business Models and Policy and Regulatory Reform. Community Power Agency has been leading the development of the Strategy in one of these areas – Capacity Building. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide input into the Draft National Community Energy Strategy on the Tuesday morning (17 June) of the Community Energy Congress.
Resources and Research
We’ve been busy on a ‘A How-to Guide for Community Owned Renewable Energy’ due to be released in May 2014, along with many great materials. Please see the resources page of this website for details and links.