First of its kind: New course in ‘Socially-responsible renewable energy development’ delivered by CPA

CPA staff with landholder standing in front of wind farm

December 2021 saw two notable “firsts” in Australia’s energy transition.

An impressive milestone for South Australia, where wind and solar farms entirely powered 100% of that state’s energy needs for a record 6.5 days, just shy of a whole week.

Meanwhile in different locations around the country, renewable energy practitioners logged in to the final session of an online course teaching them new social license tools many in the industry and civil society say is critical to delivering the pipeline of new renewable energy developments on the path to Australia’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Community Power Agency (CPA) and the Yunus Centre (Griffith University) developed the 8-week online professional development course to increase people’s confidence and skills to deliver industry-leading community engagement, benefit sharing and local procurement for commercial renewable energy developments.

The ‘Socially-responsible renewable energy development’ course is the first of its kind to be offered in Australia and was made possible with the support of renewables advocacy group RE-Alliance and philanthropic donors Danny and Sue Mathews from the Mullum Trust.

With 10 years experience in advising governments, companies and civil society organisations on community engagement and benefit sharing for renewable energy developments, course facilitator and CPA Director Dr Jarra Hicks said achieving a social licence to operate was different for each project and couldn’t be guaranteed with business-as-usual tactics.

“The renewable energy landscape is undergoing rapid change. As states and territories roll out renewable energy zones worth billions of dollars, it is essential that projects put their best foot forward through good quality, high-impact community engagement and benefit sharing practices”, Dr Hicks said.

The course featured practical on-the-ground knowledge from  11 invited industry leaders for lively discussions that spanned the full experience of renewable energy development.

Content included learning-edges for the industry around engaging with first nations communities, how to deliver community co-ownership and co-investment ,models and how to deliver value in local communities through local procurement strategies – as well as training practitioners in practices of community engagement and benefit sharing.

Course facilitator Dr Jarra Hicks (top left) and 2021 course participants
Course facilitator Dr Jarra Hicks (top left) and the 2021 cohort of renewable energy practitioners

“We had a great group of people who were highly engaged with the course and were keen to share their experiences and thoughts with their peers”, Dr Hicks said.

The course attracted 20 participants from a range of backgrounds including managing directors of renewable energy companies, project engineers and community engagement staff, as well as people from indigenous and community organisations.

“This was a fantastic course offering a deep dive into best practice community engagement in the renewable energy sector – I learnt a lot and look forward to recommending the next series to colleagues.” – Lauren Mellor, Clean Energy Communities Coordinator – Northern Territory, Original Power, an indigenous-led advocacy organisation empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with renewable energy.

“Such a fabulous course. I am so grateful to be able to learn from so many thought leaders in this space, including the course facilitator Dr Jarra Hicks.” – Mieka White, Communications & Community Relations Officer for power generation company RATCH-Australia

“This course is a timely and positive contribution to the industry.” Andrew Dyer, Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Australian Government, who helps industry and governments by identifying and promoting the adoption of best practices for planning and deploying energy infrastructure projects.

The course will run again in Q2 2022. Sign up to the CPA newsletter to be the first to receive updates.

Bank Australia announces community energy grant fund recipients

Leading ethical bank, Bank Australia, announced today their biggest ever round of grant funding, including a new category just for community energy projects. Five organisations will receive $25,000 from the Bank to develop their community energy projects.

The full list of grant recipients can be found on their website, but the five community energy winners are worth us listing here:

  • Bendigo Sustainability Group
  • Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance
  • Gippsland Climate Change Network
  • Pingala
  • Community Power Agency

Yes, that’s right – we’re one of the recipients. We’re using the funds to help Inner West Council in Sydney further develop their plans for creating a solar garden for those residents who are ‘locked out’ of owning their own rooftop solar system.

The project will determine the best solar gardens model to use for residents in the Inner West Council are and commence planning for the future implementation stage.

Our heartfelt congratulations to all the successful applicants. We look forward to seeing your community energy projects unfold and flourish with this generous support from Bank Australia.

ALP’s climate policy to boost community-led clean energy projects

Community energy group welcome Labor’s Community Power policy.


Federal Labor’s climate policy promises to kick-start clean energy projects and boost community access to renewable energy across Australia, the Community Power Agency says.

The ALP has today announced it will spend $98.7 million over four years to develop a Community Power Network as part of the party’s wider Climate and Energy policy package.

Community Power Hubs will provide legal and technical expertise as well as start-up funding to help communities build and run their own clean energy projects.

The Community Power Agency’s Nicky Ison says there are more than 70 community groups across the country already working to create clean energy projects like Hepburn Wind in Victoria and the Nimbin Community Solar Farm in NSW.

“The combination of 10 Community Power Hubs and competitive grants will support community energy in Australia to follow in the footsteps of countries like Germany, where 47 per cent of all installed renewables is owned by citizens and communities,” Ms Ison said.

“Communities play a hugely important leadership role in the transition to clean energy here and around the world.

“Community energy initiatives also play an important part in overcoming market failures that prevent renters, low-income households and apartment dwellers from accessing the benefits of household solar.”

Ms Ison says regional Australia stands to gain the most if the country embraces the global renewable energy boom.

“This policy is also a huge win for regional Australia, as it will support farmer bioenergy projects and help develop new business models that enable regional communities to invest in and directly benefit from large wind and solar farms. This in turn will ensure a greater share of the renewables investment boom stays circulating in regional and local economies.”

The ALP’s Community Power Network and Regional Hubs policy draws inspiration from the Community Powerhouses policy outlined in GetUp and Solar Citizens’ Homegrown Power Plan, of which Nicky Ison was a co-author.

The Community Powerhouses policy envisages a network of 50 Community Power Hubs, supporting local energy projects across Australia for a decade.

“We look forward to seeing an extension and scale up of the ALP’s Community Power Network after a successful first four years,” Ms Ison said.

For further comment contact:

Nicky Ison on 0402 0345 80 or

Nicky can also provide a list of community clean energy projects already operating as well as connect media to community energy groups such as New England Wind and Totally Renewable Yackandandah (Indi) for an on-the-ground perspective and provide a list of community.

The Community Power Agency is one of the country’s leading community energy organisations. It helps community groups navigate the complex process of setting up a community owned renewable energy project.

Please read ALP’s full Climate Change Action Plan here.

Green Ups, Nov 2015

Ideas Boom! Community energy and the innovation statement

The great disruptive change of the moment is the clean energy transition. Community energy projects sit at the forefront of innovative new energy business models but they are also social enterprises, aiming to deliver more than just a-profit-to-shareholders outcome. It’s essential that our governments support innovation and in a way that delivers constructive outcomes for new energy business models as well as for social enterprise.

The release of the Turnbull Government’s innovation statement today is extremely promising and we hope heralds a new era of bi-partisan support for building a future that delivers energy abundance to all Australians.

Green Ups, Nov 2015

Tax breaks

We’d like to see the government adopting a broader definition of what constitutes an enterprise or business. We know that innovation thrives on diversity and so it makes logical sense to think of a definition of enterprise that goes beyond just the one-dimensional view of a profit-making company. The tax breaks for for start-ups will give many community energy groups a real boost, but for those groups that are co-operatives or associations it’s not clear that they’ll be able to benefit from these changes.


The Government today also included plans to support development of new incubators for sectors with high innovation potential and we’re looking forward to being able to talk further about the huge innovation potential of community energy. We know from overseas experience that community driven clean energy projects and the contribution they make to the economy can be huge. In Germany, for example, 46% of their massive clean energy fleet is owned by citizens and communities, who have developed innovative new business models to support the delivery of their projects. No other sector has the potential to engage millions of Australians in the innovation agenda and the clean energy transition at the same time.

Equity Crowdfunding

The newly introduced bill to relax the rules so that public companies can do equity crowdfunding are a small step in the right direction. The biggest barrier now remaining is to ensure that the ongoing compliance (costs and administration) are lowered for public companies so that equity crowdfunding actually starts to happen. Without a lowering of the compliance burden, the No-Fly Zone for community energy projects will remain and we won’t see equity crowdfunding becoming a popular way of raising community investment for clean energy projects.

Community energy will do well with the new innovation agendas being introduced by all sides of politics and today’s announcement from the Turnbull Government is a big step in the right direction. Further detail needs to be worked through to deliver on these policy statements and the community energy sector is excited at the prospect of working with policy makers and all supporters of innovation to help us realise our vision of a fairer energy system for all Australians.