Newsletter – October 2019

Dear Community Energy Enthusiasts,

Letting go, transitioning and celebrating change as the days get longer – we are well and truly amidst the growth of springtime!

  • Letting go – Yes its true and sad and wonderful at the same time… Nicky Ison is moving on from CPA!
  • Transitioning – Welcoming new members and powering on!
  • Celebrating – The potency of people power with this weeks launch of the #SolarforAll Campaign! 
  • Growing – A new community energy group joins our movement!

Read on for more.

From all of us at the (transitioning, growing and celebrating) Community Power Agency team!

Jarra, Nicky, Fran, Tom, Elizabeth, Ella and Kristy!!

Nicky Ison moving on from CPA

It is with sadness that we let you know that one of our founders – Nicky Ison is moving on from Community Power Agency.

However, it is with excitement that we wish her well in her new job with WWF as their new Energy Transition Manager.  Nicky will be leading WWF’s new renewable exports campaign (700% renewables anyone?).

For more than a decade Nicky has worked to grow a vibrant community energy sector.

From five community energy groups when she and Jarra started there are now more than 110 across the country working to democratise our energy system and tell a powerful story of how communities can lead and benefit from acting on climate and shifting to renewables.

We want to thank Nicky for her amazing contribution to Community Power Agency.  Some highlights include:

  • Bringing together 620 people in Melbourne Town Hall for the Community Energy Congress, including 25 Aboriginal leaders to talk about how we drive a faster and fairer transition to clean energy.
  • Writing the Homegrown Power Plan and Repower Australia Plan.
  • Running numerous workshops and speaking at events with communities across the country, including the inaugural events of Totally Renewable Yackandandah, Repower Shoalhaven and most recently Capricorn Coast Community Energy in Yeppoon in Central Queensland.
    Winning community energy policy commitments particularly from the NSW and Victorian Governments. 
  • Pioneering Solar Gardens and launching the Solar for All Campaign this week. 

Check out CPA’s great video for a snapshot of some of the things we’ve achieved over the years.

While Nicky is a big loss, Community Power Agency will continue to kick community energy goals on the ground, with communities, in the media and politically without her.

Should you be interested in energy justice, democratising our energy system, demonstrating how clean energy is the future for communities across this sunburnt country, please get in touch with the CPA team of Jarra, Fran, Tom, Elizabeth, Ella and Kristy.

We’re also pleased that Nicky intends to stay on the board of CPA so is not leaving the community energy movement entirely.

Community Energy Workshop in Yeppoon

Two weeks ago, CPA Director Nicky Ison and Luke Reade from Energetic Communities were invited to Yeppoon to run a community energy workshop by the excellent folks at Central Queensland. 

We are pleased to report that the coast is beautiful and the enthusiasm for community energy is high.  Forty people turned out for our Community Energy workshop, brimming with ideas for community energy projects.  We were excited to find out that Yeppoon already has a tradition of community energy, having run a series of solar bulk buys earlier this decade.

As such its our pleasure to welcome the newest community energy group to our movement – Capricorn Coast Community Energy (name TBC). If you are keen to know more about their plans or to help them please contact Tom Henderson at

Solar for All Campaign Launched

This week Community Power Agency was excited to launch our newest campaign – Solar for All

The campaign which is backed by a growing number of organisations, is calling on sate governments to ensure all Australians can access solar, no matter where they live or how much they earn.
We’d love you to get involved in the campaign by:

You can also check out some of the media from the campaign so far, including a great story on Prime7 and a write-up on One Step off the Grid. Thanks to everyone who has supported the campaign so far.

Solar for All video

Solar for All

Solutions that unlock solar for everyone

When it comes to solar energy, Australia really is the “lucky country”. Australia is to clean solar what Saudi Arabia is to dirty oil. We’ve got so much of the stuff that a large part of our national identity is shaped by our sunshine. We are Bronzed Aussies, the Sunburnt Country, only some of us live in the Sunshine State, but we all Slip, Slop and Slap!

No surprise then that Australian home owners have so warmly embraced rooftop solar. Not only is this a great way to keep on top of rising energy bills, it also speaks to our sense of identity as independent pioneers and, added bonus, gives an opportunity to “stick it to the big guys”, the energy companies who send us their bills each quarter. 

With the world’s highest rate of rooftop solar installation, Australia now has over 2 million solar homes. Unfortunately some of us are less lucky than others. Some 35% of us are “locked out”, unable to access the benefits of rooftop solar. This is because many Australians are renters, live in apartments, have shaded roofs unsuitable for solar or just can’t afford the up-front cost.

Locked out energy users love solar as much the rest. They’d like to participate in the solar revolution and take control of their energy future. They just need someone to unlock the potential of solar for their situation.

Unlocking solar

It may seem obvious that if you don’t have a roof suitable for solar then you can’t buy a solar system to get the benefits it brings. That’s the end of the story, right?

Thankfully, some people see this as the beginning of an exciting quest, not the end of a short and disappointing story. These entrepreneurs, advocates and creative thinkers have been working hard with like minded people in their communities to find ways that would allow those of us who are locked out to access the benefits of owning solar.

This is the first of our Solar for All series of articles where we’ll explore the emerging solutions for locked out households, the barriers holding these solutions back and those who hold the key to a future where everyone has fair access to affordable, clean solar power.

Framing the problem shapes the solution

Creating a solution to an identified problem starts with an exploration of the underlying causes. Well designed solutions tackle the barriers, not just the symptoms. The framing of the problem very much shapes the solution.

What is interesting about the “locked out” problem is there are multiple barriers that lead to households being prevented from having access to solar. This explains why we are seeing a diversity of solutions emerging to unlock solar for everyone.

Solar Affordability

If the locked out problem is framed as an affordability problem then of course solutions will focus on making solar more available to those without the means to pay the full price of solar up front.

Solutions to address a rooftop solar affordability problem: 

  • Rebates
  • Financing products for low income households
  • Government programs that allow vulnerable energy users to access solar.

Landlord and renters

If the problem of being locked out is most urgently felt by renters who can’t convince their landlords to install solar, then the solutions for tackling this problem will no doubt do a great job of solving what is known as the “split incentive” issue. 

The issue of course being that although it’s the landlord who pays for the cost of installation, it’s the tenant who gets the benefit of consuming the electricity for free. This raises questions that form barriers. Questions like: who should pay for the installation, who will receive the benefit, and how can costs and benefits be fairly shared?

Solutions to address the challenging dynamic between landlords and renters: 

  • Programs or models designed to build trust between tenants and landlords but also share the benefit with the landlord more fairly
  • Programs or models that remove the need for the landlord to make any sort of financial outlay including but not limited to Solar Gardens
  • Interventions that compel or mandate landlords to install solar.

Short tenure

Some people believe (correctly) there is a critical issue with households who aren’t sure how much longer they’ll remain in their current home. With solar payback periods measured in years, this means uncertainty over length of tenure can hold people back from making the investment into solar. Some solutions do a great job of locking the payback to the property, not the occupant who chose to install solar. 

Solutions to address short tenure

  • Council-backed rates-repayment schemes and other financing products emerge in this area.

Market and regulatory failure

If the biggest barrier locking people out of solar comes from our energy regulations and the way our energy market operates, then we’ll see solutions that work creatively to navigate an outdated energy system that wasn’t designed for the dynamic way we expect energy to work today. 

Solutions to address market and regulatory failure

  • High technology offerings such as Virtual Power Plants
  • Business models such as Solar Gardens

Support for diverse solutions

As we can see, there are diverse reasons why solutions are being developed to solve the locked out problem. This diversity is reflected in the variety of solutions emerging for these too-often neglected consumers.

The Solar for All Campaign calls on State Energy Ministers to implement a carefully designed Package to support all locked out customers. This will be done by ensuring all solutions are recognised as playing an important part of this complex area.

In the next article in the series we’ll focus on one model that delivers an effective solution for all locked households, regardless of the reason why they might be prevented from owning rooftop solar.