From left, Brigitte Warburton, Cathi Young, Marie Sutton and Ammanda Donnelly, with Stephen Cornthwaite (far right) of Micro Energy Systems Bodalla, who installed the school’s new solar system (Photo: SHASA)

Federal budget short changes the bush by not backing community power hubs

From left, Brigitte Warburton, Cathi Young, Marie Sutton and Ammanda Donnelly, with Stephen Cornthwaite (far right) of Micro Energy Systems Bodalla, who installed the school’s new solar system (Photo: SHASA)
Community energy group SHASA upgraded Moruya Preschool to be a solar-powered and climate resilient haven for the community (from left, Brigitte Warburton, Cathi Young, Marie Sutton and Ammanda Donnelly, with Stephen Cornthwaite (far right) of Micro Energy Systems Bodalla, who installed the school’s new solar system. Photo: SHASA)

The Morrison Government’s 2022 Budget has missed a unique opportunity to address cost of living pressures hitting regional Australians with practically no budget measures that empower everyday communities to access the full benefits of the boom in renewables.

The Community Power Agency is calling on the Federal Government to get behind a people-powered renewal of regional areas devastated in recent years by floods, drought and bushfires – and now feeling the pinch from price increases.

Community Power Agency Director Kristy Walters said there are already 110 community energy groups lowering electricity bills and handing power back to locals as the national energy system surges towards a transition to renewable energy.

“We welcome the modest continuation of funding for regional and rural solar and wind powered microgrids. But regional communities are crying out for properly funded solutions to climate-fuelled natural disasters and high power prices,” Ms Walters said.

“We’re urging the government to establish 50 on-the-ground Community Power Hubs across regional Australia to unlock a wave of prosperity, innovation and resilience – it’s a vote winner.”

“People in towns all over Australia are rolling up their sleeves, sitting around a table and coming up with community energy projects that support local jobs, local power, local resilience. But the federal budget has delivered nothing to help them.”

The volunteer-led Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) has a track record of helping families and community organisations on the NSW south coast access cheaper and more reliable power offered by renewable energy.

“During the Black Summer bushfires families sheltered in the Moruya Preschool, which suffered from days of no power. We secured grant funding and donations to upgrade the preschool into a ‘climate haven’, fitted with solar panels, battery storage, HEPA filter for smoke, a back-up power source and fire-fighting equipment. In the first six months of getting solar and battery storage, the preschool never once drew power from the grid. Their $900 quarterly power bills are practically nothing,” said SHASA President Kathryn Maxwell.

With roughly a third of households locked out of owning their own rooftop solar system, they have their sights set on an ambitious project to build a community-owned solar farm.

“We’ve achieved a lot already, but it has taken blood, sweat and tears – all in our own spare time. A Community Power Hub in our area would help us level up our impact and take on mid-scale projects, like the community solar farm. It could also support new groups in our region to learn and build on the projects it took us years to achieve,” Ms Maxwell said.

“We know Community Power Hubs are an incredibly effective form of regional development. In Victoria’s initial two-year trial they generated $14.5 million value, a 13-1 leverage of government investment,” Ms Walters said.

In February, the Community Power Hub Barwon South-West assisted YMCA Geelong to install a 60kW rooftop solar array on their sports stadium, which will save them $14,000 a year on their power bills. The hub has set up a no-interest loan with YMCA, which will pay back the investment over five years using the power bill savings, and then be generating free electricity for the lifetime of the solar system, helping the organisation to keep costs low for the community.

“With the exception of Victoria, volunteer community energy groups have continued to go it alone, using their own smarts and skills to develop new, more localised ways of generating power. But the energy system wasn’t designed for community-owned power, so they face many hurdles along the way.

“With a renewables boom already sweeping through regional Australia, everyday communities are poised and motivated to participate – but without proper planning, they will miss out on the benefits,” Ms Walters said.

For more information, visit repowerourcommunities.org.au or contact xavier@cpagency.org.au

Regional pollies urged to back local power hubs for prosperous communities

Federal political hopefuls from regional Australia are being urged to support local Community Power Hubs to help build prosperity and resilience in the regions.

Community Power Agency (CPA) is making the call in the wake of parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and Environment failing to support the Australian Local Power Agency (ALPA) Bill after a 12-month inquiry.

The bill was introduced by independent MP for Indi Helen Haines, and was designed to empower everyday communities in regional Australia to access the full benefits of the boom in renewables.

Community Power Agency Director Dr Jarra Hicks said the bill had enormous support from around the country.

“We’re calling on all regional candidates for the federal election who want to build prosperity and resilience in the regions to back Community Power Hubs – it’s a vote winner,” he said.

A key part of the ALPA bill is establishing 50 Community Power Hubs across regional Australia. These Hubs would support communities to develop their own renewable energy projects through grants of up to $500,000 a year for five years, as well as new forms of financial support including loans1.

“We know Community Power Hubs are an incredibly effective investment in regional development. In Victoria’s two-year trial they generated $14.5 million value, a 13-1 leverage of government investment2.

“Australia’s entire coal power fleet will retire in 20 years – or sooner, if Origin Energy’s announcement that it’ll close the country’s largest coal power station in just 3 years’ time is any indication. 

“The vast bulk of our new renewable energy system is already beginning to be built in regional Australia. Everyday communities are poised and motivated to participate – but without proper planning, they will miss out on the benefits of this boom.”

The Committee’s report3 recognises that community energy can revitalise regional communities, and backs the need for on-the-ground Community Power Hubs in regional centres around the country to unlock hundreds more locally-owned renewable energy projects. 

“Yet they recommended the bill not pass. We mark the Committee’s report an F for failing regional communities,” Dr Hicks said

For more information contact CPA Community Campaigner Xavier Mayes on 0423 030 658.

1 Local Power Plan, 2020

2 Community Power Hubs Pilot Program final evaluation (pdf) Sustainability Victoria, 2019

3 Advisory report on the inquiry into the Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021 and Australian Local Power Agency (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021, Australian Parliament Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy, February 2022

Further reference: Dr Jarra Hicks’ speech at the Public hearing on the inquiry into the Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021 and the Australian Local Power Agency (Consequential Amendment) Bill 2021, Australian Parliament Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy, 27 August 2021

New campaign demands ‘Solar for All’ Australians

PRESS RELEASE – Tuesday, 8 October 2019.

A coalition of 20 community groups has launched a ‘Solar for All’ campaign calling on state governments to end solar lock-out and give all Australians access to safe and affordable energy.

More than one third of Australians are locked out of access to clean energy because they rent, live in apartments, have unsuitable rooftops, or cannot afford the upfront cost of solar panels.

The coalition, led by the Community Power Agency, is calling for policy and funding support for solutions to solar lockout, including solar gardens. These are centralised solar arrays that people can purchase a small share in; the electricity generated by these arrays is credited on consumers’ bills.

“Solar energy reduces people’s electricity bills and cuts climate pollution. Everyone deserves to access these benefits, regardless of their living arrangements or income levels,” said Nicky Ison, founder and co-director, Community Power Agency.

“Governments can easily fix this unfair situation in Australia by funding solar garden trials and solar rebates for low-income and locked-out households.

“These simple solutions can help state governments deliver lower costs of living, better physical and mental health, and meaningful action on climate change. There are no downsides to this,” said Ison.

Solar gardens are a proven concept. In the United States, 1.3GWs of solar gardens are operating across 40 states are saving communities hundreds of dollars per year, while reducing emissions.

Liuanga Palu, Marrickville renter and co-lead of Sydney Alliance’s Voices for Power campaign, said: “I keep my heater and air conditioning use to a minimum because electricity is just too expensive—you can imagine how miserable that is on a freezing winter day or a scorching summer one.”

“It’s frustrating to know that solar could cut my household bills by hundreds of dollars a year, but that I can’t tap into these benefits because I can’t afford the upfront costs or to buy a home yet.

“Climate change is making our summers hotter every year. I want my elected leaders to quickly support solar gardens and rebates, because we all deserve healthy and safe lives,” said Palu.

For interviews, contact Vaidehi Shah – 0452 290 082


About the Community Power Agency

Community Power Agency was founded in 2011 to drive a faster and fairer transition to clean energy. At the Community Power Agency, we believe that local, people-powered clean energy projects will bring lasting benefits to communities across Australia. We care about achieving a transition to clean energy that benefits everyone, regardless of where you live, or what you earn.


About Sydney Alliance

The Sydney Alliance is a diverse coalition of community organisations, religious organisations, unions and schools that uses the tools of community organising to make the city a better place to live. The idea of building a Sydney Alliance was first raised in May 2007, and by November that same year was financially supported by 13 organisations. The Alliance launched with 45 partner organisations on 15 September 2011.


Notes to editors:

  1. Quotes from other community groups / states below.
  2. Embeddable explainer video about solar gardens here.
  3. Images and footage of the launch will be uploaded into this Dropbox folder on Tuesday 8 Oct 2019
  4. Campaign webpage can be found at www.solarforall.org.au.
  5. The community groups that are part of the campaign coalition include:
  • 2040
  • Australian Energy Foundation
  • Australian Youth Climate Coalition
  • Better Renting
  • Coalition for Community Energy
  • Community Power Agency
  • Community Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimbi (COREM)
  • CORENA
  • Enova
  • Environment Victoria
  • Hepburn Wind
  • Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney
  • Nature Conservation Council
  • Pingala
  • Renew
  • Repower Shoalhaven
  • Solar Citizens
  • Tenants Union of NSW
  • United Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
  • Uniting Communities
  • Voices for Power campaign of the Sydney Alliance
  • Zero Emissions Byron