Dear Community Energy Fans,
As the year draws to a close, we thought we’d look back on a huge year for Community Power Agency and the community energy sector.
We are very proud to have seen the sector grow to 105 groups and 174 projects in 2018, with more government commitments and increasing industry interest in collaboration.
Before the silly season we would like to share some project updates, outcomes and achievements.
Read on for:
- A snapshot of the community energy sector in 2018
- A wrap up of our Social Access Solar Gardens project
- Insights into our project with councils
- An overview of our community engagement work for a large-scale solar farm
- Exciting policy projects, and
- Stories from our work with community energy groups
**** We wish you a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2019.****
Fran, Nicky, Jarra, Tom and Elizabeth
Community Power Agency
The Community Energy Sector reaches 100!
The community energy sector in Australia is going from strength to strength. This year another huge milestone was reached – as of November 2018, there are now more than 100, in fact 105 community energy groups developing and managing their own renewable energy projects. See our map below.
A total of 174 community energy projects are operating across the country!
Congratulations particularly to Solar Share who have just announced that their project is going ahead! The ACT Government has given the green light to community solar company, SolarShare, to build its flagship 1 MW solar farm in the Majura Valley – the largest community solar project in Australia.
Other successful and popular initiatives were bulk buy projects such as Pingala’s Sydney Community Solar Program, and the four initiatives by Farming the Sun. Other groups experiencing wins included Repower Shoalhaven, who launched their 7th project, Clearsky Solar with their 20th project, Totally Renewable Yackandandah delivered their first mini-grid and CORENA have 24 quick win projects.
There were also a number of new initiatives such as Totally Renewable Phillip Island and Geelong Sustainability Group delivered Victoria’s first behind the meter community solar investment project.
As the sector grows, so to does the support for community energy. Community Power Agency has been working with governments across Australia to build ongoing support and assistance for local groups. We’ve seen the Federal ALP commit to a $100million Neighbourhood Energy Program, the NSW Government commit to a $30million Regional Community Energy Program and a number of programs and community energy commitments in Victoria. With these policy commitments, the community energy sector in 2019 will be bigger, better supported and deliver more amazing projects.
Social Access Solar Gardens
The Social Access Solar Gardens Project led by the Community Power Agency and the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures over the last year has now concluded and produced some fantastic results for locked-out energy users.
The ARENA and NSW Government funded study found that solar gardens can unlock the benefits of solar power for the 30 percent of Australian consumers currently excluded from owning renewable energy.
Solar gardens work by building a central solar farm, which energy consumers then buy a share of. The electricity generated from your share is then credited on your electricity bill.
The Project involved more than 20 partners, including local Councils, community energy groups, and electricity retailers, and has shown that this new model of delivering solar is both feasible and that many customers are interested. Moving forward, there are now four project teams that are proceeding with developing pilot Solar Gardens which is a huge landmark for locked-out consumers! Find out more about the project at the link below.
Council Opportunities for Community Energy
Community Power Agency is excited to see the growing appetite for Local Council climate leadership, which is exemplified in the Cities Power Partnership. This local government climate network, made up over 100 councils from across the country, represents almost 11 million Australians.
In a sign that more councils are interested in community energy, Community Power Agency was asked to provide an overview of potential community energy options for the a Sydney council. The report provided strategic guidance for Council offering an analysis of 12 community energy models and programs and their appropriateness for the Council context. The recommendations allowed the Council to better understand what opportunities exist for their community energy engagement considering in particular the speed of implementation, visibility, and environmental and social impact. While the report is treated as an internal document, it provides Council with a decision making tool for policy development and program directions to initiate, foster and facilitate community energy activities in their area.
Please get in touch if you like to know more about it.
Creating positive local impacts from large scale solar farms
Community Power Agency was excited to worked with the Uralla community and renewables developer UPC Renewables to develop a Community Benefit Sharing Initiative for the 600-800MW New England Solar Farm. Co-designed through a local process, the initiative will share $250 per installed MW per year towards activities prioritised by locals to bring lasting benefit for their community. Should the project proceed to construction and operations, the solar farm will fund a local grant round, scholarships, a community newsletter and a no-interest revolving loan for energy and water efficiency and renewable energy for local homes and businesses.
Getting our policy on!
In 2018, Community Power Agency has worked with some of Australia’s leading climate organisations to develop policies that are practical, popular and will drive a faster and fairer transition to clean energy. Recent highlights include:
- Developing the Plan to Repower our Schools for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. With the help of the excellent Taegen Edwards we set out plans that would get all NSW and Victorian public high schools to 100% renewables in the next couple of years and boost climate change education at the same time.
- Five big, bold ideas to win the climate and energy wars. Community Power Agency has been working with organisations like GetUp, Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria and Solar Citizens to come up with policy ideas that the next Federal Government could adopt to finally win the climate and energy wars. Check them out in Nicky’s opinion piece in The Guardian and this great video by GetUp.
Community Energy Stories
Community Power Agency was pleased to be invited to support a number of community energy groups in regional Victoria. We ran a series of workshops for the very excellent Totally Renewable Phillip Island, working with the Energy Innovation Cooperative and local organisations and individuals to create a vision and plan for transitioning one of Australia’s most iconic islands to clean energy and zero emissions.
Nicky also went on a Community Energy Roadshow with the very excellent Alison Rowe of Moreland Energy Foundation and Kate Auty in North East Victoria. North East Victoria has become a hotbed of community energy, not only with pioneering groups such as Totally Renewable Yackandandah but now more than 11 other groups across the region. Together with local community energy leaders we spoke at six forums in six days, inspiring hundreds of people with the opportunities the community energy presents. The Roadshow also help build support for a new community retailer – Indigo Power that we expect to launch fully in 2019.
Become a Co-ops expert!
This new course in cooperatives being offered by the University of Newcastle (and the only of its kind in Australia!) will skill you up on the cooperative advantage, cooperative governance and management, and cooperative forms of social enterprise and social innovation. Four online units comprise the graduate certificate (or contribute to an MBA), or you can just take one unit that takes your fancy!
More info at https://www.newcastle.edu.au/degrees/graduate-certificate-co-operatives-management-organisation