Marginal electorate MPs have golden opportunity to boost innovation

Community energy groups say $1.5 billion worth of investment on offer


Candidates in the federal election could unlock $1.5 billion worth of investment across Australia by supporting community­led clean power projects, advocates say.

Across the country, more than 70 groups are trying to design and build their own renewable energy projects including solar­powered breweries and dairy farms, bioenergy hubs and energy efficiency programs. However, red tape and a lack of legal and technical expertise are in their way.

The Community Power Agency (CPA) is leading a new grassroots election campaign to change all that by securing $140 million over four years to kickstart new community energy projects and build a network of hubs across the country that offer legal and technical advice.

“Communities have great ideas, they just need the support to realise them,” CPA founder Nicky Ison says.

“On average, it takes a community group four years to build a project – that’s too long. Laws and regulations make it too difficult and expensive for communities to invest in themselves. Basically, the energy system favours large companies and fossil fuel power plants over small community groups looking to innovate.”

Ms Ison said modelling showed that for every $1 the next government spent to support community energy, it could unlock up to $17 of community investment. “It makes good economic sense for all political parties to back community power projects. They help households, small businesses and community services cut their power bills, they help clean up our energy system and they also create much­needed jobs in regional communities.”

Ms Ison said Coalition ­held seats including Page and New England in NSW and Corangamite in Victoria stood to benefit the most from such a policy with community energy groups already active.

The Labor party has already committed $98.7m to support community energy and the Greens are expected to announce their community energy policy next week, but the Coalition is yet to make an announcement.


The Coalition is yet to take up a golden opportunity to unlock billions of dollars worth of innovative clean energy projects, advocates say.

It comes after the Prime Minister pledged $5 million towards grants to help community organisations install solar or solar battery systems.

Renewable energy advocates say it’s an inadequate commitment and more must be done to empower Australians to take control of their power supply.

“If the Coalition was serious about supporting community organisations to access solar they would remove the main barriers that community groups face: red tape, access to legal expertise and early-stage funding. $5 million won’t deliver any of those things,” Community Power Agency’s Nicky Ison says.

“Modelling shows that spending $140 million will unlock up to $1.5 billion worth of community-owned clean power projects that will deliver financial returns back to the community.

“When it comes to innovation and investment, this government still has a way to go to turn talk into action. In contrast, the Labor Party has committed almost $100 million to kickstart community-owned projects and provide support to the groups developing them.”

There are 70 community groups around the country currently trying to build and run their own clean energy projects, including solar and wind farms.

“Community Power Agency will continue to work with community energy groups – 47 of which are in Coalition-held electorates – to secure the support community energy groups need this election,” Ms Ison said.

Solar Citizens National Director Claire O’Rourke said community energy projects were essential to making the transition to clean, cheap renewable power a reality.

“If the government was serious about supporting communities, it would provide funding that is necessary to get communities connected to clean power that will save on power bills.

“We would expect far more than $5 million to be pledged to community energy initiatives ahead of the July 2 poll.”

Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes says the quantum of funding announced by the Prime Minister shows that his heart is really not in it.

“After stripping $1.3 billion worth of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Mr Turnbull has announced $5 million in community solar PV funding,” Mr Grimes said.

“Mr Turnbull, where is the other $1.29bn?”

Media inquiries:

The Land – Dairy farmers & solar

When the Land puts it on the front page, every National MP in the country knows about it. Awesome story featuring this campaign, dairy farmers and big solar.

The Land loved this story because it brought together real farmers doing smart things with their community to reduce power bills and run modern agriculture. A story this good is wonderful at any time, but during an election campaign it’s gold – and there’s more where this came from!

Read the full story in the Land – featuring our very our own Nicky Ison

Win News – Repower Shoalhaven

Dairy farmers, big solar, community owned, all in a marginal seat – what’s not to like? Great story on Repower Shoalhaven and their third round of investment and renewable energy.

There’s nothing quite like real projects in real places to get people excited about community renewables. Regional TV are often looking for local stories that have a visual element – even just going to the site of where the renewables are planned is often enough. Contact us if you’d like to have a go at getting some TV media for your project.

A community organisation is combining people power with solar panels, to ease the financial burden on South Coast business operators.'Repower Shoalhaven' is seeking community investment, to fund the third round of its unique community solar project.

Posted by WIN News Illawarra on Tuesday, 17 May 2016