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.
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.
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.