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.
This election year we need to let both Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor and Shadow Minister for Energy & Climate Change, Chris Bowen know that there is overwhelming support for community energy around the country.
While the cross-parliamentary Committee report1 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, it falls short of recommending any action.
However, it’s not all bad news. This inquiry is a huge moment for community energy in Australia.
In the words of Helen Haines: “For the first time, the Australian Parliament has recognised the critical role that community energy could play in building the prosperity and the resilience of our regions.”
We know Community Power Hubs are effective in helping communities get on board with renewables. In Victoria the pilot Hubs program delivered 15 projects with 1.35 MW total capacity, created 16 local jobs and saved $364,000 in power bills and nearly 2000 tonnes of CO2-e each year. The pilot Hubs had initiated a further 15 pipeline projects with a capacity of 9.7 MW and a capital value of $14.7 million2.
And Hubs make a solid investment too. In Victoria’s two-year trial they generated $14.5 million value, which is a 13-1 leverage of government investment2.
That’s why we need to rally our supporters to get behind Community Power Hubs.
Two years ago, regional communities found a friend in Independent Federal MP Helen Haines when she embarked on a co-design process to develop the Local Power Plan, and introduced the Australian Local Power Agency Bill (ALPA) to the Federal Parliament.
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 loans3.
While it hasn’t been successful in its current form, the Bill has enormous support from almost every electorate around the country – and from some of our most influential national organisations, such as the National Farmers Federation4.
We must build on this bedrock of support to make sure both major parties know that at the federal election community-owned renewables are a vote winner.
We’re so proud of the way you and the rest of the community energy sector has forged on despite the evolving covid pandemic, displaying resilience and focus on your projects through what were (and continue to be) some really tough times. Following on from 2020, last year demonstrated the immense value of community spirit.
This 2022, we’re hopeful will bring many more opportunities for us all to get together, progress our goals and achieve great things along Australia’s path to a fast and fair energy transition.
Read on for updates, new tools and highlights from last year:
Power in numbers
Training socially responsible developers
New mapping tool
Welcoming our newest team member – Xavier
CPA in the media
We hope you all had a renewing holiday break, with the opportunity to catch up with friends and family.
From the whole CPA team at our virtual AGM below (where some of our team could get together in person!) –
Elizabeth, Tom, Kim, Kristy, Jarra, Fran, Nicky, Ella and our newest team member Xavier!
Repower Our Communities update
We’re campaigning to establish 50 Community Power Hubs across regional Australia to provide critical on-the-ground support for locals to develop and invest in their own renewable energy projects, such as solar gardens and community wind farms.
You may remember that in 2021 community energy champion Helen Haines, Independent Member for Indi, included the 50 hubs into her Australian Local Power Agency Bill.
Last year, CPA helped coordinate over 800 submissions to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy from 121 (out of 151) electorates, from community groups to companies, individuals with rooftop solar and national peak bodies.
On 27 August, the Committee heard from councils, community leaders and energy experts in a public hearing – including speakers from Farmers for Climate Action and Community Power Agency. The message was overwhelming – people want a greater share of the renewables boom for their communities.
But the Bill’s success in the Parliament is far from secured. We know Community Power Hubs are the next critical step in supporting the growth of the community energy sector – and we think this kind of practical and pragmatic policymaking can appeal to leaders across the spectrum of Australian politics.
Will you support us and make 2022 the year community energy became front and centre in the minds of your local state and federal politicians? With the federal election approaching, now is the perfect time to contact your federal MP and get our plan on their election agenda.
Kristy and Xavier are starting the new year by mobilising community energy groups around the country, building coalitions of support for the campaign, and collecting stories of success to make community energy even more visible to regional leaders and decision makers.
Join us in making Community Power Hubs a key election promise in 2022.
20 renewable energy practitioners from a range of backgrounds completed the 8-week course, which featured 11 sector leading guest speakers and practical on-the-ground knowledge and tools about community engagement and benefit sharing models.
“This course is a timely and positive contribution to the industry.” Andrew Dyer, Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner
Learn more about their experiences and register your interest for the course in 2022.
We have great news for communities across regional NSW. The Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) has developed a new tool to help Councils and their ratepayers discover the savings they can make with solar power.
SunSPoT is a sophisticated, simple-to-use tool and unlike other online solar calculators, it assesses the angle and orientation of the roof, any shading impacts across the day and through the year, local weather data, as well as energy use and costs in the house or building. It’s reliable, independent and user details are not recorded or shared.
SunSPoT can determine the best positioning of a solar system on the roof, the kW size and expected installed PV system cost, annual savings and emissions avoided.
Our newest member Xavier Mayes joined the Community Power Agency team in November. Xavier comes from to CPA from the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), and has a background in strategic communications, media relations and community engagement from a professional career spanning the film, university and NGO sectors. He is a founding volunteer director of the Blue Mountains Renewable Energy Cooperative (BMRenew) and holds a Masters of Sustainability and Climate Policy through Curtin University.
“I’m beyond excited to be working with the good folk at CPA. For the best part of a decade I’ve been involved with the community energy sector. I had the good fortune to meet CPA co-founder Nicky Ison in 2012 while running a regional renewable energy roadshow with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW. After her talk, I was hooked!
December 2021 saw two notable “firsts” in Australia’s energy transition.
An impressive milestone for South Australia, where wind and solar farms entirely powered 100% of that state’s energy needs for a record 6.5 days, just shy of a whole week.
Meanwhile in different locations around the country, renewable energy practitioners logged in to the final session of an online course teaching them new social license tools many in the industry and civil society say is critical to delivering the pipeline of new renewable energy developments on the path to Australia’s 2050 net zero emissions target.
Community Power Agency (CPA) and the Yunus Centre (Griffith University) developed the 8-week online professional development course to increase people’s confidence and skills to deliver industry-leading community engagement, benefit sharing and local procurement for commercial renewable energy developments.
The ‘Socially-responsible renewable energy development’ course is the first of its kind to be offered in Australia and was made possible with the support of renewables advocacy group RE-Alliance and philanthropic donors Danny and Sue Mathews from the Mullum Trust.
With 10 years experience in advising governments, companies and civil society organisations on community engagement and benefit sharing for renewable energy developments, course facilitator and CPA Director Dr Jarra Hicks said achieving a social licence to operate was different for each project and couldn’t be guaranteed with business-as-usual tactics.
“The renewable energy landscape is undergoing rapid change. As states and territories roll out renewable energy zones worth billions of dollars, it is essential that projects put their best foot forward through good quality, high-impact community engagement and benefit sharing practices”, Dr Hicks said.
The course featured practical on-the-ground knowledge from 11 invited industry leaders for lively discussions that spanned the full experience of renewable energy development.
Content included learning-edges for the industry around engaging with first nations communities, how to deliver community co-ownership and co-investment ,models and how to deliver value in local communities through local procurement strategies – as well as training practitioners in practices of community engagement and benefit sharing.
“We had a great group of people who were highly engaged with the course and were keen to share their experiences and thoughts with their peers”, Dr Hicks said.
The course attracted 20 participants from a range of backgrounds including managing directors of renewable energy companies, project engineers and community engagement staff, as well as people from indigenous and community organisations.
“This was a fantastic course offering a deep dive into best practice community engagement in the renewable energy sector – I learnt a lot and look forward to recommending the next series to colleagues.” – Lauren Mellor, Clean Energy Communities Coordinator – Northern Territory, Original Power, an indigenous-led advocacy organisation empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with renewable energy.
“Such a fabulous course. I am so grateful to be able to learn from so many thought leaders in this space, including the course facilitator Dr Jarra Hicks.” – Mieka White, Communications & Community Relations Officer forpower generation company RATCH-Australia
“This course is a timely and positive contribution to the industry.” Andrew Dyer, Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Australian Government, who helps industry and governments by identifying and promoting the adoption of best practices for planning and deploying energy infrastructure projects.
Right now we have an opportunity for communities across Australia to harness renewable energy to revitalise their communities, increase their energy resilience and share in the benefits of the renewables boom.
We have to ensure that everyone, especially in regional Australia where the investment and construction of renewable energy is happening, sees the long term benefits. The Australian Local Power Agency Bill provides a blueprint to do this.
It is currently being scrutinised by a Federal Parliament Committee and we need to show that regional people and community energy enthusiasts want a community-led renewable energy future. Will you join us and make a submission today?
This Bill, if passed, would establish a $467 million agency to support regional communities to develop and invest in their own renewable energy projects. This would include 50 new Local Power Hubs across regional Australia to help communities develop their own renewable energy projects.
It would also implement a new requirement for all large-scale renewable projects to offer local residents a chance to invest in them, instead of profits draining offshore.
Communities are already leading. I look at towns like Denmark in WA or Yackandandah in VIC and see communities that are getting on with harnessing renewable energy to tackle climate change and revitalise their communities.