Guest post – Repower Our Communities

My name is Kathryn Maxwell and I’m the president of the Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA), a community energy group in NSW. I’m writing to you today from Parliament House to launch a new campaign to Repower Our Communities along with Community Power Agency.

Sign up to support the campaign here!

Many of you have first-hand experience of the wonderful things community energy groups can achieve in towns across the country. In Eurobodalla our group has helped 10 community owned facilities install over 100 kW of solar and 20kw of batteries. However, I know that it is a real struggle to access the required resources to make more of these projects happen, whether that be funds, expertise or capacity.

That’s why I came to Parliament today with a group of farmers and other community energy representatives from regional Australia. This exciting new campaign, in partnership with Farmers for Climate Action can sidestep the climate wars by highlighting the bushfire resilience, local jobs & economic opportunities that community energy can bring to our regional communities if it’s supported appropriately.  

Join the Repower Our Communities campaign and create a groundswell of community energy support.

The Repower Our Communities campaign, based on Independent Member for Indi Helen Haines’ Local Power Plan, will build public support for the roll out of community-owned renewable energy in the regions, making sure our towns and regions benefit from the renewables boom.

There are no losers here. By keeping the focus on local jobs and benefits to our regions, the Repower our Communities campaign is a chance to avoid getting bogged down in the climate debate and get on with the job of reducing Australia’s emissions. It’s a no brainer, truly.

Join our campaign to give it the support it needs to succeed!

We farmers already know that, with government leadership, the transition to renewables could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to revitalise our farming and regional communities.

Wind and solar can be harvested throughout the year, providing local jobs and income in good times and bad. By making sure the benefits of renewable energy projects stay with us, we can increase the resilience of regional communities in the face of a changing climate.

I believe we can win this campaign. Australians love renewable energy and already right across the country, from Yackandandah to Shoalhaven, local groups are developing community-owned renewable projects. We just need the government to come to the table.

Sign up and help power Australia with community owned renewable energy.

Here’s to helping more communities transition to a renewables future,

Kathryn Maxwell

President, Southcoast Health & Sustainability Alliance (SHASA)

Grant op, free webinar and a new campaign

It’s a new year with some exciting opportunities coming our way. I hope you all managed to get a decent break over the holidays to come back rejuvenated for 2021.  

Read on for details of:

  • A new campaign to win national community energy support
  • Our webinar with 3 community energy groups – NEXT WEEK
  • Help regional community orgs access social benefit solar plots
  • Grant opportunity for every Federal electorate

From all of us at Community Power Agency,
Kristy, Kim, Ella, Elizabeth, Fran and Jarra.

Repower Our Communities campaign

This year is shaping up to be an important one. Off the back of Helen Haines’ Local Power Plan we are joining forces with our friends at Farmers for Climate Action to launch a campaign to Repower Our Communities. The goal is to unlock significant national funding and support for community energy groups right across the country.

In a few weeks a group of community energy supporters will head to Parliament House in Canberra for the tabling of the Local Power Plan bill by Independent MP Helen Haines. While we’re there we will meet with key Federal MPs to explain the benefits of community energy and how this legislation will support more projects to flourish.

Sometime in March we will host an online session detailing the plan and how you can add your support. Stay tuned for the details and the campaign website launch. Here’s a sneak preview:

Community Energy Webinar

Next week we’re hosting a panel discussion as part of the National Sustainable Living Festival. We’ll be chatting to three community energy groups:

  • Taryn Lane from Hepburn Wind
  • Lawrence McIntosh from Solar Share
  • Ella Goninan from Community Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby (COREM)

Each group will share what their project has achieved and their key learnings from building renewables in their communities.

Register here to get the Zoom link

Social Benefit Solar Plots

Community Power Agency is working with our partners to create Australia’s first large scale solar garden which will finally allow those locked out of owning solar to share in the benefits of solar too. As the project moves towards construction this year we have set our sights on making sure that as many people can have access to this exciting new way of doing solar.

Haystacks is calling out to everyone in a fundraising campaign to raise $21,000 for five 3kW solar garden plots that can be donated to not-for-profit community groups in the Riverina Region – home of the Haystacks Solar Garden. These solar garden plots will reduce the community group’s electricity bill every year and allow them to focus on their great work rather than rising energy costs.

If you’re passionate about helping bring the Haystacks Solar Garden to life and chipping in – head on over to the Haystacks website where you can make a tax deductible donation today.

Federal Funding – Stronger Communities Grants

This grant is for projects that aim to improve local community participation and contribute to vibrant viable communities – which most community energy projects will meet.

The grants are up to $20,000 per project with $150,000 allocated per federal electorate. You must be invited by your MP to apply, so set up a meeting with your local MP as soon as you can to chat about your ideas.

Due on 22 March 2021. Find out all the details on the government webpage here.

Onwards to a vibrant, clean energy future!

That’s a wrap on 2020

It’s finally the end of 2020. While we’ve seen our communities badly affected by bushfire, floods, storms, and a pandemic, more recently we’ve seen huge commitments to transition our economy to a renewable powered future.

As we head into the holidays and look ahead to the New Year, we’d like to share some achievements of CPA and the whole energy sector. Read on for details of:

  • State Governments leading on renewables
  • Our 2020 projects & Opportunities for 2021

Wishing you all happy holidays with friends and family either in person or via phone as the case may be.

From all of us at Community Power Agency,
Kristy, Kim, Ella, Elizabeth, Fran and Jarra.

State Governments leading on Renewables

Towards the end of 2020 we saw a flurry of commitments from state governments across the country. Giving rise to the feeling that we are are reaching a tipping point towards a clean energy future.

There was lots of noise on twitter when these announcements landed which our very own Nicky Ison helped along and summarised by our friends at Environment Victoria below.

  • It started with Queensland announced three Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) with 60GW of projects proposed from the market
  • NSW then announced their landmark $32 billion Renewable Energy Superpower Plan including five Renewable Energy Zones calling for 12GW of renewable energy to be built and an additional 2GW for storage with bipartisan support
  • Victoria came to the party by announcing $1.6 billion for in clean energy and plans to build the biggest battery in the southern hemisphere
  • South Australia set a 500% renewables target by 2050
  • Tasmania is now powered by 100% renewables (along with ACT) as well as announcing their plan to decarbonise their whole electricity and energy system via a 200% renewables target.
  • And we can’t forget the very large renewables projects underway in WA with the Asian Renewable Energy Hub & in the NT with the Sun Cable project.

Additionally there have also announcements from several companies going 100% RE including huge electricity users like Woolworths, Aldi, Telstra and Bunnings.

Our 2020 Projects

This year the Haystacks Solar Garden project has taken a big chunk of our team’s time, with the all the hoop-jumping that comes with an innovative, first of its kind in Australia project. We are finishing up the year on a high with our DA approved and very close to our target of 400 members. We’re also calling out for folks to donate to fund social benefit plots of the solar garden.

Our other work this year encompassed working with Helen Haines’ team to develop the Local Power Plan (stay tuned for more details of our campaign early next year), facilitating a Community Reference Group for UPC Renewables at Uralla, speaking at forums across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Aotearoa and supporting a bunch of community energy groups toprogress their visions.

Opportunities for 2021

For NSW folks we’re hearing the second round of the Regional Community Energy Fund will be announced early in the year, watch the NSW Government community energy webpage for updates.

All the best for the coming year.

Haystacks Solar Garden Updates

This year the Community Power Agency team has been working hard with Pingala Community Renewables and Komo Energy to pioneer the first large-scale Solar Garden in Australia. It’s shaping up to be groundbreaking in a few key ways.

If we can get it off the ground it will change both the community energy sector and the solar industry in Australia for the better. But we can only do that if we achieve a few things first. Read on to find out how you can help.  

  • Become a Solar Gardener
  • Can your organisation partner with Haystacks for a PPA?
  • Enova joins as partnering electricity retailer
  • We made state-wide TV news!

Become a Solar Gardener

If you live anywhere in NSW you can now join up as a member of the Haystacks Solar Garden Co-op. We’re currently one third of the way to reaching our goal of 400 members by the end of November, we’re aiming to hit this target before we move on to the next phase of making the actual solar plots available to members.

Solar plots are 3kw and expected to be between $4000 to $4200. You’ll receive an on-bill credit each quarter from the sale of electricity from the Solar Garden. Once we have secured the Power Purchase Agreement we’ll have the expected savings each year.

You can read all the details in our disclosure statement on the becoming a member webpage linked in the button below.

Can your organisation partner with Haystacks for a PPA?

If your organisation or one of your affiliates is keen to source its electricity from a project that will fundamentally change the domestic solar market in Australia please review our EOI and return the brief schedule by Tuesday 17 November 5pm.

  • Haystacks Solar Garden will have a 1MW (AC) capacity with an estimated annual yield of 2.7GWh per annum
  • EOI’s are welcomed from both consortiums of smaller organisations to make up the total volume of generation on offer or from larger organisations that require volumes beyond the volume on offer.
  • Ideal organisations would be located in NSW, however other locations will be considered.

Send Kim an email if you are keen to find out more:

Enova joins as the partnering electricity retailer

We are excited to let you all know that Haystacks Solar Garden has teamed up with the community-owned retailer Enova Energy to provide the on-bill credits to Haystacks members.
Enova was chosen as the participating retailer due to their passion and commitment to community renewable energy, excellent customer service and experience in delivering a small-scale solar garden already.

We are also supported by Enova Community in our fundraising initiative – donations will go towards funding social benefit solar plots and supporting the project come to fruition.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Haystacks Solar Garden head to our website and donate here.

We made State-wide TV news

Recently Kristy was interviewed by 9 News about the Haystacks project. Check it out!

Join us on the journey to creating an Australian first, become a Haystacks member.

Until next time enjoy the sunny times,
From all the team at Community Power Agency: Kristy, Kim, Ella, Elizabeth, Fran and Jarra.

PS. Did you see the huge announcement for NSW to become a Renewables Superpower this week?

Opportunities arising in Spring

It’s starting to feel a lot like spring with warmer days, new green leaves sprouting and that lovely time before the end of year rush.

We’re thinking of all our Victorian friends and supporters during their extended lockdown – thanks for helping Australia get on top of COVID-19.

Despite the challenges we are facing, there is much happening in the community energy space. Read on for details about:

  • Solar Garden memberships are open to all of NSW!
  • Regional perspectives on building a stronger economy
  • Fight for Planet A features community energy
  • Community Power Agency in Parliament
  • Grant opportunity – reuse solar panels
  • New research on community energy

Kristy for the Community Power Agency team – Jarra, Fran, Elizabeth, Ella & Kim

Solar Garden open to all NSW residents

We’re excited! The Haystacks Solar Garden project has passed a new milestone in registering the co-operative this week. Kristy and Kim from the Community Power Agency team have been working hard to make this project a reality with more than one major challenge along the way!

Recently the team decided to open up memberships to all of NSW to ensure the project’s success. Right now anyone in NSW can become a member – in fact we need 400 members by the end of October. Then members in the Riverina area will have first option to purchase a solar garden plot, followed by members in the rest of NSW.

Come along to one of the upcoming online info sessions to find out more:

  • Monday 31st August – 6:30pm-7:30pm, NSW wide – Register here
  • Monday 7th September – 5:30pm -6:30pm, NSW wide – Register here
  • Wednesday 9th September – 5:30pm -6:30pm, for Sydney’s Inner West residents – Register here

If you’ve already heard about the project and are ready to become a member, sign up here.

Regional Perspectives on Building a Stronger Economy

Earlier this year Kristy spoke alongside The Next Economy, Farmers for Climate Action and the Transitioning Australia Group at four public forums in regional towns along the Queensland coast.

These community forums along with government and industry roundtables and other consultations were exploring the potential to create new jobs and investment opportunities in a low carbon economy.

They found that regional Queenslanders want to help power the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus catastrophe with new approaches to key industries such as energy, tourism and agriculture.

Read the full report here.

Community Energy featured on ABC Fight for Planet A series

We are delighted that the ABC’s Fight for Planet A series featured community energy in their first episode a few weeks ago. Taryn from Hepburn Wind did us all proud explaining the benefits of community energy and the town of Hepburn’s plan to transition to 100% zero emissions. If you missed them catch up on iView.

Community Power Agency is featured as one of the Community Solutions in the follow-up toolkit and they made a short video about Pingala’s projects and the Haystacks Solar Garden project – have a watch by clicking the image below.

Community Power Agency in Parliament – twice!

We are making waves and being heard at all levels of Government.
At a Federal level Community Power Agency was mentioned in the House of Representatives by Independent MP Zali Steggall in her support of Helen Haines’ motion to support community energy at a national level with the National Community Energy Plan – stay tuned for a campaign we will lead on this in coming months.

In the same week Kristy presented to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW. She spoke on how community energy offers a compelling model to capture the immense benefits of renewable energy, including jobs and investment for regional communities, congratulated the NSW Government on their three new Renewable Energy Zones and highlighted the need for significant community engagement to ensure the success of these REZ. Also highlighting that barriers facing the community energy sector can be addressed through Government leadership and policy support.

And at a local government level we are working with the Inner West Council to promote the Haystacks Solar Garden project to Sydney residents.

Grant Opportunity: EPA Circular Solar Trial

With solar PV now gracing our rooftops and fields for several decades, many systems are nearing the end of their expected lifespan, potentially creating a new waste stream. The NSW Government is looking to create closed loop systems for PV and batteries by accelerating the development of high-value recycling technologies and reuse systems.

The NSW Government has created a $10 million fund to reduce landfilling of solar panels and battery systems. Find out more about the program, application process and background information on their website.

Applications close 4pm, Thursday 17 September 2020.

New Community Energy research  

While growing a baby CPA’s Jarra Hicks also authored three new pieces of research on community energy coming out of her PhD.

In the Australiasian Journal of Environmental Management:

  • Generating conditions of strong social support for wind power: insights from community-owned wind energy projects – article here

Two chapters in the Handbook of Diverse Economies by J.K. Gibson-Graham & Kelly Dombroski:

  1. Community enterprise: diverse designs for community-owned energy infrastructure – abstract here
  2. Community finance: marshalling investments for community-owned renewable energy enterprises – abstract here

Until next time here’s a funny video of ALDI negotiating with the sun and wind to power all their stores with 100% renewables!