Worker installing solar panels on a roof

Community energy upgrade fund – here’s what you need to know

Last week the Federal Government announced a new $100 million Community Energy Upgrades Fund. At first glance, the words “community energy” sparked excitement. However, after some further digging we discovered that while it is welcome news for local councils, grassroots community energy groups unfortunately miss out. 

Grants will be available for local councils who are looking to do energy efficiency upgrades on community facilities such as libraries, pools, sporting fields and community centres. Efficiency upgrade examples include replacing energy-intensive heating in council pools with heat pumps and installing energy efficient lighting and battery storage. The aim of the program is to upgrade local facilities that simultaneously lowers energy costs and emissions. The fund adds to the $1.6 billion Energy Savings Package the Federal Government announced in the 2023-2024 budget. While the fund shows promise, it’s important to mention that the guidelines are still being developed. If you work for a local council – keep your eyes peeled for updates. 

While the fund doesn’t extend to grassroots community energy groups, a quite disappointing aspect, it is clear that the Government has taken inspiration from the community energy sector. Community energy groups around the country have been driving clean energy initiatives for over a decade, often relying on their own resources. Many of these groups have delivered projects on community facilities, like installing solar panels, to decrease carbon emissions at the same time as reducing electricity bills of key infrastructure in their town.

At Community Power Agency, we strongly advocate for a more inclusive approach to future funding. By fostering collaboration between councils and community energy groups, we can tap into the invaluable insights these groups possess and a huge amount of passion for driving projects forward, ultimately maximising the positive impact of energy upgrades. 

Grassroots groups who have paved the way

Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) have had a huge impact in their region. By partnering with Micro Energy Systems Australia, they have been able to help over 23 community groups through three different pathways: 

  1. Fully gifting PV Solar systems free of charge to community not for profit organisations, such as the Bodalla Local Aboriginal Land Council. 
  2. Sourcing grants to support the installation of PV Solar systems to community not for profit organisations, such as the Moruya Preschool.
  3. Supporting community organisations to install PV Solar systems through their Eurobodalla Solar Bulk Buy program including the Kyla Park Community Hall in Tuross Head.
Brigitte Warburton, Cathi Young, Marie Sutton and Ammanda Donnelly, with Stephen Cornthwaite (far right) of Micro Energy Systems Bodalla, who installed the school’s new solar system. Photo: SHASA.
TRY Founder, Matt Charles-Jones gives thanks at the launch event for the many collaborators on the EV Charger project.

In 2022, the town of Yackandandah celebrated another great partnership with the launch of the town’s first EV charging station. Including Victorian Government funding, community advocates, Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) partnered with community social enterprises, YCDCo (fuel and rural supplies) and Indigo Power and alongside Indigo Shire to deliver the charger to support their drive toward 100 renewables. This being just one of many innovative collaborations in new energy. 

Queenscliffe Climate Action Now (QCAN) have collaborated with the local Borough of Queenscliffe Council and Vortex Electrical to run a community solar program, aimed at increasing the uptake of solar in their community. They are doing this by leveraging the buying power of the community and partnering with contractors to make the installation of quality solar, battery and heat pump hot water systems easy and affordable. And the best part, for every solar and/or battery system installed as part of this program, Vortex is making a donation back to the community in the form of solar and/or battery products which will be used to install renewable energy systems on community buildings throughout the Borough.

QCAN treasurer Neil Mathison, Mayor Isabelle Tolhurst, QCAN secretary Peter Cook and QCAN president Kitty Walker at the Point Lonsdale Bowls Club. Photos: Vinnie Van Oorschot

These are just some examples of community energy groups taking the power into their own hands to progress climate action and deliver local benefits. We hope that in future, funds can be directed towards these groups to increase collaboration and impact.

Community Power Hubs WIN

Huge news for Victoria – Community Power Hubs

A quick email in light of the recent announcement to expand the government funded Community Power Hubs program in Victoria. What a win!

Exciting times are ahead for community energy projects with this boost of funds and capacity potentially across all regions of the state. We are keen to connect with community energy groups and supportive organisations to ensure these hubs are the best they can be.

We have a lot of experience in the governance space and are happy to offer pro bono group facilitation advice and networking to develop successful collaborations to apply for these Victorian Hubs. Next Thursday we are running a free online session about good collaborative governance, email us for the details.

If you’re a community energy group or other organisation that would like to be involved in one of the Hubs – either to be a Lead Partner, offer your organisation’s support or to add your implementation ready project to a Hub application – please get in touch. See other community energy groups on our community energy map here.

For everyone else not in Victoria – join the campaign to Repower Our Communities – to win Community Power Hubs in every state and territory of Australia!

Here’s to taking the power into our own hands,


For the whole Community Power Agency team – Kim, Ella, Elizabeth, Fran and Jarra.

Webinar recording: How community energy builds resilience and renewables

It’s been a busy few weeks for our team, with a trip to Parliament House and regional Victoria since this webinar two weeks ago. Apologies for the delay in getting this recording of the webinar out to all of you.

The webinar recording can be found on the Community Power Agency website on our webinars page here: How Community Energy builds resilience and renewables.

For those interested in further resources and guides, there are many options:

  • Community Power Agency resources section
    We offer workshops, training and other services to help you to develop your community energy project in line with the vision and context of your community. We regularly work with councils and non-profits also.
  • Coalition for Community Energy knowledge hub
    The C4CE has good resources for various projects on their website. We encourage community energy groups to become members of C4CE.

Thanks again to those who attended the webinar and our presenters: Taryn, Lawrie and Rob. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support or connections for progressing your own energy projects.

Sunny regards,

Kristy for the Community Power Agency team

PS. Check out our latest campaign that we launched in Parliament House last week to ensure the renewables boom benefits everyone and can Repower Our Communities.

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!