After a 12-month inquiry, the Energy & Environment Committee have finally handed in their report on the Australian Local Power Agency Bill – we mark it an F for failing regional communities.
The Committee clearly understands the challenges holding back community energy projects from flourishing in our regional communities and how Community Power Hubs can address this.
Yet they recommended the Australian Local Power Agency Bill not be passed.
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.
1Advisory report on the inquiry into the Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021 and Australian Local Power Agency (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021 – Australian Parliament Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy, February 2022
2Community Power Hubs Pilot Program final evaluation (pdf) Sustainability Victoria
3Local Power Plan, 2020
4 Local Power Plan to have public hearing after overwhelming response, Helen Haines, August 26, 2021