Originally published on The Community Power Report.
by Manny Pasqualini
A huge step toward establishing a viable community-owned renewable energy sector in Australia has been taken with The Australian Greens launching their Community Renewable Energy policy in a joint media event co-hosted by the Fund Community Energy campaign and representatives of inner-Melbourne’s community solar projects, including Moreland, Yarra, and LIVE Community Solar.
Announced on the 21st August at Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market, the ‘Australian Community Renewable Energy Program’ pledges $100 million over 5 years as seed-funding for feasibility grants, project management and specialist expertise to be accessed by emerging locally-owned and operated clean energy projects.
Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne spoke of the initiative’s potential to give local communities the power to generate their own power by opening up the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Australians to own and benefit from renewable energy.
“Communities across the country want their own clean energy generators, but setting them up, planning and applying for funding takes time, money and technical expertise,” Senator Milne said.
Deputy Leader Adam Bandt contrasted his local constituents’ enthusiasm for renewable energy with the lack of political support for community-scale clean energy generation.
“Melbourne has a huge number of people who support renewables but can’t install solar panels on their own homes because they rent or live in an apartment. Our plan will help city dwellers own their own piece of a solar plant or a wind farm,” Mr Bandt said.
“It has worked overseas. In Germany, for example, many smaller cities jointly own run-of-the-river hydro systems or bio-energy. In the United States, apartment dwellers without roof space invest in solar panels installed in parks and on community buildings.”
“Australia has some successful community owned clean energy projects like Hepburn Wind here in Victoria, which powers thousands of homes with clean energy and funds local community groups. The Greens’ plan will help bring these ideas to the city,” the Federal Member for Melbourne said.
Details of the policy include an important role for the existing Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). It will be allocated the funds to manage a competitive tender program whereby projects that can demonstrate that their business plans are feasible will receive financial and logistical support as they need it through stages of business development and project implementation. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which currently facilitates large-scale clean energy development, is also expected to play a key role in enabling communities to get their projects off the ground sooner.
Nicky Ison from the Fund Community Energy Campaignwelcomed the policy announcement, saying that $100 million in seed-funding has the potential to unlock over $1 billion of investment in communities around Australia. Based on economic modelling commissioned by the Fund Community Energy Campaign and undertaken by Marsden Jacob Associates, The Greens’ $100 million fund would:
- Shepherd more than 250 community owned renewable projects from inception to the investment-ready stage over the next five years
- Unlock over $1 billion worth of investment in communities around Australia
- Install 656MW of community renewable generation
- Offset 1300 kilotonnes of carbon emissions
“This can unleash 1 billion dollars of investment – that’s investment that people like you and I could make, as mums and dads, as renters, as farmers, and the list goes on.” Ms Ison said.
“These projects enable communities to rejuvenate their local economies through keeping investment in their local communities, to be able to tackle climate change at the local level, and finally to be able to address and take charge of their own community’s electricity bills.”
“We need to get projects to a point where they’re investment ready, so that the communities can then invest in themselves, and that’s what this policy announced by The Greens can do.” Ms Ison said.
Fund Community Energy campaigners have met with representatives of all major Australian political parties in recent months as part of a strong nationwide campaign calling for a $50 million fund to support communities through the difficult early stages of renewable energy project development. The campaign applauds the $100 million proposal and calls on all parties to follow suit and recognise the wide-ranging benefits that community renewable energy can provide for all Australians.
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