“It’s so much fun!”

Shota FuruyaCultural, sociological and political science expert with Japan’s Institute of Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), Shota Furuya, says this is his main message to potential supporters of the community energy sector. “I have been working with this sector for 10 years and every time I go into communities I see wonderful cooperation and collaboration between many interesting people.”

Established in 2000, ISEP has helped pioneer community energy projects in Japan. Personally inspired by community energy stories from Germany and Denmark, Shota quietly states “Especially since Fukushima, we have many, many initiatives and I have supported several successful community projects. My role is to set up the forum for multi-stakeholder engagement, then facilitate consensus, project planning and development.” Then, when communities successfully start their process, he will work with them on dialogue between stakeholders. “I introduce skilled experts to practitioners and build networks among them.”

“Fukushima is very divided since the nuclear accident and communities are very sensitive to energy issues. Most people are interested in renewable energy but don’t know how to do it so we go to the communities and talk with people and advise how to start the process and how to plan and develop their projects with multi-stakeholder participation.”

“My main objective for the Congress is to share inspiring community energy stories from Japan with the Australian people. My second objective is to build a network between Australia and Japan. Renewable energy is essentially decentralised and distributed, so individuals, organisations and communities are often isolated, but sometimes international connection between those players brings unexpected new ideas, so I hope we can inspire each other.”

And with inspiration comes motivation.

Pingala Plans Solar Farms for Sydney

The community energy group Pingala sees a future where solar power will play a vital role in providing Sydney’s energy requirements.  Tom Nokolds, the secretary of Pingala, says the organisation has plans to develop “many solar farms … owned by the community … right here in Sydney”.

Nokolds feels that the Community Energy Congress in Canberra will be an opportunity to share experiences and skills amongst the growing community owned segment of the Australian energy sector.

Find out more at pingala.org.au.

ARENA helping put power in the people’s hands

logo_coa_cmykThe Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) became a key supporter of the emerging Australian community energy sector in November 2013 when it announced substantial funding for the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE), led by UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, to help catalyse community renewable projects around the country.

The ARENA funding will go to develop a Community Energy Strategy for Australia.  The strategy is currently under development.  As part of the Strategy development process, the Coalition for Community Energy is organising the inaugural Community Energy Congress, to be held in Canberra from 16 to 17 June, 2014.

Nicola_Ison_SmlISF project leader Nicky Ison said community renewables encourage regional economic development, create local jobs and represent an opportunity for Australians to play an active role in where their electricity comes from.

“Community-owned renewable energy projects put power in the hands of Australian towns and suburbs, providing an exciting opportunity, particularly for renters, to get involved in Australia’s renewable energy future,” Ms Ison said.

“ARENA’s support will help us develop a strategic approach to take this promising and committed part of the Australian renewable energy sector forward.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said community renewables projects are of national benefit as they encourage community support for renewables, helping the development of other projects across Australia.

ARENA is providing $165,280 for C4CE to investigate funding models, skills and regulatory barriers for community renewable projects through research, workshops and the inaugural Congress,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This project brings key players in the sector together to investigate the challenges and opportunities of community renewable projects and chart a pathway for the sector to tap into its potential.”