National Community Energy Strategy launches

This week a consortium of organisations, led by ISF, has launched the National Community Energy Strategy for Australia –www.c4ce.net.au/nces.

Over the past 18 months, ISF has been leading the project with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and in partnership with the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), Starfish Initiatives, Community Power Agency, Embark, Total Environment Centre and E2Q.

The Strategy provides a guide for any organisation – government, community sector or private – looking to help grow a vibrant community energy sector in Australia.

But what is community energy? Community energy projects help decarbonise, decentralise and democratise our energy system and demonstrate that a renewable powered future is possible. Practically, they are projects where the community develops, delivers and benefits from sustainable energy. It can involve supply-side projects such as renewable energy installations and storage, and demand-side projects such as energy efficiency and demand management. Great example projects include Hepburn and Denmark community wind farms, RePower Shoalhaven and the CORENA donation based projects.

The National Strategy is just one of many exciting developments within the Australian community energy sector which has now grown to 20 operating community energy projects and over 70 community energy groups across Australia.

As part of the National Strategy project a Baseline Collective Impact Assessment was undertaken. This found that to date the Australian community energy sector, while still new compared to places like Germany, the US and Scotland, has:

  • Contributed over AU$23 million in community funding for energy infrastructure
  • Installed over 9 MW of renewable energy systems
  • Produced over 50,000 MWh of clean energy (as of the end of 2014)
  • Avoided over 43,000 tonnes in carbon emissions
  • Developed a membership and supporter base of over 21,000 people (not including the support base of organisations like ATA, Embark and Community Power Agency that support community energy groups).

Other recent developments include the launch of a Guide to Community Solar. The guide introduces the models of community solar that are viable in the current context and a background as to why these models work and what constrains other options within the current regulatory context.

cost and cost reduction analysis of community energy projects has also been released, which looks into more detail behind the finances and financial viability of community energy project.

Community invited to submit proposals for ACT’s new solar energy scheme

This article was orginally published at abc.net.au/news on 16.6.14

By Carl Smith

The ACT Government is calling for proposals for a new community solar project that could generate enough energy for 250 homes every year.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the scheme would provide participants with a fixed feed-in tariff of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

Mr Corbell said the project would give the community a new way to contribute to renewable energy generation.

“We are expecting a lot of interest from residents and small consortiums across the ACT who want to invest in renewable energy but need an extra incentive, such as a feed-in tariff,” he said.

The feed-in tariff price is slightly higher than the 18.6 cents per kilowatt-hour offered under the ACT’s Large-scale Solar Auctions project in 2012 and 2013.

Proposals will be considered on a first come, first served basis and will be open for one year from today, or until a cap equivalent to around 500 rooftop solar installations is reached.

Mr Corbell said the project would provide up to one mega-watt of solar power generation for community-owned schemes, which individuals would then potentially be able to buy into.

“This is a project that’s designed to support those people who, perhaps because they rent or because of the suitability or otherwise of their property, can’t install solar on their roof,” he said.

“They can potentially buy into a community-owned generator.”

Mr Corbel said the location of the infrastructure would be up to the groups applying to be a part of the scheme.

“They may be ground-mounted solar, in a field on a farmer’s property, or they may be roof-mounted solar projects on top of large buildings,” he said.

The ACT Government has committed itself toachieving a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

Mr Corbell called for proposals during the Community Energy Congress held in Canberra today.

Earlier in the year the ACT Government amended the Electricity Feed-in (Large-scale Renewable Energy Generation) Act 2011 to facilitate the request for proposals to the scheme.

Further legislation is expected to be tabled and passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly in August, making the scheme effective from that time.

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.”