Australian-first financial tool kit unveiled at Community Energy Congress
It’s never been easier for everyday Australians to set up and finance locally-owned renewable energy projects thanks to today’s launch of a financial toolkit.
In Australia, there are already more than 50 community energy projects up and running and demand is growing. Community energy involves a group of people developing, operating and benefitting from their own renewable energy initiatives. They can be formed based on a common interest or geographical location, such as a town or suburb.
Frontier Impact Group has created the toolkit to make it simpler for such to groups to secure funding, and understand the various financial model options available, so that they can take control of their community’s energy use, lower power bills and cut pollution.
“People keep telling us that a key barrier between getting a project up and running is securing funding, or understanding complex financial models. This toolkit is designed to improve the financial literacy of enthusiastic community energy developers and increase the likelihood their projects are appropriately funded,” said Jennifer Lauber Patterson, Managing Director of Frontier Impact Group.
The toolkit comprises two guidebooks – the Funding Basics Guidebook and a Behind the Meter Solar PV guidebook – that were designed in close collaboration with community energy groups that have since managed to successfully fund their projects.
In Australia, “behind the meter” solar projects are the most likely to be commercially viable, and are easier to replicate. The details of two successful case studies from New South Wales are included: Repower Shoalhaven’s solar photovoltaic (PV) project on a bowling and recreation club, and Pingala’s Young Henry’s Pub solar PV project.
Tom Nockolds, of Pingala, said: “If the toolkit had been available when we first started our project it would have fast tracked it significantly. We used it at a later stage of the project and it still assisted us in validating our own financial modelling at a lower cost that would have otherwise been possible.”
Dan Cowdell, of Geelong Sustainability Group, was also involved in piloting the toolkit and agreed that it would help others fast track their projects at a reduced cost.
The toolkit was developed thanks to a $296,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). It was supported by a steering group that included representatives of ARENA, the NSW Government, Community for Clean Energy (C4CE), Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Community Power Agency and Embark.
Ms Lauber Patterson said that there has already been demand from community energy groups to develop additional guidebooks that explain grid-connected solar PV, bioenergy and wind projects, as well as energy storage projects.
“We have had a lot of demand for the development of workshops to roll out the toolkit which we will be pursuing next. Our thoughts are to develop community champions in utilising the toolkit so that financial literacy is increased and solar projects can be rolled out in shorter timeframes and at lower cost,” she said.
The community energy financial toolkit will be launched at the Community Energy Congress in the Melbourne Town Hall today, and Frontier Impact Group is running a workshop on February 29.