Everyday people developing, owning and benefiting from renewable energy projects
Community energy offers a model for ensuring that everyday people can access the full benefits of the renewable energy boom that is already underway in regional Australia. When communities are involved in renewable projects, they deliver economical, social and community benefits locally.
This appendix details the benefits of community energy identified through our community co-design process.
While there is no universal definition of community energy, in the Local Power Plan, we define it simply as: 'where a community develops, owns or benefits from a renewable energy project.'
Different communities will develop community energy projects in different ways. But in essence, community energy is about
building renewables, and making sure everyday people benefit, either through part ownership, or accessing cheap, clean electricity. Everyday Australians have already shown us community energy works.
Right now, all across Australia, there are more than 100 community energy groups – organisations made up of everyday people who develop community energy projects.
A community energy group might be —
• a group of volunteers raising money to install a solar panel on the local school;
• a social enterprise providing low-interest loans to low-income households to upgrade their energy efficiency;
• a local Landcare or Rotary Club running small projects like installing a small battery in their town; or
• a not-for-profit raising money through donations to finance a business case for a mid-scale solar farm.
Many existing models can serve as templates for other groups to develop their own projects
In 2019, Renewable Albury-Wodonga (RAW) raised money to install solar panels on the roofs of 10 social housing units to help the residents save money on their power bills.
Where a community energy group or individuals donate to install a renewable energy unit (like solar panels) at a host site (like the roof of a local school) with the financial benefit flowing to the host entity.
In 2011, the town of Denmark, WA, raised funds locally to develop a small wind farm. The Denmark Community Wind Farm is co-owned by the local community energy group and individuals in town, who receive returns on their investment and access to locally-generated power. Hepburn Wind in Daylesford, Victoria pioneered this model in Australia.
Community Investment Model
Where a cooperative or company will raise capital from community members who become investors in a project who then receive dividends.
The Sapphire Wind Farm in New England NSW, which powers 115,000 homes, generated 150 jobs, was built with a $7.5 million co-investment raised from local people who are now receiving dividends alongside the commercial developer.
Co - Investment Model
Where a community group becomes co-investor with a commercial energy developer to deliver an energy project with community involvement.
The proposed 21MW GVCE Mooroopna Solar Farm near Shepparton in Victoria that will power over 10,000 homes is being built as a partnership between Greater Shepparton City Council, local social enterprise GV Community Energy Pty Ltd, and Akuo Energy, an international solar developer.
Community - Council Partnership
Where a local council becomes co-investor with a commercial energy developer to deliver an energy project with community involvement.
Zero Emissions Noosa in Queensland aims to transition the entire town to 100% renewable energy by 2026 through a range of energy efficiency, solar and transport projects.
Totally Renewable Towns
Where people identify pathways to transition a town to 100% renewable energy, usually involving several local energy generation and efficiency projects.