Greens join Labor in backing campaign to turbo-charge community power
Community groups that want to own and run their own clean-energy projects have welcomed The Greens’ promise to turbo-charge community power in Australia with a $265 million investment.
Across the country, more than 70 groups are trying to design and build their own renewable-energy projects including solar-powered breweries and dairy farms, bioenergy hubs and energy efficiency programs. However, red tape and a lack of legal and technical expertise are holding them back.
The Greens’ policy would provide start-up funds plus create a network of 50 “community powerhouses” that provide ongoing technical and legal support, and ensure communities can learn from each other rather than be forced to reinvent the wheel.
It is the second major political party to get behind a grassroots campaign, led by the Community Power Agency, to kick-start community energy projects in Australia. The ALP announced its plans to invest $98.7 million in community energy earlier including the setup of 10 community hubs.
According to Nicky Ison of Community Power Agency: “Poll after poll demonstrate that voters love renewable energy – and that popularity is even higher when it comes to community-owned projects.
“From inner-city Melbourne to far north Queensland and everywhere in between there are community energy groups springing up right around the country full of volunteers devoting thousands of hours on exciting, innovative projects. With two of the three major political parties now backing their efforts community power is really hitting the mainstream. We can’t wait to see what the Coalition will do.”
Ms Ison said by removing tax (up to a point) on investment in community power the Greens’ policy would also make it easier for mums and dads to pitch in financially.
“Big banks already benefit from investing in renewable energy, so why shouldn’t every day Australians? We want to make sure it’s easy for mum and dad investors to chip in cash that not only results in a financial payback but also contributes toward the clean energy transition.”
Steve Turnock, of Melbourne Community Power, said the group had been working hard to get projects off the ground but regulations were complex.
“There’s a big future for community renewables in Australia. Community power provides so many local economic and social benefits, as well as putting clean energy into the grid. These kinds of innovative projects deserve greater support, and this policy by the Greens would help us deliver ours,” he said.
Marcy Faith, of Moreland Community Solar, said getting access to crucial seed funding and affordable legal and technical expertise was crucial: “The time is right for community action on renewable energy. We’re excited to see policy support for groups like ours to deliver the multiple benefits of clean energy for our local community.”
Ms Ison said Coalition-held seats including Page and New England in NSW and Corangamite in Victoria stood to benefit the most from such a policy, with community energy groups already active in those electorates.
“Modelling shows that for every $1 the next government spends on community energy it can unlock up to $17 of community investment. That’s why community energy is something that should be supported by all sides of politics. It’s a win-win-win: good for the environment, good for local economies and helps address social issues such as energy affordability.”
Community energy groups are available in every state and territory for photographs and interviews. Media inquiries: Dinah on 0425 791 394 or email@example.com.