Everybody Needs Good Neighbours … to Produce Renewable Energy

 

Linda Parlane got more than energy from the sun when she installed solar panels on her roof. She harnessed the power of her community.

Ms Parlane bought her solar panels back in 2009 through a bulk-buy community scheme in Coburg.

She and her partner are careful about their energy use but the investment has paid off.

“We’re always ahead with credit on our bills even during winter,” she said. “Once you have your own system you wonder what else you can do.”

She is now a board member of the Moreland Community Solar co-operative and wants to see more local projects, including ventures established through community investment.

But she fears community energy projects have come unstuck in recent years after running into legal and administrative hurdles.

Moreland Community Solar is among a collection of environment, energy and lobby groups calling on the state government to ensure small to medium-scale community projects play a bigger role in reducing carbon emissions.

A submission to the government prepared by the Community Power Agency is urging it to establish “clean energy community hubs” that can provide advice to local groups and help them strike up relationships with renewable energy developers.

It also recommends financial support for community-produced energy.

The state government has called for submissions as part of its plan to have 40 per cent renewable energy by 2025. NSW has a 20 per cent target by 2020-21.

The government will use a “competitive auction process” in which renewable energy developers can bid for contracts to run their projects.

The Community Power Agency wants community energy projects to account for up to 10 per cent of the overall renewable energy target.

Community energy projects take many different forms. Several years ago residents in Daylesford and Hepburn set up a community co-operative to establish a two-turbine wind farm that now produces enough energy to power more than 2000 homes.

In Bendigo a crowdfunding campaign was launched to buy solar panels for a local library.

Community Power Agency director Nicky Ison said many Victorians wanted to produce renewable energy at a local level.

“Community groups have great ideas,” she said. “Once they’ve turned those ideas into something financially viable there are so many people who want to invest in these projects.”

Ms Ison said community energy projects also resulted in stronger relationships within communities. “It’s bringing neighbours together.”

The groups supporting the submission include progressive lobby group Getup, Solar Citizens, Yarra Community Solar, Moreland Community Solar co-operative and the Central Victoria Greenhouse Alliance.

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