charge1COMMUNITY energy advocates from the Energy Innovation Co-operative are calling on Flinders MP and Environment Minister Greg Hunt MP to throw his weight behind an innovative plan to support groups to build and run their own clean energy projects.
The Smart Energy Communities Program would allow community groups like the Gippsland-based energy co-operative to access legal and technical expertise and funding to help get innovative energy projects off the ground.
The EI Co-op is in the throes of designing and gaining investment for a revolving fund which would provide much needed financial support for communities wanting to install renewable energy systems on facilities such as local halls, recreation reserves and schools.
They are also looking into bigger ideas such as solar gardens and the establishment of an Energy Innovation Centre.
However, while there has been strong community interest in this project, getting it off the ground still faces a number of barriers.
“The creation of a national Smart Energy Communities Program would give a much-needed boost to projects like ours which are run on the passion and commitment of volunteers.
“The program would help everyone invest in local renewable energy projects and bring down power prices while creating much-needed local job opportunities,” Moragh Mackay, chair of the EI Co-op said.
A Smart Energy Communities Program would support a range of innovative enterprises including:
• Community battery storage schemes
• Community solar and wind farms
• Farmer bioenergy projects
• Community electric vehicle solar charging and more
“Community power projects let communities take control of their energy supply, help clean up Australia’s energy system, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs in regional communities across the country.
“It makes economic sense for all political parties to back community power projects,” Moragh said.
“We are particularly keen to hear what Greg Hunt MP has to say so we know where he stands on this before the federal election.”
The Smart Energy Communities Program includes establishing 50 Community Powerhouses across the country and a Grant Fund.
It is expected to cost $140 million over the next four years.
“For $35 million a year, the government could help unlock billions of dollars in investment in local clean energy projects.
“The Labor Party and the Greens already have dedicated policies to turbo-charge community energy in Australia.
“We want to see all sides of politics seize this opportunity and make a concrete commitment to fund Community Energy in Australia.
“Doing so will mean communities like ours will reap a fair share of the global renewable energy boom.”