Cathy McGowan : Community Projects A Vital Piece Of Australia’s Energy Jigsaw

Cathy McGowan on community energy

Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan AO has called for more funding for community energy projects across Australia.

On Monday, Ms. McGowan introduced the Renewable Energy Legislation Amendment (Supporting Renewable Communities) Bill 2017 to Parliament.

The purpose of the bill is to ensure community energy projects have access to financial support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

When originally set up, ARENA provided some support for community-based power, which apparently wasn’t very successful. However, Ms. McGowan says the industry has matured and it was time for another crack at it.

“Communities are working in partnership with local and state governments to address supply and demand. They are developing renewable energy installation and storage, energy and efficiency and community education. The piece that is missing is the Commonwealth.”

Ms. McGowan said there are 90 community energy projects across Australia, with 75% of those in regional areas. An example of a major project we’ve covered here on SolarQuotes is Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY), which aims to achieve energy sovereignty for the town by 2022 through 100% renewables; including the installation of solar power systems.

Ms. McGowan is a big fan of TRY and says its approach has the potential to be replicated across regional communities, boosting employment and pushing down electricity costs.

Passing of the bill would provide greater certainty to communities seeking to develop a community energy based model.

“As an independent representative I’m asking the government to hear the community’s message that local power generation is a vital piece of a dynamic national approach, together with baseload projects and other initiatives,” Ms McGowan said.

The bill amends the functions of ARENA to enable funding of community energy projects and also expands the functions of the CEFC to allow investments in community joint partnerships, or other community energy models.

Further details of the Renewable Energy Legislation Amendment (Supporting Renewable Communities) Bill 2017 can be viewed here.

The Division of Indi is an Australian Electoral Division in northeastern Victoria, which incorporates towns and cities including Yackandandah, Wodonga, Wangaratta, and Benalla.

In related news, Totally Renewable Yackandandah was recently announced as a finalist in the 2017 Banksia Awards, in the Sustainable & Resilient Communities category. Winners of the Awards will be announced on November 1.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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