The Australian Greens have launched a fully costed initiative to promote community-owned renewable energy projects with a $100 million seed-funding program for feasibility grants, project management and specialist expertise.
"The Greens will give local communities the power to generate their own power," Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said.
"Communities across the country want their own clean energy generators, but setting them up, planning and applying for funding takes time, money and technical expertise.
"While the old parties want to find ways to help the big polluters pay less, the Greens are helping locals take control by giving them the resources they need to properly plan and find funding for clean energy projects.
"The seed-funding program will open up the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Australians to own and benefit from a wide range of renewable energy opportunities - from rural areas with good wind resources to community solar parks and roof-tops for inner-city renters."
Deputy Leader Adam Bandt said community-owned renewable energy is commonplace in many parts of the world.
"Melbourne has a huge number of people who support renewables but can't install solar panels on their own homes because they rent or live in an apartment. Our plan will help city dwellers own their own piece of a solar plant or a wind farm," Mr Bandt said.
"It has worked overseas. In Germany, for example, many smaller cities jointly own run-of-the-river hydro systems or bio-energy. In the United States, apartment dwellers without roof space invest in solar panels installed in parks and on community buildings."
"Australia has some successful community owned clean energy projects like Hepburn Wind here in Victoria, which powers thousands of homes with clean energy and funds local community groups. The Greens' plan will help bring these ideas to the city.
"That's why the Greens will invest $100 million in our Australian Community Renewable Energy Program."
Community-owned renewable energy allows farmers, city residents and local communities to invest in clean energy with benefits such as:
- Local jobs and income generation as the profits stay in the region
- Greater community participation in the project - improving agreement about site installations
- Access for groups (especially renters for example) that are unable to invest in their own renewable energy
- Community support for renewable energy through direct experience and ownership
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.
Australian Community Renewable Energy Program
The program will allocate funds to the existing Australian Renewable Energy Agency to run a competitive tender program supporting the development of community-owned renewable energy projects through feasibility grants, project management and specialist expertise.
The objective of the program is to develop a pipeline of several community renewable energy projects of different scales, technologies and ownership models for the CEFC to aggregate, provide concessional finance and negotiate loans with banks.
Australia has a few examples of successful community owned renewable energy projects, and there is a track-record of community-owned infrastructure in other sectors (e.g. dairy farming, irrigation), but the enormous potential for renewable energy has barely been tapped.
The seed-funding program will open up the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Australians to own and benefit from a wide range of renewable energy opportunities - from rural areas with good wind resources to community solar parks and roof-tops for inner-city renters.
Once project proponents can demonstrate that their project is feasible, ARENA could work cooperatively with the existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to assist the community proponents to source concessional finance. Both ARENA and the CEFC would be able to assist individual proposals as well as clusters of community renewable energy projects.