Australian Community Renewables Receives Funding

It’s not armed with a huge chunk of change, but a new ARENA-supported project will investigate realising the potential of community-owned renewable energy projects in Australia.

On Tuesday, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced it was providing $165,280 to the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures for a $266,280 project that aims to develop ways to growing the local community-owned renewables sector.

There’s certainly no shortage of interest in the concept – dozens of communities throughout Australia have expressed interest in developing community owned wind and solar farms; but start-up funding to get the ball rolling has been practically non-existent.

The Fund Community Energy project has been calling on the federal government to establish a $50 million grant program to support the development stage of community renewables.

While that goal is yet to be realised, the ARENA/UTS project is at least a start.

“This project brings key players in the sector together to investigate the challenges and opportunities of community renewable projects and chart a pathway for the sector to tap into its potential,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“Community energy projects encourage regional economic development, create local jobs and encourage community support for renewables, helping the development of other projects across Australia.”

The project will kick off early next year and is due to be completed in mid-2014. Other partners in the project include Starfish Enterprises Network Limited, Backroad Connections Pty Ltd, Alternative Technology Association, Community Power Agency, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Total Environment Centre, Embark and Sustainable Regional Australia.

Outside our shores, community owned wind and solar projects have been hugely popular and successful. Recently we reported on the UK’s Brighton Energy Coop (BEC) raising in excess of £200,000 in just 3 weeks for a 200kW rooftop solar panel system project. In addition to BEC, there are an estimated 50 other similar co-ops now operating in the UK.