Community groups power the switch to renewable energy

Australia’s community groups produced enough renewable energy in a year to power 2800 households or remove the equivalent of 7700 cars from the roads, a study has revealed.

The Community Energy Collective Impact report, released on Wednesday, also found community groups had raised more than $86 million to fund their projects over the past 12 months and doubled their number of members since the previous survey.

But the report, prepared by the Community Power Agency, University of Technology Sydney and University of Melbourne, also called for more state and federal government assistance to help the groups overcome regulations, tackle skill shortages and fund more projects.

The call comes just days after the federal government committed to increasing Australia’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 at the COP28 conference in Dubai.

The study identified 55 active community energy groups with more than 44,000 members – more than double the number of people involved in similar groups in 2015.

It found the groups had secured $86.8 million in funding over the past year and invested most in solar technology, followed by battery storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

Most of the groups were motivated to reduce climate change and cut emissions, the report found, and their projects generated 19,407 megawatt hours over a year and cut almost 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to taking 7748 cars off the road.

Community Power Agency director Kristy Walters said the groups attracted most of their funding from equity investors, with government grants making up less than one-third of the money invested in renewable energy projects.

“It’s remarkable that these energy groups have achieved so much funding for their projects through the community with minimal government support,” she said.

“Communities want to be involved in their own energy generation.”

Co-author Dr Jonathan Marshall, from the University of Technology Sydney, said the study also proved the growing enthusiasm for renewable energy in Australia.

“These findings show the growth and interest in community renewable energy, not only as a source of energy but as a source of local development and resilience,” he said.

The report issued eight recommendations to help the sector thrive, including ongoing funding from state and federal governments for project development and staffing costs.

It also recommended the establishment of a national community energy collaboration network, and higher feed-in tariffs for community projects.

Community organisations surveyed for the report included a group equipping buildings with solar power in the New South Wales town of Moruya so they could be self-sufficient during bushfires, and an effort to power the entire Victorian town of Yackandandah using renewable energy.

The federal government, along with governments from 100 countries, last week committed to tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by the end of the decade.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said Australia had also made significant progress to meeting its target of of 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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