Community-owned electricity retailer considered for Northern Rivers

The New South Wales state government is looking the possibility of establishing the country’s first community-owned electricity retailer in the Northern Rivers region.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes has committed funding for a feasibility study on the development, and tenders are currently being called.

The aim is to have 100 per cent renewable energy provided through the retailer.

The Total Environment Centre’s Mark Byrne said the North Coast isn’t suitable for large-scale wind or solar farms, and rooftop solar is being considered along with bio-energy.

“Essentially we want people to have a business that is owned and operated by local people but with the expertise and finance coming from outside and they would be selling renewable energy in increasing amounts,” Mr Byrne told ABC News.

“There are a number of different business models that might be possible but we are putting out a call for tenders and want innovative ideas.”

The main benefits to the community would be the support given to the local economy and to jobs, along with the development of a more sustainable energy system.

“There might also be significant price advantages but that’s not the main reason we’re interested in doing it, it’s mostly because the North Coast isn’t really suitable for large scale wind or solar farms,” Mr Byrne said.

The idea came out of energy forums held in the Northern Rivers and a consortium formed, made up of local councils, Sustain Northern Rivers and the state government.

“The North Coast also has a significant natural advantage in bio-energy, everything from wastes from piggeries and trash from the sugar cane farms and there are significant opportunities there for the North Coast to take advantage of its rich agricultural base to generate energy,” Mr Byrne said.