New Labor govt urged to back community energy

Solar farm with beautiful sunset and tree in background (GSEO australia)
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With Australia’s new Labor government vowing to address cost of living and climate change, the Community Power Agency is urging the government to work with the community energy sector to comprehensively implement its plan for solar banks and community batteries to assist more Australians to access cheaper, cleaner power.

“Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower can be a huge economic and social opportunity for regional Australia—if implemented well,” Community Power Agency Kim Mallee said.

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“It is critically important that we bring people together in this transformation of our energy system, and community energy is a proven way of ensuring that.

“Labor’s Powering Australia plan includes two welcome community energy initiatives which have the potential to assist everyday Australians to actively participate in and benefit from the transformation of our energy system by lowering their carbon emissions while cutting their power bills—if designed and delivered appropriately,” Mallee said.

Labor’s Powering Australia Plan commits $100 million to deliver an initial 85 solar banks, covering the project’s feasibility and development costs and assisting with 50 percent of the capital costs.

“Solar banks can enable the one-third of all Australian households which are currently locked out of the rooftop solar revolution such as renters and apartment dwellers,” Mallee said. 

“From the previous two years experience developing the Haystacks Solar Garden, Australia’s first large-scale solar garden—what we call a solar bank, we know that to roll out an effective solar banks program of the size Labor are proposing will require tailored expertise, support and coordination.”

During the election, Labor also committed $200 million to install 400 community-scale batteries that will store rooftop solar power at peak generation times and make it available for the community at peak demand times.

“There is a lot of buzz right now about the potential for community batteries to assist in the transition to a clean energy future in a way that is nimble and equitable for consumers. Labor’s community battery program shows promise if planned carefully with communities at its heart,” Mallee said.

“Developing business models and partnerships that suit the Australian electricity system and deliver meaningful participation for everyday people will be key to implementing this initiative effectively.

“While the design of both community energy policies is yet to be clarified by Labor, we recommend the establishment of Community Power Hubs across regional Australia bolstered with a capacity building network behind it to provide the necessary framework to deliver these initiatives.

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“Community Power Hubs are on-the-ground support organisations with the expertise and resources to enable community energy projects like solar banks and community batteries to thrive.

“Community energy is not just an electricity project in the community—it is the community having agency and participation in energy projects to realise their own vision.”

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