Victoria’s community renewable energy sector got a boost this week with the state government’s release of a guide to developing community owned-projects, as part of its upcoming Renewable Energy Action Plan.
State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Guide to Community-Owned Renewable Energy for Victorians at the annual general meeting of Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind, in Daylesford.
According to a media release, it will help local groups make informed decisions about establishing community renewable projects, including wind, solar, small-scale hydro, geothermal, bioenergy (from waste products) and energy storage technologies.
The guide also covers the development of sound business proposals, sources of possible funding (including crowdsourcing, grants and financing options), selecting the most suitable technologies, managing the project, stakeholder consultation and connecting to the grid.
The news would be particularly welcome to wind energy developers, after a long drought in the sector caused by prolonged uncertainty at a federal level, combined with strict planning changes and a general lack of support at the state level, under the previous Liberal Baillieu/Napthine government.
And of course, wind energy is very competitive in the state. As we reported here, Victoria recently boasted the nation’s lowest-cost wind farm, after Canberra-based Windlab secured a $50 million financing deal for a 19.5MW wind farm in Coonooer Bridge, west of Bendigo.
The record breaking – and drought-breaking – project was one of three winners of a reverse auction held by the ACT government, delivering a locked in price of $81.50 for 20 years.
Roger Price, the CEO of Windlab, says the project will deliver the cheapest wind energy in Australia, beating even the highly rated Snowtown projects owned by New Zealand firm TrustPower in South Australia.
“We’ve restarted renewable energy in Victoria, and now we’re committed to making our state the industry leader,” said D’Ambrosio at the launch on Monday. “That includes supporting community-owned projects.”
The guide – which will be the state’s first such community resource – has been welcomed by green groups and community energy advocates.
“(This) demonstrates an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to meet Victorian Renewable Energy Targets,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.
“Government, industry, community and householders all have a role to play when it comes to growing renewable energy in Victoria and tackling climate change.”
Taryn Lane, from community energy group Embark, said the guide showed the Andrews government was proactively addressing the barriers faced by the Victorian community energy sector.
“We look forward to the government building on this step to help unlock community solar and wind projects,” Lane said.
The Andrews government is expected to release its full Renewable Energy Action Plan within weeks, which will – among other things – set Victoria’s renewable energy targets for 2020 and 2025.
In September, the Premier announced a baseline Victorian Renewable Energy Target of at least 20 per cent by 2020. Friends of the Earth and Embark expect the government to adopt more ambition in the final targets.
According to Ewbank, Victoria has enough shovel-ready wind farms and active communities “to smash the baseline target” by 2020.
“Ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets will create jobs, unleash investment, and help tackle climate change. It’s something all political parties can support,” he said.