Community energy has been given a key role in federal Labor’s newly released climate policy, with $98.7 million set aside for the establishment of a community power network and a series of “regional hubs.”
The funding also includes more than $16 million a year in competitive grants for community groups to pilot new approaches and demonstration projects in community housing, providing the lessons that can then be rolled out nationally through the network.
Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan, launched on Wednesday ahead of a July 2 election, promises to reinstate a national emissions trading scheme, commits the ALP to a legal cap on the emissions of large polluters, and commits to its previously stated renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.
Part of this renewable energy effort will be targeted at the community energy level, with plans to establish a central Community Power Network – a “solution broker” offering legal and technical expertise, and – via an online community – share ideas, models, business plans, implementation strategies and case studies.
The Network will also oversee the deployment of up to 10 community power hubs across Australia, which will support the development of local projects – addressing local energy supply and demand issues.
Their mandate will be coordination, capacity building, networking and connecting and problem solving, they will bring legal and technical expertise to the passion of community ideas.
Community Power Hubs will provide legal and technical expertise and start-up funding to help kick-start clean energy projects across Australia.
More than $16 million a year in competitive grants will also be made available in the plan, for community groups to pilot new approaches and demonstration projects in community housing, providing the lessons that can then be rolled out nationally through the network.
According to the Action Plan, eligible projects could include: solar gardens’ for renters; low-income energy efficiency (including retrofits of existing social housing stock); solar programs using innovative finance like council rates programs; community wind farms; pilot community solar projects with social housing providers; and rates financing for low-income pensioners.
The policy paper notes that this approach has been shown, in modelling undertaken by Marsden Jacobs and Associates, to be an effective way of improving energy use. Given time, community energy projects could leverage $17 of community funding for every $1 of government funding.