Indigo Power launches crowd investment round to expand community owned renewables

Regional Victorian energy start-up Indigo Power has launched a crowd-sourced investment offer to accelerate new community energy hubs across regional communities in the state’s north east.

Indigo Power was born out of the Totally Renewable Yackandandah project, which sought to transform the regional township, home to around a thousand people, to running completely on renewable electricity through solar and storage systems installed on local homes and businesses.

The company is now seeking expressions of interest from potential investors to help expand the company’s reach across north-east Victoria, including the creation of a new community-owned electricity retailer to enable the trading and sharing of power between local members of the community.

“Our goal is to power East Victoria with renewable energy. We know that everyday people working together can overcome huge challenges. So, we’re setting up community energy hubs to enable a community response to climate change, Indigo Power managing direct Ben McGowan told RenewEconomy.

“We know that the electricity sector is the largest single driver of climate change. But we’ve also calculated that over $160 million leaves our region in electricity bills each year. We think a local energy provider, that sources as much local clean energy as possible, can help change that.”

“We also believe that building a local renewable energy economy, with local ownership, can play an important role in the recovery of our region, after the bushfires, and after the current pandemic.”

Indigo Power is hoping to replicate the Totally Renewable Yackandandah model across up to 31 additional community energy hubs centred at new townships in north-east regional Victoria. Through this expansion, Indigo Power is hoping to support the region reach 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030.

The capital raising is open to all interested parties, but Indigo Power hopes to attract a significant level of interest from within the north-east Victorian region, in the hope that ownership of the company reflects the communities within which it is active.

“We are 100% community-owned, and a certified social enterprise, which means that half any profits go to renewable energy projects in our region. We’re currently running a public share offering to give our community the chance to join Indigo Power as a shareholder from $100. We want an active shareholder base, and are looking to grow to over 300 shareholders,” McGowan added.

“We will use the funds raised through the offer to increase local electricity supply through the delivery of more and better community energy hubs.”

The company plans to deploy the investments raised to build up its systems and infrastructure to support the participation and coordination of community owned solar and energy storage resources, helping customers to understand where their electricity comes from and how power is being shared throughout their local community.

This will include developing the company’s online and software capacity, expanding the company’s reach to other regional Victorian communities, and if sufficient investment is received, to build and operate additional community owned renewable energy and storage projects.

A new energy management platform planned by the company could help regional communities become self-sufficient for their electricity needs, including towns like Corryong, which became isolated during recent bushfires that impacted the region.

Indigo Power has been established as a “certified social enterprise” in Victoria, meaning that at least half of all profits created by the company will be reinvested in new renewable energy projects.

One of the company’s first project investments was the installation of a 30kW solar installation at the Old Beechworth Gaol, a system that had been installed through a community ownership model.

The project wants to coordinate the sharing of electricity being generated by the systems within each community hub, with a mix of rooftop solar and storage systems being supplemented by larger-scale projects being installed within the community, but encountered regulatory barriers, including the need for the involvement of an authorised electricity retailer. The group has subsequently worked closely with retailer Energy Locals.

To ensure the power produced by local projects is coordinated and used to benefit the local community, Indigo Power was established to help address the regulatory barriers and to facilitate the trading of power between participating homes and businesses.

The Totally Renewable Yackandandah initiative has a target to take the entire township to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2022 and has facilitated several bulk purchasing rounds to support a greater number of households install solar.

A spokesperson for Indigo Power said that around 60 per cent of Yackandandah households now have solar installed.

A growing number of public buildings have joined the initiative, and in 2016 facilitated the installation of a 90kW solar installation a health facility within Yackandandah, which was followed by an additional ten projects in 2019.

The investment offer is being run via the crowd investment platform Birchal, and Indigo Power is accepting expressions of interest potential investors via the platform until 10 April.

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