Like Federal Independent MP Dr Helen Haines, the Clean Energy Council believes that Australia’s regional and rural communities play a vital role in renewable energy now and into the future.
“Community energy initiatives can be powerful drivers in affecting change at a local level, strengthening the social fabric, increasing resilience and accelerating a much broader societal shift to renewable energy,” says the Clean Energy Council’s Policy Director for Energy Generation, Anna Freeman.
The electorate of Indi provides one of Australia’s best examples of this with the remarkable efforts of the Yackandandah community through its Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) initiative, which demonstrates the tremendous appetite for the renewable energy transition.
The introduction of the Australian Local Power Agency and its Local Power Scheme would be a great source of additional support for regional and rural communities to assist renewable energy projects in getting off the ground.
The Clean Energy Council supports and promotes benefit sharing within host communities and released a report showcasing the many benefit sharing options for renewable energy projects.
“Renewable energy creates new opportunities for our regional and rural communities, with around 70 per cent of employment dispersed outside capital cities across Australia,” says Freeman.
The Clean Energy Council has been working alongside developers and communities across regional and rural Australia over the last decade and actively promotes community co-investment as one of the effective ways that renewable energy projects can share the benefits with their host communities. It’s on this basis that we do not support one form of benefit sharing being prescribed in legislation for all renewable energy projects.
The Australian Local Power Agency Bill requires developers to offer at least a 20 per cent stake of the project for local residents to invest in.
“With most large-scale renewable energy projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and in some case – billions of dollars – it is unrealistic for all projects to offer a 20 per cent stake to the local community for co-investment, says Freeman. “There may be other, more targeted forms of support that are preferable to the community.
“Every community’s needs and aspirations are different, and they may even evolve,” says Freeman. “Greater flexibility than a simple target is required within the Bill for communities to determine the benefit-sharing approach so that outcomes are positive, rewarding and beneficial for both project proponents and local communities.”