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ACT kicks off 1MW community solar program

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The ACT government has formally called for proposals for a community solar scheme that would be the biggest community project in Australia.

The ACT Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell said the government wants to build a community solar projects totaling 1MW – allowing ownership by people, including those who could not afford their own stand alone system, or who lived in apartments or rental accommodation.

The ACT government is offering a feed in tariff of up to 20c/kWh for the installations, higher than any other tariff currently available in Australia. The initiative is part of the territory’s plan to source 90 per cent of its renewable energy target by 2020.

“This will be a great opportunity for community members who want to invest in large-scale solar to get involved in an on-ground project,” Corbell said.

“We are expecting a lot of interest from residents and small consortiums across the ACT who want to invest in renewable energy but need an extra incentive, such as a feed-in-tariff,” Corbell said.

“Successful proposals will have access to a feed-in-tariff, giving community groups a secure income stream and allowing them to partner with experienced solar developers to access project finance and expertise.”

The announcement was made at the Community Energy Congress in Canberra, where a Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE) was launched to promote the interests of community projects.

“This is a sweet spot for sustainability,” said Adam Blakestar, a director of Starfish Initiatives and co-founder of C4CE. As this graph shows, the coalition has three key priorities – decarbonise, decentralise and democratise the energy supply.

c4ce

Nicky Ison, a senior research consultant at the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures and founding member of the Coalition for Community Energy, said there are more than 50 community energy projects around Australia that need a stable policy environment for a healthy future.

However, the backflip on renewable energy policies by the Abbott government was threatening the viability of many of these projects.

“Across Australia policies like the Renewable Energy Target and ARENA are supporting not only individual choice to put solar panels on their roof, but also the creation of Community Energy enterprises,” she said.

“Community Energy is an approach to renewable energy that engages communities in the development and ownership of renewable energy assets such as solar panels on libraries or local wind farms.

“The Community Energy sector and the many Australians who love clean energy would like to see certainty and funding support restored for the renewable energy sector.”

Proposals for the ACT scheme will be considered on a first-come-first-served basis and will remain open for one year from today, unless the cap is reached before then.  

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