Northern Rivers Energy, the consortium formed to establish Australia’s first community-owned energy retailers, will take its plans to local towns next week to get feedback from the community.
NRE was set up last year after winning a grant from the NSW government to do in Australia what has become relatively common in Europe and the US, and establish a retailer owned by community members.
Alison Crook says a series of meetings in planned in Lismore, Murwillumbah, Byron Bay and Ballina over the next week to take its proposals to the community for consultation.
“We want to take them through to where we are up to and get feedback from there. And to see if there are any better ideas,” Crook said.
The plan so far is to create a structure that includes a trading arm that will cover energy retail and asset management – the building and financing of rooftop solar and other renewable energy plants. And there will be a not-for-profit component focused on community education.
The ultimate holding company will also likely be community owned, with current thinking targeting at least 400 members who might invest something like $5,000 each. The plan is to get the company formed in March, and a retail license by July
“In these first meetings we want to get engaged with those with an interest and commitment in renewable energy. We want to make sure that they like the look of this and test our views and business plan.
Then, the plan is to take those plans, with any modifications, to the broader community in March.
The meetings will be held in Lismore on Feb 2. Murwillimbah, on Feb 3,
Byron Bay on Feb 4, and Ballina on Feb 5. NRE is asking interested people to register for the meetings. That can be done at their website, www.nre.org.au/events.
Crook said last year that community owned retailers are needed in Australia because the major utilities are not delivering what the community wants.
“There is no interest whatsoever in getting more renewable energy used in the area. All sorts of disincentives are being put in place … and we are told we have to use gas, and other stuff that we don’t need.”
Crook, a former Australian business woman of the year , who was also awarded an AO for services to public administration, says the northern rivers region, with its progressive community, and councils, made it the perfect area to test the concept.
“We think if it can be done anywhere, it can be done here,” she told RenewEconomy in an interview. “If we can demonstrate it can work, and there is no reason it shouldn’t because it is working in other countries, then others will follow.”