The Australian Greens have announced plans to create a $100 million fund to aid the development and operation of community-owned renewable energy projects.
Starting July 1 2014, the proposed program would allocate $20 million a year for five years to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to run a competitive tender program supporting the development of community-owned renewables through feasibility grants, project management and specialist expertise.
The Greens’ commitment to community renewables marks the first at the national level. In May, the NSW Coalition government launched a $411,000 grant fund for community energy projects in that state.
“This seed-funding program will open up the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Australians to own and benefit from a wide range of renewable energy opportunities – from rural areas with good wind resources to community solar parks for inner-city renters,” the Greens said in a media statement.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Fund Community Energy campaign – the proponents of which recently wrote open letters to the major parties, seeking backing for their $50 million proposal.
As RenewEconomy reported in May, Fund Community Energy plans to act as a catalyst for growing community interest in renewable energy projects, to fill the gap in Australia’s renewable energy market of projects between 10kW and 50MW, and to extend the model of community ownership which has proven so successful in Europe and the US.
FCE spokesperson Nicky Ison said her organisation was still hopeful federal Labor and the Coalition would also commit to at least a $50 million community energy fund.
Ison said more than 40 communities across Australia were developing community-owned wind and solar projects, but only two were up and running. “If the other 38 groups don’t receive start-up assistance soon, they risk dying on the vine,” she said.
“While the Greens have shown leadership, community-owned renewable energy is something all parties can support, Ison said at the launch of the new Greens policy in Melbourne, overlooking the solar array atop the iconic Queen Victoria Market.
“Both Mark Butler and Greg Hunt have shown interest in supporting the emerging community-owned renewable energy sector, but are yet to commit to our campaign ask of a $50 million community energy fund.”
See RenewEconomy’s special section on Community Power.