Federal independent member for Indi Helen Haines has launched a vision for massively scaling up community ownership of renewable energy projects, under a $483 million Local Power Plan to help boost regional economies.
Launching the plan with author Rebecca Huntley on Wednesday, Haines said that her Local Power Plan would break down the barriers to community ownership of wind and solar projects, helping to ensure local communities are able to share the benefits of projects being built in their own region.
The Local Power Plan has been designed with a ‘three-pillar’ approach, targeting different scales of community energy projects based on extensive consultation undertaken with community groups and was based on the advice of a 15-member panel of community energy experts.
The first pillar of the plan is the Local Power Scheme, which would establish 50 Local Power Hubs across Australia, supported by $310 million in funding.
A new Australian Local Power Agency (ALPA) would be established to support the creation of new community energy projects. The agency would administer grant funding for the development of new proposals for community energy projects, loans to help finance construction, as well as advising community groups on the preparation of contracts, business cases, communication plans, amongst other support.
The Local Power Scheme seeks to replicate the Community Power Hubs model developed by the Victorian state government, which has already supported community owned solar projects in Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley.
“In the Victorian pilot, an initial investment of $1.3 million generated 15 projects worth $14.5 million to the local economy and saved people $364,000 in electricity bills every year,” Haines said.
“Our proposal is significantly more ambitious so would deliver much greater economic return and much greater savings.”
The second pillar borrows from the Morrison government’s own energy policies, and proposes to establish an Underwriting New Community Investment Scheme (UNCI), which would see the federal government underwrite new community owned energy projects between 1MW and 10MW in size.
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