The theme behind this project is making sure parts of our community don’t miss out in the race to renewables. Those on the lowest incomes and renters, have extra hurdles to jump if they want to benefit from rooftop solar for example and yet they may have the most to gain. In the Renewables for All background blog I provided a snapshot of these issues in South Australia.
We held a workshop with Nicky Ison of the Community Power Agency facilitating advocates from across the energy and social services sectors. This work resulted in a submission to State Government for the climate change strategy and low carbon investment plan.
At a national level workshops were also held in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and ACT. A series of discussion papers have been developed and submitted to the funder of this project – Energy Consumers Australia.
So here is a quick update on the themes identified – (the first four were identified in the SA workshop and by workshops interstate):
- Community Owned Renewable Energy: We suggested
– Development of a central facilitator / management authority
– Investigation of a carbon neutral Adelaide project
The national paper suggested
– grant funding for community energy
– a dedicated team within government
– ensure a fair price is paid for community owned renewable energy
– help projects gain access to host sites such as public buildings
– The State Government has received an expression of interest* for the central authority under its call for low carbon electricity and energy productivity proposals. It is likely we need to build more support behind this idea, or simply calling for greater support for community energy like other states have managed, in order to expect some traction.
– The Victorian Government has released a Guide to community-owned renewable energy
- Solar Gardens and virtual net metering: we suggested
– Virtual trials to develop the concept and create support for rule change proposals
The national paper suggested
– New tariff structures. (This is the subject of an electricity market rule change for Local Generation Network Credits but could also be legislated at a state level)
– trials of solar gardens to reduce the cost of the bill-credit software platform
– Incentives or mandates to ensure retailers and distributors participate
There has been no specific progress on this mechanism but a determination on the rule change is expected by mid-year. ARENA and the Institute of Sustainable Futures is running a virtual trial in Moira and Swan Hill, Victoria.
- Rates-Based Financing: We suggested
– Support for ACC current investigations and development of initiatives within other Councils
The national paper highlighted that the following is needed
– legislative change but in SA the Local Government Act already supports rates-based financing
– aggregation of finance at a low cost of capital so that low income participants are better off from Day 1. In Darebin, the Council provided its own low/no interest loan for the initiative.
– supporting measures that make rates-based financing easy for Councils to implement.
– We have opened discussions with Adelaide City Council who are hoping to implement a Solar Savers scheme based on rates-based financing as part of the carbon neutral Adelaide commitments. A number of EOI’s* into the state government energy productivity process would provide supporting measures to an ACC scheme.
- Mandatory Disclosure of housing performance, star ratings and energy efficiency upgrades: we suggested:
– Development of specific proposals to advocate for regulatory and policy progress
This issue was raised by a number of interstate groups as well as SA, but it quickly became clear that there was a bit of a minefield and a fair amount of existing policy activity. An attempt at mandatory disclosure failed a few years ago despite some positive numbers when looking at cost vs benefits. The various jurisdictions couldn’t agree to proceed. The CSIRO is spearheading a discussion based on its CRC, ‘energy fit homes initiative: empowering consumers‘. The national energy productivity plan says it will consider a range of options to improve market information on residential buildings. A private sector approach might also be supported – and this liveability approach was cited as an example because it has the real estate sector marketing culture at its core.At a national level two other briefing papers were prepared:
- Rent Based financing which calls for:
– pilot projects with community housing providers
– co-funding renewable energy AND energy efficiency to ensure the projects maximise possible savings for low income tenants
– Broker relationships between the community energy project developers and the community housing providers.
- Mini Grids and Embedded networks which calls for:
– Funding for pilot projects– Feasibility studies and technical assessments for interested communities– Improve and upgrade mini-grids in remote locations to ensure they are powered by renewable energy not diesel– Investigating the benefits of ownership transfer of centralised network assetswhere there is an interested community, particularly in edge-of grid locations.– Assessing grid upgrades more stringently in areas where mini-grid solutions arepossible– Supporting a cultural shift in network operators and energy retailers
The paper identifies four forms of mini-grids:
- Community based: This is what towns like Newstead and Tyalgum are exploring.
- Private Sector: This is what Zen Energy is attempting with its Zen communities model
- Utility based: Our utilities have some experience running off-grid systems but the regulatory model does not create incentives for cheaper mini-grids to be developed as an alternative to servicing the expensive fringe-of-grid locations in a traditional manner
- Hybrid: based on some combination of the above modes.
This post really serves as an interim update. If you would like to get involved in speeding any of these initiatives forward, please get in touch.
*I have written about the state government EOI in this post on what state government could achieve if it bought 100% renewable energy.
If you would like to read the South Australian Renewables for All original Discussion Paper it can be found at this link.
A short summary of the South Australian workshop and next steps can be found here.
The presentations from the workshop can be found here (Nicky’s) and here (Heather’s)