Last week 7 community energy organisations wrote to the key political parties about community energy.
Everyone is making announcements in the energy policy space but do they really understand how excellent a community energy policy could be? It is not enough to throw money at individuals or big corporates without working on the collective challenges that we face at a local level. Working with communities to make our energy systems better would be a win-win-win, as I’ve written in numerous places on this blog.
We got replies.
The Greens are an excellent bunch. Mark Parnell read the letter, the blog and agreed to use their balance of power position in the Upper House to influence the decision makers of the next term and advance community energy. They’ve also signed up to the Repower agenda on community and renewable energy proposed by Environment groups and a public benefit electricity retailer has been Green party policy for some time.
I have plenty of time for the Dignity Party. They have recognised that working through community would align with their agenda of tackling disadvantage and they have written back thoughtfully and supportively. Their energy and climate policies recognise that vulnerable South Australians are further disadvantaged unless we embrace an energy transition that works for everyone.
SA Best provided a disappointing, standard reply along with their energy and environment policies which are both pretty good. They have made headlines with their community benefit retailer proposal, which will help raise the profile of the idea with the major parties and they have agreed with much of the Repower agenda. They have emphasised the importance of energy efficiency, which you can do well via community. They also have an interesting group of candidates – I have plenty of time for folk with a track record of working in community and/or advancing renewable energy.
Labor were the only other party that replied. They have a bad habit of not answering questions and promoting their own agenda. I am not convinced the community energy message has been heard in the inner Labor circles, despite our repeated attempts. While I approve of much of the Labor party energy policy, I despair for the lack of attention to issues that are harder work, like energy efficiency, like supply/demand balancing, like community work.
While the Liberals didn’t reply, they gave positive responses to some of the Repower proposals and they have modelled their energy policy on the Finkel Review – which has much to commend it. I was pleased to see demand management explicitly mentioned.
I can’t recommend Australian Conservatives because they haven’t taken the effort to clarify their position. Curtailing renewables feels like an ideological position and at odds with the stated aim of reducing energy costs. I was hopeful that provision in partnership with community would appeal – improving energy independence and empowering regional communities could both align well with a conservative agenda.
Please peruse, please use your vote wisely, please tell candidates that they should advocate for a community energy policy within their party and I’ll see you on the other side of March 17!
PS Please share. If you would like to keep informed about community energy progress in SA, you can sign up to keep up to date with South Australian energy news and/or join our Facebook conversation at Community Energy Action SA.
 Why parties should support community energy
 The case for community energy
 A community energy program for resilient hills and coasts