Cross-benchers join in call to government for sensible energy policy
Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan has led a charge in Parliament by cross-benchers to push the government on sensible, community-focused energy policy.
The issue of energy policy has brought the cross benchers together for the first time in two terms of Parliament on a Matter of Public Importance.
“Independent representatives have recognised the need to work together to find practical, effective solutions to a complex issue,” Ms McGowan said.
Ms McGowan’s speech, focusing on the role of community energy projects, was followed by speeches from the Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie, the Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt, the Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and the Member for Kennedy Bob Katter.
Ms McGowan outlined the urgent need for a national energy policy that supports a strong economy, vibrant communities and sensible environmental outcomes. She said community energy projects were an important and largely overlooked part of the solution.
“Rural and regional communities are champing at the bit to get on with local, place-based solutions for energy sustainability,” Ms McGowan said.
Indi is already showcasing best-practice solutions such as the partnership between Indigo Shire Council, Totally Renewable Yackandandah, SP AusNet and North East Water to establish a community “mini-grid,” Ms McGowan said.
“This project is a clear demonstration of how the community energy sector allows people to reduce their energy costs, or even make income from power production and enable these benefits to be felt across the broader community.”
Other examples include the Benalla Sustainable Future Group, in partnership with Benalla Rural City Council, conducting a feasibility study in preparation for a Benalla Future Energy Plan; and Wodonga City Council, in conjunction with Renewable Albury Wodonga, planning for a solar farm within Wodonga that will benefit the community.
While acknowledging the community energy sector is in its infancy Ms McGowan said its strong growth from two or three groups in 2010 to more than 60 groups today was a clear indication the community energy sector will play a significant role in the development of future energy policy.
“We have an opportunity now to plan for the future and ensure this considers community energy as a legitimate mechanism in the debate,” Ms McGowan said.