Local, Independant and Effective

Time to support community energy

Posted August 17, 2017

 

It's time for the government to do its bit supporting community energy, Cathy told the Parliament. Cathy acknowledged Indigo, Wodonga and Benalla councils, the Winton Wetlands, Renewable Albury Wodonga, Totally Renewable Yackandandah, the Benalla Sustainable Future Group, the Up2Us Landcare group in Mansfield, the Wangaratta Sustainability Network, the Murrindindi Climate Network, North East Water, and Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health. (Transcript below video)

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:24): I move:
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) there is electorate wide support for renewable energy;
(b) in March 2017, the Australia Institute reported that in a national poll 67 per cent think that Australia is moving
into renewable energy too slowly and 73 per cent supported setting a new renewable energy target for 2030;
(c) the Government has committed to ensuring that 23.5 per cent of Australia's electricity generation in 2020
will be from renewable sources;
(d) the transition to a renewable energy future will require high levels of social consensus and engagement;
(e) international best practice has demonstrated that community ownership has become a well established
mechanism to build consensus and assist the transition to increased renewable energy sources;
(f) Australian households are amongst the highest adopters in the world of photovoltaics solar, driven primarily
to help control their own energy costs;
(g) community owned renewable energy projects that allow communities to reduce their energy costs, or even
make income from power production, would enable these benefits to be felt across the broader community,
addressing the Government's energy policy priority of security, reliability and affordability;
(h) the absence of clarity in Government policy has led to many communities 'going it alone' to secure their
energy future; and
(i) continued investment and innovation in the sector requires a clear message of support from the Government;
and
(2) calls on the Government to:
(a) recognise that the community energy sector can play a significant role in the Government achieving its policy
trifecta of secure, affordable and reliable energy; and
(b) demonstrate this recognition with a dedicated funding program for community energy projects to support
the design and implementation and management of their own community specific integrated energy plans and
projects.
In moving this motion, I call on the government to recognise the community energy sector and the role it can play in achieving the government's policy trifecta of secure, affordable and reliable energy, and to demonstrate this recognition with a dedicated funding program for community energy projects that support the design, implementation and management of community-specific energy plans and projects.

The community energy sector is in its infancy and faces significant regulatory and cultural barriers. However, its strong growth from two or three groups in 2010 to more than 60 groups today is a clear indication that the sector will play a significant role in the development of future energy policy. Australians, particularly in regional Australia, are saying loudly and clearly, 'We want to invest in renewable energy and we want to invest in our own communities.' This will mean jobs and this will mean that investment stays local and communities have ownership of their own power. Despite political uncertainty, the community energy sector has continued to grow. It's going from strength to strength. But, in order to play a more significant and solution-focused role in the national debate, the sector needs certainty. I am speaking on the sector's behalf today and I am calling on the government to provide the leadership, the policies and the investment to build this capacity for the future.

Certainty in policy and program delivery is needed for this sector to continue to play its role in the debate and to be an active contributor to the government's agenda of secure, affordable and reliable energy. This is not a call for a specific or second set of rules. It is a call to ensure that the rules that currently apply apply to all players and it is a call for sustainability over the electoral cycle. One example is ARENA funding.

Currently, it is very difficult for community energy activity to get funding out of ARENA. We are asking ARENA to directly support local community activity. In September, I will be moving legislation that will put greater emphasis on support for community energy projects, particularly in the work of ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. With this legislation, I will call on the government to establish dedicated funding programs for community energy projects that support the design, implementation and management of community-specific programs. For example, in my electorate we have an enormous amount of activity. The local government is leading the way. I would particularly like to acknowledge Indigo, Wodonga and Benalla councils, the Winton Wetlands, Renewable Albury Wodonga, Totally Renewable Yackandandah, the Benalla Sustainable Future Group, the Up2Us Landcare group in Mansfield, the Wangaratta Sustainability Network, the Murrindindi Climate Network, North East Water, and Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health. They are a few of the groups actively working in this area. I would also like to acknowledge some of my constituents here today. Welcome. It's lovely to have you here. I know that you too are committed to renewable energy and are doing your bit to make it happen.

Today is about calling on the government to do their bit. As we do this bit, we're creating jobs, we're creating opportunities for people to come and live in the country and we're really growing our economy, but, most importantly, we are supporting our communities to be self-reliant and self-sufficient in their own energy use. The decisions made here in Canberra directly impact on regional communities and how we build resilience and how we create more vibrant and sustainable communities.

The government have told us that they care about regional Australia. You've heard it regularly. Today I'm asking them to put their money and their leadership where their mouth is—to actually come out to the floor, support communities, support the wonderful initiatives that are taking place right across the country and make decisions that say: 'Not only do we care about renewable energy; we care about communities, we care about resilience and we see how communities can take their place when we're trying to resolve the problems that we, the government, are looking at when we talk about energy policy.' In our community we have seen what happens when government work closely with community.

Particularly with this motion, I am asking that the government make a commitment to energy policy that is secure, affordable and reliable, and that the community energy sector has a central role in delivering that result.


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