Community-based energy programs taking hold


28 February 2018

solar panels

The potential of regional areas to generate all the power they need is growing with the cost of renewables coming down as fast as the price of coal-generated electricity rises.

Sustainability Victoria’s CEO Stan Krpan said the future was bright with a recent Clean Energy Regulator report showing there had been 331,786 solar installations in Victoria from 2001 until December last year.

“Solar is just one part of our future energy mix, but every year there has been a rapid increase in installations with 7709 small-scale systems installed nationally, just in December,” Mr Krpan said.

“In Victoria 1052 small scale systems were installed of which 44 per cent were for solar hot water. Another 63 commercial-scale solar PV systems ranging in size from 10 to 100Kw were also installed.”

These installations are individual households, and commercial operation placing solar arrays on their roofs, but other areas are preparing to make a bigger statement.

Keeping it local

The small north-east Victorian town of Yackandandah (pop 950) is aiming to be powered only by renewable energy by 2022, while Hepburn in central Victoria has had a community owned wind generator for a number of years.

Also coming on board are three of the state’s largest regional centres - the cities of Ballarat and Greater Bendigo and the Latrobe region which includes the City of Latrobe and the Wellington and Baw Baw Shires.

With a combined population of more than 673,500 they’re mobilising themselves through the Community Power Hub pilot program.

Supported by Sustainability Victoria the pilot project mobilises community organisations to investigate potential renewable energy opportunities add value, drive local investment and create much-needed jobs.

To build community interest and support, the Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe Valley hubs have launched a joint website outlining projects under investigation.

Bendigo Community Power Hub’s Chris Weir has been involved in community energy projects for many years and says the future is bright.

“Regional Victoria is emerging as a real leader in the adoption of renewable energy at a community level.

“Even now, Community Power Hubs are generating interest from further afield. People like the idea of having a say about how their energy is produced and really value the idea of being part of its generation.”

LaTrobe Valley Community Power Hub representative, Darren McCubbin, said the pilot program could become one of the most important platforms for Victorian communities to move towards renewable energy systems.

“The Latrobe region has tremendous opportunities to develop thanks to our highly-skilled workforce. For us, contributing to meeting Victoria’s renewable energy targets is very important.”

Ballarat Community Power Hubs representative, Ian Rossiter from the Ballarat Community Power Hub is pleased about the level of interest in the Community Power Hubs program.

“Apart from wanting to showcase renewable energy innovation, we’ll improve access to community energy, and support other communities implementing their own renewable energy projects.”

Renewables are no longer considered ‘out there’

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said sustainability was increasingly mainstream.

“We’re now at a point where big investment is coming through superannuation funds and corporate investments, philanthropy and individuals who see the value of supporting it,” Mr Krpan said.

“We’re witnessing the start of a community-wide movement that is taking advantage of rapidly-improving technologies that create more energy at a lower cost and contribute to a better future.”

For more information about the Community Power Hubs program go to www.communitypowerhub.com.au or look at how you can improve your own home or business energy use at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au.