Community Power Hubs Program: Guidelines

Last updated: 9 March 2021

1. Funding overview

The Community Power Hubs (CPH) Program will fund the development and operation of Community Power Hubs to bring stakeholders together to develop and deliver Implementation Ready community Renewable Energy projects across each funded region. Through the delivery of community-based renewable energy projects, the Community Power Hubs program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase community support for Renewable Energy. They will also enable local economic benefits to be realised through cost savings for communities and support for local Renewable Energy jobs.

This program builds on the successful Community Power Hubs Pilot Program that ran from 2017 – 2020. Applicants are encouraged to review the evaluation and supporting materials from the Pilot Program.

The CPH Program will fund a minimum of three and a maximum of six Community Power Hubs. This will include one CPH in an area of metropolitan Melbourne, and at least two regional CPHs operating across the Victorian regions of:

  • Barwon South West
  • Gippsland
  • Grampians
  • Hume
  • Loddon Mallee.

The metropolitan CPH will be expected to cover an area where there is an existing network of community energy groups. The regional CPHs will be expected to support projects and groups across their whole region.

The Program will fund suitably qualified not-for-profit organisations (certified through the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission), community groups or social enterprises (certified, or in the process of being certified through Social Traders). Please note that government entities (such as local government), business industry groups and education institutions (early learning centre, school or university) are not eligible to apply.

Grants will support:

  1. the establishment and operation of CPHs (between $428,500 and $857,000 per CPH, depending on the number of CPHs funded); and
  2. the delivery of community energy Implementation Ready Projects (up to $800,000 total available across all projects).

Applicants can apply for funding activities 1 and 2 or just activity 1 (if there are no Implementation Ready Projects in the region). Applicants cannot apply for funding activity 2 only.

Applications must be submitted by 3:00 pm on 31 March 2021. Late applications will not be accepted unless exceptional circumstances apply.

We encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

2. Why is the Victorian Government providing this funding?

The CPH Program is being funded because, despite the strong interest in community Renewable Energy projects, community groups overwhelming rely on volunteers and few possess the time, skills, expertise, or finances to complete community energy projects on their own.

Supporting community energy will assist the State Government to:

3. About the Community Power Hubs Program

The CPH Program provides funding to support and facilitate the establishment of community power hubs and the delivery of community energy projects in Victoria.

The external evaluation that was completed for the first 2 years of the CPH pilot program put forward a regional approach (in contrast to a town-based approach) as a suitable catchment area for an expanded CPH program. These larger geographic areas will have the ability to support multiple smaller communities that are typically not as well-resourced.

The following diagram depicts how a CPH in the expanded program will operate:

What is a Community Power Hub?

A Community Power Hub is a collective of groups and organisations working together to develop and deliver community energy projects across a region.

A Lead Partner Organisation (the Applicant) will be responsible for the grant agreement with SV and setting up the CPH to ensure a collaborative approach and equitable spread of support across the CPH region.

Local community organisations (not-for-profits, banks, neighbourhood houses etc), local community energy groups and other stakeholders (local councils, water authorities, government agencies etc) will all form the Community Power Hub.

Each CPH will work collaboratively using allocated funding to:

  • deliver community energy Implementation Ready Projects
  • develop and deliver a pipeline of socially acceptable, financially feasible and technically viable projects across the CPH region
  • provide local, trusted advice to the community on Clean Energy solutions.

Decisions of the CPH will be made collaboratively utilising an appropriate governance system. A collaborative governance approach was utilised for the pilot CPH program.

Information on this governance model can be found in the pilot program supporting materials document under additional resources on the Community Power Hubs Pilot Program page.

The key objectives of the CPH Program are:

  • reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • increased Renewable Energy capacity
  • increased community support for Renewable Energy and other Clean Energy initiatives
  • provision of assistance for local residents and organisations to reduce their energy costs through local Clean Energy projects
  • increased community access, involvement and ownership of Renewable Energy systems to capture significant local economic benefits
  • increased opportunities for communities precluded from Renewable Energy projects (e.g. low-income households; apartment dwellers) to participate in community-based energy projects.

Funding is available for:

  1. establishment and operation of a regional CPH (between $428,500 and $857,000 per CPH, depending on the number of CPHs funded)
  2. delivery of community energy Implementation Ready Projects (up to $800,000 total available across all projects).

Applicants can apply for funding activities 1 and 2 or just activity 1 (if there are no Implementation Ready Projects in the region). Applicants cannot apply for funding activity 2 only.

An Implementation Ready Project must have completed all necessary feasibility and/or business cases and have obtained all the necessary approvals. Projects need to be commissioned and operational within 6 months of signing the funding agreement.

There may be groups that have Implementation Ready Projects but not the capability to be a Lead Partner Organisation (the Applicant). If this is the case, you should get in touch with a local organisation that does have the capability to be a Lead Partner Organisation and have your project entered under their application.

If you are unsure of who to connect with, the Community Power Agency (an Australian not-for-profit organisation with expertise that enables and advocates for community energy) has a map of community energy groups across Australia. This list is not exhaustive. Councils are also a great source of local information if you are unsure who the community energy groups are in your area.

Community energy projects are those in which a community is involved in initiating, developing, owning, operating and/or benefiting from Renewable Energy and energy efficiency development. Crucially, a community is involved in both the process of establishing the project, as well as benefiting from its outcomes.

Common benefits from community energy projects include:

  • reduced electricity costs
  • increased energy self-reliance
  • income generation
  • employment
  • increased knowledge and awareness of renewable energy.

Co-contribution from the Applicant is required. A minimum of $1 for every $5 in grant funding must be provided. Up to 100% of the contribution can be in-kind and funding from other grant programs can be included towards the contribution.

Successful Applicants must commence the establishment of the CPH after signing the agreement and will need to operate the CPH until June 2022. Community energy Implementation Ready Projects must commence after signing the agreement and be commissioned and operational by 31 December 2021.

4. Who can apply?

To be eligible for funding, Applicants must:

  • agree to comply with Sustainability Victoria’s (SV):
  • have a current Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • have been operating for a minimum of two years (by the application closing date)
  • meet or exceed the minimum co-contribution requirement for funding; SV$5:$1 (up to 100% in-kind)
  • have project activities take place in and/or service Victoria
  • demonstrate that the Community Power Hubs will be established and operational until 30 June 2022. If applying for funding for community energy Implementation Ready Projects, they must be commissioned and operational by 31 Dec 2021.

Eligible organisations will need to provide evidence that they have the support of other community energy groups and relevant key local stakeholders in their region such as (but not limited to) councils, water authorities, NGOs and community groups, relevant businesses and networks.

Eligible organisations will also need to demonstrate that they have the capacity to collaborate successfully with these relevant networks to establish, coordinate, support and deliver community energy projects. This collaboration is expected to include decisions on how to spend the program funds.

The Lead Partner Organisation is expected to set up appropriate governance systems to allow for an equitable and collaborative approach across the region. A collaborative governance approach was utilised for the pilot CPH program. Information on this governance model can be found in the pilot program supporting materials document under additional resources on the Community Power Hubs Pilot Program page.

Support for and networks with traditionally hard to reach communities such as (but not limited to) culturally and linguistically diverse groups, vulnerable communities and renters is encouraged.

The organisations involved in the pilot CPH program from 2017-20 can apply to be a Lead Partner Organisation if they meet the current eligibility criteria and have the support of other community energy groups and relevant stakeholders across the region. These organisations could also be a supporting community energy group in the CPH rather than a Lead Partner Organisation if more suitable.

5. What will be funded?

Requested funding must be directly attributable to delivering the outcomes of the project.

1. For the establishment and operation of a CPH, the grant will support:

  • administration and governance costs directly related to the development of the CPH and the delivery of its agreed activities
  • coordination and engagement of the CPH network within the region
  • planning, communication, and community engagement functions
  • community energy project planning and oversight
  • localised network and liaison including stakeholder relationship management
  • procurement for specific community energy project feasibility services
  • operating costs (e.g. staff costs such as salaries and insurances and office space lease/rental)
  • permit, licensing and approval costs
  • capital raising activities
  • consultancy costs/project management costs
  • marketing, advertising and promotional costs
  • business case development, feasibility studies, consultancy or contract work
  • leasing or purchasing of equipment
  • travel costs.

It is anticipated that each approved CPH will receive between $428,500 and $857,000, depending on the number of CPHs funded within Victoria.

2. For delivery of community energy Implementation Ready Projects, the grant will support:

  • pre-construction (site preparation) for project implementation, such as site clearing, earthworks or site accessibility works
  • operating costs (e.g. staff costs such as salaries and insurances and office space lease/rental)
  • capital purchases (e.g. infrastructure or equipment)
  • consultancy costs/project management costs
  • travel directly attributable to delivering the outcomes of the project
  • costs associated with making the project operational (e.g. electrical inspection, system network connection etc.).

Up to $800,000 in total is available across all projects.

6. What will not be funded?

Funding will not be provided for:

  • salary and administration costs not related to the delivery of the CPH contracted work
  • lease or purchase of land
  • routine or cyclical maintenance works of existing and proposed projects
  • repair of facilities damaged by vandalism, fire or other natural disasters where damage should be covered by insurance
  • purchase or lease of vehicles
  • research, development and demonstration
  • travel, conferences and other educational activities not directly attributable to the outcomes of the project
  • electric vehicle projects
  • research and development projects
  • initiatives that involve Unproven or Emerging Clean Energy related technologies (so that projects can be Commissioned and Operational as soon as possible)
  • projects that do not install Clean Energy technologies (Renewable Energy, energy efficiency, energy storage)
  • projects that are being undertaken in order to comply with regulation or a regulatory notice or order
  • projects that do not meet regulatory or planning requirements
  • requests for retrospective funding, where projects are completed or have commenced prior to signing a funding agreement with SV
  • projects that have commenced construction of infrastructure before signing a funding agreement with SV.

7. Assessment process

7.1 Assessment criteria

Grants will be awarded using a contested and merit-based process. Applications for each activity will be assessed against the criteria outlined below.

Establishment and Operation of a CPH

What (20%)
  • Describe your organisation’s vision and the activities it has been focused on to achieve its aims.
  • Outline the steps that you will undertake to establish a Community Power Hub in your region, and how your project will deliver the objectives of the Community Power Hub Program.
  • Outline your proposed governance structure. How will the CPH involve partner organisations such as other community groups in planning, decision and activities?

Who (40%)
  • What resources and capabilities will your organisation contribute to the CPH program?
  • Describe any capability gaps and how you would go about addressing them as a CPH
  • What experience does your organisation have in developing community energy projects, and leading and collaborating with other organisations to deliver community energy projects?
  • What approach will you take in collaborating with community energy groups and other key stakeholders in your region to ensure an equitable distribution of CPH support?

Why (20%)
  • Why is it important to have a Community Power Hub in your region?
  • Why do you need government support to deliver your projects? Provide evidence where possible (e.g list of local community energy projects and the support they need to move to implementation).
  • How does the project align with and deliver economic, environmental and social objectives in your community?
  • Will the project provide new ongoing employment opportunities?

How (20%)
  • How will you develop the capacity of groups in your region to deliver projects?
  • How will you engage and work with the community in your region, including those communities that are not commonly engaged in community energy initiatives, (for example groups from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds).
  • How will you ensure that CPH activities are delivered by 30 June 2022?
  • How will you use the CPH program to support longer term community energy outcomes in your region?
  • What are the key risks to achieving this Program’s objectives in your region, and how would you manage them?

Implementation Ready Projects

What (40%)
  • Provide details for each proposed community energy project that are ready to be delivered (i.e. Implementation Ready Projects).

Who (20%)
  • Who will be engaged to deliver your Implementation Ready Projects?
  • Who are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of each of your Implementation Ready Projects?
  • Will other Project Partners and/or Project Participants participate in the delivery of the project?

Why (20%)
  • How does each of your projects align with and deliver economic, environmental and social objectives in your community?
  • Why do they need government assistance for the project to be delivered?
  • Will the project provide new ongoing employment opportunities?

How (20%)
  • How will you ensure that your Implementation Ready Projects be commissioned and operational by 31 December 2021 (including any risk and management strategies)?

7.2 Diversity considerations

SV may overlay rankings to achieve an overall mix of projects that represent a geographical spread across Victorian regions.

7.3 Due diligence

A risk-based approach will be used to assess the Applicant’s social, economic and environmental risks in relation to the project. This assessment will include the Applicant’s Related Entities and may include Project Partners and/or Project Participants.

Applicants (and their Related Entities and, if applicable, their Project Partners and/or Project Participants) should:

  • have had no Environmental, Safety or Workplace Breaches in the last five years or, if there was a breach, SV may assess a satisfactory level of risk the Applicant’s breach poses
  • have not been the subject of an enforceable undertaking or successful litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman for a breach of the Fair Work Act 2009 or a fair work instrument within the last five years
  • demonstrate financial capability to undertake the project
  • have adequate insurance as outlined in the funding agreement and below:
    • Public Liability $10M minimum
    • Professional Indemnity $5M minimum
    • WorkCover
  • have not failed to satisfactorily progress or complete previous projects funded by SV within funding program timelines and without sufficient reason
  • manage any conflicts of interest adequately.

Assessment of satisfactory level of risk will include but not be limited to SV’s consideration of:

  • the seriousness of any finding/s
  • whether the finding/s has been resolved to the satisfaction of the relevant enforcement agency, or the Applicant can demonstrate it is working effectively to resolve the finding
  • the efforts made by the Applicant including implementation of management systems, to ensure no further finding/s occur
  • whether, since the finding, the Applicant has had a satisfactory level of compliance with relevant Environmental and Safety Laws and Workplace Laws.

SV may conduct due diligence checks on the Project Partners and/or Project Participants involved in the delivery of the project. The Applicant must ensure that any Project Partners and/or Project Participant(s) agree to cooperate with this requirement and will provide information at SV’s request.

SV reserves the right not to award funding to Applicants where the due diligence risk (including that of Project Participants and Project Partners) is unsatisfactory or not able to be managed.

8. Funding conditions

8.1 What is required of successful applicants?

Successful applicants must:

  • agree to realistic evidence-based and performance-based milestone payments
  • provide insurance certificates of currency to SV prior to commencement of the project
  • sign the SV funding agreement within 30 days of approval
  • provide a project plan and deliver the project as outlined in the application and comply with the funding agreement
  • contribute to regular project progress updates or meetings
  • participate in capacity building sessions facilitated by SV
  • utilise the funding to support community energy groups and projects across the whole relevant CPH region
  • notify SV immediately of any delays or change to project scope
  • provide update reports to SV at agreed milestones with evidence of expenditure, progress and performance
  • provide adequate monitoring and evaluation of the project in accordance with the funding agreement as required by SV
  • collect and release data to SV during and post project completion, noting that data may be shared and reported in Victoria and for national purposes
  • contribute to promotional activities such as video or publishable case studies and share learnings that may be published about the project
  • participate in and contribute to activities with SV to distribute the findings to broader stakeholders (e.g. government and industry) during and after the SV funding agreement period
  • acknowledge that SV has contributed funding in all communications related to the project.

8.2 Local Jobs First Policy (LJF)

The LJF creates opportunities for local businesses and workers. It aims to develop local industry and grow the next generation of skilled workers in Victoria.

Grant recipients are subject to the LJF when the Victorian Government contribution (value of the grant) meets the LJF monetary thresholds of:

  • $1 million for regional projects, or
  • $3 million for metropolitan Melbourne or state-wide projects.

Further guidance for grant recipients subject to the LJF visit the Grant recipients page on the LJF website.

9. Key dates

Applications open: 1 March 2021

Information Session: 10:00 am, 10 March 2021

Applications close: 3:00 pm, 31 March 2021

Notification of outcome: 30 April 2021.

SV will provide Applicants with updates about the progress of their applications as much as possible but cannot provide a definite approval /announcement date.

Funding agreements established: May 2021

Projects commenced by: June 2021

Project completed by:

  • Community Power Hubs to operate until 30 June 2022.
  • Implementation Ready Projects commissioned and operational by 31 December 2021.

10. How to apply

Applicants should review and follow these steps:

1. Read the program’s guidelines

  • Ensure your organisation is eligible to apply (see Section 4 Who can apply).
  • Ensure your project meets the assessment criteria (see Section 7.1 Assessment Criteria).

2. Read the terms and conditions of SV’s General Funding Agreement (pdf, 325kb).

  • Ensure that you meet all terms and conditions.
  • Acceptance of these terms is required for grant funding to be provided.

3. Read and understand the Terms of Participation in Grant Programs

4. Create an account or login and start your application at Sustainability Victoria’s SmartyGrants website.

5. Attend an information session. This is not a mandatory requirement for submitting an application. See Section 11.1 for more details of information session.

6. Allow adequate time to plan, research, gather support documentation and to draft your application (save as you go).

7. Complete and submit your application online via SmartyGrants

  • Complete all questions and upload supporting documents.
  • Submit your application by 3:00 pm, 31 March 2021.
  • Applications can only be submitted online (unless otherwise agreed or at SV’s discretion).

8. On submission, you will receive an electronic reply acknowledging receipt from SmartyGrants.

  • Late applications will not be accepted, except under exceptional circumstances, refer to Terms of Participation in Grant Programs.

Tips for using SmartyGrants

  • Click “Save progress” every 10 to 15 minutes. This prevents your data from being lost if something happens when you are filling in the form. You will be automatically logged out of your application if 60 minutes has elapsed and you have not saved your progress or navigated between pages. Once logged out, you will lose any changes made that were not saved
  • If you are attaching files, allow ample time for the file to be uploaded to the page. Wait for the file to be successful uploaded before going to another page. If not, the file upload will be cancelled. The maximum file limit is 25MB.
  • Once your application has been submitted, you cannot make any changes. Review and check before you submit your application.
  • If you experience difficulties submitting your online application, please contact SV on 1300 363 744 and ask to speak to a grant support representative or email grants.enquiries@sustainability.vic.gov.au

11. Further information

11.1 Information session

An information session is available for interested parties.

The session will be held online and recorded.

Date: Wednesday 10 March 2021

Time: 10:00 am to 11:00 am

Register via Eventbrite

If you are unable to attend, a recording will be available after the session.

11.2 Community Power Hubs Pilot Program

This grant program has been based on the successful pilot program that ran from 2017 – 2020. For information, view our Community Power Hubs pilot program page.

11.3 Governance Structures

Setting up and running community energy projects requires good governance. Guidance on different options and considerations can be found in the Guide to Community Energy for Victorians.

A Collaborative Governance approach was utilised during the CPH Pilot Program. Information on this approach can be found in the Pilot Community Power Hub Supporting Material documents which can be viewed on our Community Power Hubs pilot program page.

Each CPH is expected to support community energy groups and projects across their region.

11.4 Sustainability Victoria support

A dedicated SV staff member will work closely with the Lead Partner Organisation for the duration of the contract to provide support and advice. Regular CPH networking meetings and capacity building sessions will be coordinated by SV.

11.5 Questions?

Email grants.enquiries@sustainability.vic.gov.au with Community Power Hubs Program in the subject line.

12. Fund definitions

Applicant (Lead Partner Organisation)

The Applicant who applies for the funding and is responsible for all details in the submission of an application and the contractual obligations under the funding agreement with Sustainability Victoria if successful for grant funding.

For the purpose of this program the Applicant is the Lead Partner Organisation that meets the eligibility criteria and has support and networks with relevant community groups and other stakeholders across their region and the ability to collaborate across these to ensure an equitable approach.

Clean energy

Technology related to renewable energy, energy efficiency or storage of renewable energy.

Co-contribution

The Applicant’s required cash, or in-kind contribution to the total project income.

Commissioned and operational project

All necessary electrical inspections have been completed and renewable energy is being generated and/or energy efficiency elements are being achieved

Community energy project

A project in which a community (of geography and/or of interest) is involved in initiating, developing, owning, operating and/or benefiting from renewable energy and energy efficiency development. Crucially, a community is involved in both the process of establishing the project, as well as benefiting from its outcomes. Common benefits from community energy projects include reduced electricity costs, increased energy self-reliance, income generation and increased knowledge and awareness of renewable energy.

Direct Jobs

Actual new full-time positions created by your business. This can include training or upskilling of employees who would otherwise be made redundant through the implementation of your project.

Environmental, Safety or Workplace Breach

An environmental or safety breach is any past or current prosecution, reportable incident, investigation, notice, penalty, warning, regulatory intervention or enforcement action from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe) or Fair Work or failure to comply with any environmental, safety and workplace laws.

Environmental and Safety Laws

Environmental and safety laws are the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, Environment Protection Act 1970 or any other legislation, regulation order, statute, by-law, ordinance or any other legislative or regulatory measure, code, standard or requirement relating to the protection and safety of persons or property or which regulate the environment including laws relating to land use planning, pollution of air or water, soil or groundwater contamination, chemicals, waste, the use, handling, storage or transport of dangerous goods or substances, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon trading, or any other aspect of protection of the environment.

Full-Time Equivalent Employees (FTE)

The hours worked by one employee on a full-time basis.

Calculating FTE

The calculation is used to convert the hours worked by several part-time employees into the hours worked by full-time employees. For example, you have three employees working the following - 40, 40 and 20 hours per week, giving you 100 hours per week in total.

Assuming full-time hours are 40 hours per week, your full-time equivalent calculation is 100 hours divided by 40 hours which equals 2.5 FTE.

Implementation Ready Project

A community renewable energy project that has completed all necessary feasibility and/or business cases and has obtained all the necessary approvals. Projects need to be commissioned and operational within 6 months of signing the funding agreement.

Indirect Jobs

Jobs created by other businesses that come into existence due to the economic growth of your business.

In-kind Contribution

An in-kind contribution is a contribution of a good or a service other than money.

In-kind contributions may include, but is not limited to:

  • staff time to manage project implementation (project management and installation costs that utilise existing internal resources)
  • time spent on project activities by volunteers
  • donated goods or services related to the project.

The following activities cannot be considered in-kind contributions:

  • operating expenses that are not directly associated with delivering the project
  • opportunity costs such as staff ‘downtime’ during the installation of equipment or implementation of activities.

Not-For-Profit Organisation

An organisation that does not operate for the profit, personal gain or other benefit of particular people (for example, its members, the people who run it or their friends or relatives).

Project Participant/s

An organisation engaged by the Applicant to assist in the delivery of the Applicants’ project; included but not limited to product suppliers, consultants, contractors and major sub-contractors.

Project Partner/s

An organisation/s in a collaborative partnership with a Lead Applicant that have a critical role in the project and a formal commitment to delivering the support required to ensure the project’s success

Related Entities

Entities which are related to the Applicant and includes:

  • holding companies of the Applicant
  • subsidiaries of the Applicant
  • subsidiaries of holding companies of the Applicant
  • companies with common directors or shareholders as the Applicant
  • companies that are a beneficiary under a trust of which the Applicant is a trustee
  • trustees of a trust under which the Applicant is a beneficiary
  • companies that conduct business at the same address as the Applicant, or the same address as the location of the activity for which the funding is sought.

Related Person/s

Related Person means a director, officer, employee, agent, board member or contractor of the Applicant or a Related Entity.

Renewable energy

Energy that is produced using natural resources that are constantly replaced and never run out.

Social Enterprise

Businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment.

Unproven or emerging technologies

Technology that requires legislative changes or further research and development in order to be implemented.

Workplace Laws

Workplace laws are the Fair Work Act 2009, or any other legislation, regulation order, statute, by-law, ordinance or any other legislative or regulatory measure, code, standard or requirement relating to the provision of fair, relevant and enforceable minimum terms and conditions for all persons and to prevent discrimination against employees.