Community ownership [of renewable energy] is common in Europe and other countries. In Germany and Denmark, the countries with the most ambitious renewable policies, it is a fundamental part of their clean energy strategy. Even if the numbers in dollar terms are relatively small, it has granted the social licence to invest the hundreds of billions necessary for the clean energy transformation.
But in Australia, it is a resource that is largely untouched…
That may be about to change. In the next few weeks, a NSW organization hopes to unveil plans for up to ten community-owned solar installations totalling 1MW of installed capacity across the state.
The idea is relatively simple – around 80-100kW of rooftop solar PV is installed on the roof of a commercial operator – be it a chicken farm, a manufacturer or an aged care centre – and is designed in such a way to ensure that all the electricity is used on site, rather than exported to the grid.
Adam Blakester, the co-ordinator of Starfish Enterprises, calls it the “socket parity” model, where the technology is competing with the higher retail price of electricity rather than the wholesale price. Blakester says it will be a win for all concerned. The landlord gets cheaper electricity, and the individuals who buy into the project get a sense of doing something good, and local, and get a return. The investment has a multiplier effect in the local economy, and even the utility will benefit, particularly if these installations are located at weak points in the grid – as these are planned to do. Blakester says the local utilities in the areas they have been investigating have been very supportive.