Victoria: Community powered state?

“The best kind of energy is renewable and the best kind of renewable energy is community owned” Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth

“The secret is the ingenuity of communities coming up with their own solutions” Kate Auty, Strathbogie Voices & ACT Environment Commissioner

The announcement of a Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 40% by 2025 has provided an opportunity for government, industry and communities to come together to grow the renewable energy sector, and to work together to smash the targets. With community groups across Victoria already creating innovative renewable energy projects, will the Daniel Andrews government’s VRET legislation assist Victoria in becoming the community powered state?

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Community Owned 40kW solar PV array in the Macedon Ranges managed by Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group

Community energy is on the rise in Victoria – there are currently 6 Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) projects operating and 26 under development.

CORE projects provide a way for local people to be involved in energy system and provide tangible local benefits as well as helping in the transition to 100% renewable energy.

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Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas & Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio joined the community in the Macedon Ranges to call for a community wind farm

With legislation on the VRET to make its way through the Victorian Parliament soon, there is now the opportunity to make sure the Daniel Andrews government creates best practice policies that grow CORE projects.

The government is currently engaging with community energy groups through a number of different avenues that have the potential to create best practice policies and grow community energy.

This series of blogs will take a look at these avenues, starting with the Victorian Parliament’s Community Energy Inquiry.

Victorian Parliament Inquiry into Community Energy Projects

The Victorian Parliament is currently running an inquiry into community energy projects to find out what the benefits are and how to implement best practice policies that will see community energy grow across the state.

The inquiry recently had a public submissions phase that asked for the community to provide their opinions to the inquiry.  Yes2Renewables is a long term supporter of community energy – so we mobilised our supporters, launching a public submissions drive to demonstrate communities are ready to smash the VRET.

Our supporters joined us in calling on the inquiry to endorse three key policies to grow community energy throughout Victoria:

  • Commit to an ambitious number of community energy projects
  • Support community energy projects with a financial mechanism as part of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target
  • Re-establish Sustainability Victoria as the community energy support agency in collaboration with developing Community Powerhouses.

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The committee has also visited the Hepburn Wind community wind farm and the solar array run by Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group. Yes 2 Renewables welcomes the committee’s engagement with current community projects. These groups can give invaluable insight into the challenges and opportunities for the sector and inform the committee’s recommendations.

Many community groups are creating innovative solutions to tackling climate change by establishing local community renewable energy projects. In Victoria however, community energy projects face a number of barriers in getting off the ground.

In the Macedon Ranges, the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group (MRSG) and Woodend Integrated Sustainability (WISE) have had plans to develop a community wind farm similar to Hepburn Wind for over six years, however have been held back by anti-renewables planning restrictions.

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Y2R’s Yasmina Dkhissi with WISE project manager Barry Mann at the proposed wind farm site

The group recently set up a wind mast for monitoring at the proposed site. Changes to legislation will be key for groups like this to pursue innovative projects that have a far reaching benefits.

Whilst the Andrews government committed to removing the anti-wind laws, the community waits for them to act on this election promise. The state government’s current Community Renewable Energy Discussion Paper is looking into some of the key barriers facing projects. The paper is open for submissions until November 28.

Communities across Victoria are already frontrunners in developing exciting new community energy projects. With the VRET on the table, the Andrews government has an opportunity to make sure the policy prioritises community energy projects and supports community groups who are currently leading the way. Matthew Guy and David Southwick can match the community support for renewables by backing the VRET.

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The Y2R team with members of the Geelong Sustainability Group at Hepburn Wind

Yes 2 Renewables stands with the community and supports the growth of community energy across Victoria; the best kind of energy is renewable and the best kind of renewables are community owned.

Find out more about the Community Renewable Energy discussion paper in our next blog post!

TAKE ACTION:

  • Email opposition leader Matthew Guy to call on the Victorian Liberal party to back the VRET. The transition to renewables ought to be a above party politics.
  • Become an Active Friend – Support the Y2R campaign with a monthly donation to help us secure the VRET

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