A recent report reveals that community groups across Australia are actively embracing the transition to renewable energy, while raising $87 million to fund their local projects with notable socioeconomic and environmental benefits.
The Community Energy Collective Impact report, published by the Community Power Agency in collaboration with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Melbourne, revealed the key findings.
The report, which makes eight recommendations, includes a call for all state and territory governments to unlock 100MW of community energy projects by 2028.
Approximately half of Australia’s community energy sector, represented by 55 surveyed groups, focuses on volunteer-driven projects, spanning solar, battery storage, energy efficiency, electric cars, microgrids, and wind turbines.
According to the report, participant groups were consulted about their projects in the past 12 months, revealing that they collectively raised $86.8 million in funding for community energy infrastructure.
The projects produced over 19,000 MWh of clean energy, enough for 2800 homes for a year, and avoided 13,947 tonnes of CO2-e, equivalent to removing 7748 cars from the road for a year.
Since 2015, at least 30 new community energy groups have been established, and the sector boasts a strong estimated supporter base of 38,000 people.
The report indicates that individuals involved in energy projects are primarily motivated by action on climate change and emissions reductions, followed by a desire for local participation in the renewable energy transition and increased energy reliability and self-sufficiency.
“It’s remarkable that these energy groups have achieved so much – funding their projects through the community, with minimal government support,” Director of Community Power Agency Kristy Walters said.
“This is the low hanging fruit of decarbonising our grid. Communities want to be involved in their own energy generation, and the projects we have highlighted demonstrate how important this is for community buy-in.”
“Community energy projects are vital to democratising our energy system and, in the process, they are enabling many other benefits at the local level.”
Co-author Dr Jonathan Marshall, a researcher from Climate, Society, and Environment Research Centre (CSERC) at the University of Technology Sydney said it illustrates the difficulties that volunteer organisations face, especially when regulations seem geared for large-scale commercial developments.
“These findings show the growth and interest in community renewable energy, not only as a source of energy but as a source of local development and resilience,” Marshall said.