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    Australia's national electricity opportunity: community energy

    Real Australian energy policy leadership this week has been shown by the independent Federal member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, says Starfish Initiatives.

    On Monday (16 October) McGowan told Parliament that the community energy sector is “a really important part of the [energy] jigsaw” and called for increased support for for community energy initiatives such as community-owned wind and solar farms, through changes to the ARENA Act, which governs funding for renewable energy projects.

    Speaking in Parliament, McGowan said: “We haven’t paid nearly enough attention to the role of communities and local governments in addressing the [clean energy] problem. The community energy sector is one really important part of the energy jigsaw.”

    Adam Blakester, Executive Director of Starfish, agrees: “Local community energy projects such as the Farming the Sun community solar bulk-buy program are already helping householders, businesses and farmers to significantly lower their power bills.

    “With Australian Government support, the community energy sector could achieve even more. For example, energy efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses, as well as solar power, all save on power bills. Quite a bit in fact!”

    Community energy is a growing part of the Australian power sector. There are half a dozen community energy projects in the New England federal electorate, 11 community energy groups within Cathy McGowan’s constituency of Indi, and over 90 groups across the country in total.

    Locally, Starfish Initiatives, established in 2011, is working on a wide range of renewable energy projects to help residents, businesses and farms reduce their power bills, such as: the 1.5MW of solar power installed through Farming the Sun; Zero Net Energy Town Uralla; and the pioneering community investment opportunity currently being tested by Sapphire Windfarm.

    “Community energy can help fill the gap from retiring coal power stations,” added Blakester.

    “Starfish is asking our Federal Member, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, to support community energy throughout the New England by supporting the proposed ARENA Act amendments and also making it a priority in the proposed new National Energy Guarantee.”

    Recent polling shows increasingly positive public attitudes on renewable energy. Australians lead the world in the installation of rooftop residential solar too. This, Starfish says, evidences the strong public support for renewable and local energy.

    “Community energy is a win for the environment and a win for lowering power bills,” concluded Blakester.

    “International research has shown that community ownership of renewable energy projects significantly increases the local economic benefits and jobs too.

    “It really is no wonder why so many communities, the New England North West included, are so keen to have their own local renewable energy projects and programs.”

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