September 23, 2020
A ‘sunbelt’ of locally-owned renewable power stations would drive regional Australia’s economic recovery under an ambitious $483 million proposal unveiled today by Helen Haines MP.
The Independent Federal Member for Indi this morning published her Local Power Plan that would establish 50 hubs in regional centres across the country to support local community groups to develop their own renewable energy projects.
Each of the hubs would provide technical expertise and would distribute $650,000 worth of grants to local community groups each year for the next 10 years.
Dr Haines said the proposal was modelled on a successful pilot program in the Victorian cities of Bendigo and Ballarat and in the Latrobe Valley.
“In the Victorian pilot, an initial investment of $1.3 million generated 15 projects worth $14.5 million to the local economy and saved people $364,000 in electricity bills every year,” she said.
“Our proposal is significantly more ambitious so would deliver much greater economic return and much greater savings.”
Dr Haines’ plan also involves two new schemes to ensure regional communities get a better deal from commercial energy developments.
The first would see a public underwriting scheme for majority community-owned energy projects.
“The underwriting scheme would attract large private investors to partner with local communities to develop, for instance, a solar farm or a community battery that could help power an entire regional town,” she said.
The second would involve a new requirement for any new large-scale renewable energy projects to offer locals the chance to purchase up to 20 per cent of the project value and secure a minority stake in new projects.
Dr Haines said that this proposal builds on a similar scheme that has operated in Denmark since 2008. In Australia, the Sapphire Wind Farm in NSW is the only large-scale renewable project to be developed through a co-investment model, having raised a $7.5 million co-investment from local residents.
“Every year, energy companies make billions of dollars selling electricity to Australians,” she said.
“If everyday regional Australians could invest in these new renewable power stations, we’d create a significant new income stream for everyday people.”
In August, Dr Haines met Energy Minister Angus Taylor to lobby for the Local Power Plan proposal to be funded in the federal Budget in October. Later this year, she will introduce legislation to establish a new Australian Local Power Agency to administer the scheme.
“To make this a reality, we need the government to come to the table,” she said.
“Right now, we need practical solutions to jolt our economy back to life, and this is a sensible, practical plan we developed with communities right across regional Australia.
“This could be a catalytic investment in our regions – I’m calling on the Energy Minister to step up for regional Australia.
“The Local Power Plan would mean lower bills, stronger energy security, and new jobs and opportunities for regional Australians. Now more than ever, that’s exactly what we need.”
The Plan launched on Wednesday, September 23 at 10:00am with Helen Haines and social researcher and author Rebecca Huntley in a live zoom event.