Funding for renewable energy projects is helping social enterprises take control of their electricity supply and reduce costs.
Labor Member for Wendouree Juliana Addison announced a $49,500 grant to install a 40 kW solar PV system at McCallum Disability Services on Tuesday.
In addition, Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emmissions will receive almost $8000 a 10 kW solar array on the roof of Uniting Ballarat’s Restore Op-Shop.
Coghills Creek Progress Association will benefit from more than $6000 funding to install a 6 kW solar PV system on the roof of the local hall.
These three great solar projects will not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also save money on their power bills so they can invest more in services that help the Ballarat community.- Juliana Addison, Labour Member for Wendouree
The state government funding announcements follow feasibility studies completed by the Ballarat Community Power Hub, a pilot project working to develop local-owned community energy projects.
Ms Addison said the investments would help the three groups reduce power costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
“The $49,500 commitment from our government to install solar at McCallum Disability Services will help reduce electricity costs by up to 65 per cent and the money will go back into their employment program which assists local people with a disability find work,” she said.
“These three great solar projects will not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also save money on their power bills so they can invest more in services that help the Ballarat community.”
The Community Power Hub two year state government pilot in Ballarat ends in June 2019, but BREAZE president Mr Rossiter said he expects to see more not for profits seeking advice on solar installation as they hear about completed projects.
“Currently we are working on a transition process to work out how BREAZE can best refer people for assistance after June 30 when the Community Power Hub pilot program finishes,” he said.
“Generally we have found when working with social enterprises their focus is on dealing with day to day issues and the more immediate needs of their various stakeholders. This sort of project does require some focus and time away from that. I think it has been important for us to be able to provide some independent advice from a trusted source.”
What does it mean for communities to control their own power?
Community energy projects provide:
- A stable price for power: “Over the last 10 years in particular it has been a real guessing game, and it continues to be with gas, as to what we might be paying for gas and electricity in the future,” Mr Rossiter said.
- Retention of funds in local communities rather than to off shore power companies.
- A resilient power system: “Rather than relying on large centralised supplies of energy we are building decentralised systems, meaning we are less dependent and less impacted by major shocks to our supply systems,” Mr Rossiter said.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: “Renewable energy is the most obvious thing we can do to attest climate change,” Mr Rossiter said.
What has hosting the Community Power Hub pilot meant for Ballarat?
Ballarat was selected as one of the three pilot locations for the Community Power Hub project due to its strong population growth and geographic, climatic and demographic diversity, according to a Sustainability Victoria report.
Ballarat’s active community sustainability group BREAZE was acknowledged for its expertise in electrical generation, so was the region’s ‘proven appetite’ for expanding community energy projects.
Mr Rossiter said hosting the Community Power Hub pilot in Ballarat had strengthened Ballarat’s reputation for embracing renewable energy.
“I think it has underpinned the fact Ballarat is renowned as a place that has embraced renewable energy – being at the forefront of early solar park investments, running major events, promoting bio-energy and waste to energy and being on the doorstep to some of the largest installations of wind in western Victoria,” he said.
“Ballarat is very much seen as a centre that is going to benefit from the jobs and the investment associated with renewable energy.”
State government funding for the Community Power Hub project expires in June 2019 and further investment in the program is yet to be determined by DELWP and Sustainability Victoria.
Mr Rossiter said he hoped similar programs would continue in Ballarat and other areas in Victoria.
“I think it is reasonable to say there has been a lot of goodwill built through the pilot program and there may well be other parts of Victoria that are ready for similar investment,” he said.
“There will be many replicable opportunities coming from the work that has been done in this program. With or without government funding there will certainly be a lot more knowledge and capacity for groups like BREAZE to help other groups establish these sorts of projects.”