Friday, June 19, 2015

Empowering Parramatta: A Model for Sustainable Energy

“Community notices unmet needs long before governments do. Community knows something isn’t working and great thinkers all over the world are trying to find a work-around. Social entrepreneurs are creating models of community building and influence, business leaders are finding a new language to describe social responsibility and a new breed of investors are finding ways to put their money where it counts.” ~Julie Owens, MP for Parramatta

We were really excited to have facilitated our first forum on community renewable energy to a packed house in Parramatta on behalf of Julie Owens. It was encouraging to see that so many people from advocacy groups, community action groups, residents interested in these ideas and solar installers all gathered together under one roof inspired to create a new model to source our basic needs.
We introduce ourselves as a consultancy that is committed to working toward a goal of helping communities be more resilient and source their needs of energy, water, food and housing locally, thus creating a healthier local economy. 
We commenced the presentation by discussing some of the global trends in solar and noted that the price of solar has come down drastically from US$76/watt to US$0.30/watt.  This reduction in price coupled with favourable policies in the European countries had seen a huge uptake in solar PV in the early years.  While Australia is lagging behind the European players like Germany and Italy, it is not doing too badly when we look at the uptake per capita.  Over 1.3 million households now have solar on their roofs.
We then went on to discuss business models for solar investment.  The model that we advocate is that of community renewable energy.  This is a partnership between a community of investor and a business, which has a roof on which the infrastructure can be installed.  The business repays the investors who often get a better return than if they invested their money in the bank. The business pays of the solar in 10 years, then inherits the infrastructure and gets free energy for the next 15 years or so.  A great model especially if you are a business that is operating during the day.
We also shared a lot of resources and web links to many of the players in this space and discussed some of the changes such as the introduction of affordable storage. 
You can view our presentation at this link
The forum concluded with presentations by Parramatta City Council, Pingalla, Community Power Agency and Sydney Renewable Energy.  It was a great evening and we knew people were inspired when they were still long after the forum had ended.
We were greatly encourage when we heard a few days later that Parramatta residents have formed a group to take the idea of community renewable energy forward and we were asked to be part of this process.  We have started to sew the seeds.  Let’s see what we can grow together with people who wish to take back their lives and create a low carbon future for their children, leaving a legacy of resilient, vibrant communities that are working to create decentralised communities that can live off grid. 

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