Renewables are uniting councils and communities

Local government may be the smallest form of government but it’s packing a punch with renewable energy. Around the country community groups are trying to build and run their own clean energy projects with councils becoming a key ally of this community energy movement.

Councils are perfectly placed to educate their residents about new technologies becoming available. They have many community-owned buildings available for hosting solar panels, and can provide administrative advice and the initial financial support groups need at the start when looking to invest locally in clean energy.

In large part this is why community-owned solar, bioenergy and wind energy projects are popping up all over the country.

In Parkes, west of Sydney, 600 locals are benefiting after the local council helped run a solar panel bulk-buying scheme.  

Australia’s first community-funded and council-operated solar farm unveiled in Lismore, NSW ensures profits stay in and benefit the city.

In Victoria, pensioners can get solar panels installed on their roofs under the Darebin Solar Savers program. It allows low-income homeowners or tenants to pay for their panels through a special rates-based scheme.

Bioenergy will benefit the Northern NSW towns of Nimbin, Casino and Murwillimbah. Turning rubbish into biogas, electricity and high-value organic fertiliser, promises to create local jobs, boost the region’s self-sufficiency and local economy.

Community groups, with the support of councils, are taking control of their power because it makes sense. Don’t be surprised if it happens in your neighbourhood too.

Franziska Mey is a director at the Community Power Agency and completing a PhD on the development of community energy in Australia, Germany and Denmark.