The city of Melbourne hosted the Australian Community Renewable Energy Congress for 2017. Running from February 26 to March 1, the congress offered a wide range of information on all aspects of community-based renewable energy.
The gathering had an international flavour. As well as over 500 representatives from all Australian states, there were delegates from Denmark, Japan, Canada and America.
The keen interest felt about community energy was reflected in the fact that over 80 community groups Australia-wide are currently developing clean energy producing services.
Community energy can be defined as ‘the wide range of ways that communities can develop, deliver and benefit from sustainable energy. It can involve supply-side projects such as renewable energy installations and storage, and demand-side projects such as community education, energy efficiency and demand management.
Community energy can even include community-based approached to selling or distributing energy.’
Australia’s community energy sector continues to grow in size and diversity. Examples of pioneering projects in community energy are those of the Hepburn community wind farm in Daylesford, Victoria, the Denmark community wind farm in Western Australia and Enova, in Lismore, which is the first community-owned retailer.
These groundbreaking projects have been followed by a myriad of community solar investment and donation projects.
The aims of the congress were to inspire participants to continue to create renewable change in their communities.
The congress also aimed to provide support and motivation to community groups by providing examples of successful renewable energy projects.
The congress was able to provide examples of successful community projects already operating, such as that of the Sydney Renewable Power Company, which installed solar panels on the convention centre, financed by city flat dwellers' investment.
Closer to home, the congress was informed of the Cowra Council biomass project, where Cowra council transports sewerage, piggery waste and other such examples of waste biomass to be processed at a central point. The resulting product provides for 60 per cent of Cowra's power needs.
Other cities which have developed community energy projects and are leading the way towards community self sufficiency are Bendigo, Castlemaine, Denmark (WA), Benalla, and the Newtown Student Solar Community Co-op.
Australia is being threatened with an energy crisis in the near future. The message delivered by the congress was that community action is an important part of the solution to a cleaner, greener and more reliable energy future.