EARTH FIRST: Powering forward with the entire community pulling together

IN IT TOGETHER: Community energy programs provide cheap renewable energy benefits for the community and the environment. Photo: FILE PHOTO

IN IT TOGETHER: Community energy programs provide cheap renewable energy benefits for the community and the environment. Photo: FILE PHOTO

Community energy continues to gain ground throughout Australia.

We are seeing more and more examples of communities that are creating their own change in the delivery of clean and renewable energy supplies.

All communities would benefit from a community energy project, including ours.

Examples of such projects could involve local investors building a community solar farm, co-investing in solar installations with local business owners, or a simple bulk buy and installation of solar PV panels for domestic and business premises.

If a community energy program is to be implemented, it is essential that those who are the most vulnerable when it comes to energy consumption should not be left out.

Pensioners, the elderly and those on low incomes do not have the necessary capital to purchase rooftop solar panels, so any community energy program should include the most disadvantaged in our society through the provision of cheap renewable energy sources for little or no cost.

An example of a project that caters for the disadvantaged is the Solar Savers program, carried out by Darebin council in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Solar Savers is a scheme that allows local pensioners and low income homeowners to install an appropriate solar pv system at no upfront cost.

Residents who take advantage of this scheme will reap the benefits immediately and the council will recover costs without interest within the next 10 years through a small addition to the annual land rates of the low income or pensioner residents who are involved in the scheme.

For those low income or pensioner residents who are renters in State Government housing, a similar deal is organised by Solar Savers through the local housing co-operative.

The money for the cost of the installation of solar panels is to be recouped through a small rent rise from those residents who happen to be living in the houses in which solar is installed.

Pensioners often have difficulty negotiating the complexities involved with changing over to a renewable energy scheme and frequently do not know whom to trust when it comes to solar panels.

The Solar Savers program assists them through the involvement of Positive Change, a non-profit Melbourne organisation which provides information and advice to those participating in the scheme, to ensure participants are not being taken advantage of.

Solar Savers is an example of a successful community energy program.

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