Haines plans renewable energy hubs

By Simon Ruppert

Benalla will be one of several communities in the north east to host a renewable energy hub under an ambitious plan by Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines.

Dr Haines’ Local Power Plan to enable rural and regional communities across the country to benefit from renewable energy will be launched on Wednesday, September 23 at 10am.

You can take part in this free registering at this link.

The concept is part of a $483 million plan to build a string of locally-owned power stations across regional Australia.

Hubs at Benalla and Mansfield are among 50 Dr Haines wants to see established across the country, supporting local community groups to develop their own renewable energy projects.

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The hubs would provide technical expertise and distribute $650,000 worth of grants to local community groups each year for the next 10 years.

Dr Haines said the proposal was modelled on a successful pilot program in the Victorian cities of Bendigo and Ballarat and in the Latrobe Valley.

“In the Victorian pilot, an initial investment of $1.3 million generated 15 projects worth $14.5 million to the local economy and saved people $364,000 in electricity bills every year,” Dr Haines said.

“Our proposal is significantly more ambitious so would deliver much greater economic return and much greater savings.”

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Dr Haines’ plan also involves two new schemes to ensure regional communities get a better deal from commercial energy developments.

The first would see a public underwriting scheme for majority community-owned energy projects.

“The underwriting scheme would attract large private investors to partner with local communities to develop, for instance, a solar farm or a community battery that could help power an entire regional town,” she said.

The second would involve a new requirement for any new large-scale renewable energy projects to offer locals the chance to purchase up to 20 per cent of the project value and secure a minority stake in new projects.

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Dr Haines said this proposal built on a similar scheme that had operated in Denmark since 2008.

In Australia, the Sapphire Wind Farm in NSW is the only large-scale renewable project to be developed through a co-investment model, having raised a $7.5 million co-investment from local residents.

“Every year, energy companies make billions of dollars selling electricity to Australians,” Dr Haines said.

“If everyday regional Australians could invest in these new renewable power stations, we’d create a significant new income stream for everyday people.”

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Last month, Dr Haines met Energy Minister Angus Taylor to lobby for the Local Power Plan proposal to be funded in the federal Budget in October.

Later this year, she will introduce legislation to establish a new Australian Local Power Agency to administer the scheme.

“To make this a reality, we need the government to come to the table,” she said.

“Right now, we need practical solutions to jolt our economy back to life, and this is a sensible, practical plan we developed with communities right across regional Australia.

“This could be a catalytic investment in our regions – I’m calling on the Energy Minister to step up for regional Australia.

“The Local Power Plan would mean lower bills, stronger energy security, and new jobs and opportunities for regional Australians.

“Now more than ever, that’s exactly what we need.”

● The full plan is available at this link.

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