Key learnings, outcomes and conclusions
On 28th and 29th of April 2016, Informa Australia in partnership with Renew Economy and One step Off the Grid were delighted to host The Local Energy & Microgrids Conference which provided a timely platform to analyse and discuss the current trends supporting the transition of energy markets in Australia, supported by the development of the Community Energy Sector.
As Mr Simon Currie outlined in his opening address, there are a number of drivers for energy changes including the reduction of the cost for renewable energy technologies, the concern over the future impacts of climate change, the large availability of local energy sources, and the development of community energy capabilities.
The agenda featured keynote addresses from Australian State Environment Ministers leading energy changes in their States, who recognised the critical importance of customer energy needs and local energy initiatives in the global energy market outlook.
We were honoured to host Mark Speakman, NSW Environment Minister; Simon Corbell MLA, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, ACT, and The Hon. Ian Hunter MLC, Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, SA as Keynote Speakers at the forum.
The event offered a unique format as it brought together a wide range of key speakers and audience from community energy groups, utilities, developers, service and technology providers, researchers and local and State government representatives all passionate and involved in new ways of thinking and developing energy supply solutions.
“Insightful event focusing on the leading edge of the local energy movement, with a good mixture of network, community, investor, developer, academia and technology provider stakeholders.”
The conference highlighted key local energy successes, advanced projects and recent initiatives which all demonstrated the variety of models and solutions conceived to deliver successful community energy projects. Some of the highlights included Enova Energy, Australia’s first community-owned renewable energy retailer and the outcomes of the project facilitating local network charges and local electricity trading presented by Jay Rutovitz from the Institute of Sustainable Futures.
From left to right starting from the top:
Toby Roxburgh, Beast Solutions, Bruce Thompson, Moreland Energy Foundation
Amy Kean, NSW Renewable Energy Advocate, Cr Mathew Dickerson, Mayor of Dubbo , Andy Cavanagh-Downs, Sydney Renewable Power Company, Dr Christina Kirsch, ClearSky Solar Investments
NSW Office of Environment & Heritage: The conference received a strong support from the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage who facilitated the attendance of 24 community energy representatives from across NSW, from community groups and local councils, including: Central NSW Renewable Energy Cooperative, Clean Energy For Eternity, Bathurst Regional Council, Braidwood Community Energy, Central Coast Community Energy Association, CLEANaS, ClearSky Solar Investments, Climate Change Australia, Coonamble Community, Dorrigo Chamber of Commerce, Energy Forever, Enova Community Energy Ltd, Grong Grong Earth Park, Gwydir Renewable Energy, Moreland Energy Foundation, Narara Eco Village, Nimbin Neighbourhood & Information Centre, Pingala Sydney Community Renewable Energy, Repower Shoalhaven, REPower Coffs, Solar Citizens, SolarShare, South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance, Sustainable Cowra, The Goulburn Group, Tyalgum Energy Project, Wingecarribee Renewable Energy.
There was a significant amount of appreciative commentary on the day:
Community Energy Information Sharing
For a lot of attendees, the conference provided an opportunity meet “useful new contacts, reconnect and brainstorm”. Another important aspect was to “hear and understand the lessons learned and the ground covered by other communities”, and also to “focus on successes, mechanisms and solutions to complete”. Key community energy speaker Chris Cooper from Repower Shoalhaven emphasized the need for the sector to communicate and highlight successful projects. One of the lessons learned from their projects was: “Branding and storytelling is key to inspiring movement participants”.
Community Energy projects can find support and information from a number of key organisations such as the Community Power Agency, Embark, and the C4CE, the Coalition for Community Energy. C4CE has been developing the National Community Energy Strategy (NCES).
ARENA’s discussions outcomes:
Following presentations by ARENA specialists Dan Sturrock and Phil Cohn, conference participants took part in a group exercise to identify key questions or ‘unknowns’ relevant to their projects and initiatives. Each table captured their key questions, shared them and then undertook a synthesis of overlapping themes within their group.
During the report back, groups were invited to highlight those themes that they thought represented the biggest barriers to the implementation of local energy or microgrid projects.
By identifying these barriers, participants were able to see their project implementation more clearly through the frame of innovation.
The Local Energy & Microgrid Conference – ARENA workshop
The Local Energy & Microgrids Conferences confirmed the tremendous amount of work and innovative projects initiated and implemented in the local energy space and showed the “Renewable Energy (CRE) has the opportunity to be a key driver”. Discussions also revealed the number of challenges and difficulties faced by the sector, including regulation, volunteer fatigue, finance models, and complex partnership programs. Some participants expressed the need for further exchange on technology-based projects, the management of renewable energy project funding, and the creation of standard/model contracts and Business Model Rules.
All participants involved in the discussions were interested in increasing collaboration and partnerships in the transition towards a more decentralised energy systems.
Renew Economy articles related to The Local Energy & Microgrids Conference:
Informa is pleased to work in partnership with Renew Economy and One-Step-Off-the-Grid which shares local energy projects, technologies, and research and policy changes.