The Sustainability Law Lab attended the Community Energy Congress at the Melbourne Town Hall on 27-28 February. Over 500 people voiced visions and declared actions for a new, clean energy system.
The Congress itself was filled with a buzz of optimism about our agency to create a better future. Some highlights:
Workshops & collaboration
Co-designing the Law Lab: we ran a workshop with participants at the Congress, using co-design exercises to share insights into legal obstacles and challenges people are facing. The workshop was a success, generating lots of ideas about how we can design the Law Lab to offer innovative legal solutions fit for purpose.
Community solar models: a workshop on community solar models spoke about the different solar business models in Victoria, including bulk-buy programs (i.e., Suncrowd), investment models (i.e., ClearSky Solar) and donation models for solar projects (i.e., Corena). The importance of partnerships, sharing resources and collaboration was a big feature of the discussion
Community energy retailers: a panel of three progressive retailers showed their commitment to the community. Powershop, an energy retailer that sells only renewable energy or carbon neutral (Clean Energy Certificate certified) power, manages the turbines for Hepburn Wind, partners with small scale community generators, such as a hydro facility in Warburton, and has a community energy grants scheme. Energy Locals, a new retailer invests 100% of profits in renewables and purchases community energy power. And lastly, Enova Energy, Australia’s only community owned retailer from the Northern Rivers, spoke about its social enterprise model of distributing 50% of profits to a not-for-profit arm funding education and social projects.
Legals, finance and risk: Impact Group launched its financial toolkit for the community energy sector, ClearSky spoke about the risks of setting up a solar project, and Norton Rose spoke about the business opportunities and inevitability of a clean energy transition.
Policy and leadership
State leadership was an obvious aspect of the Congress. Lily D’Ambrosio, the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, highlighted policies including $20 million for a New Energy Jobs Fund. Victoria now has a world leading climate policy, including a 2050 target of net zero emissions and a goal for a resilient energy system based on decentralized and well integrated energy resources.
The ACT and NSW Ministers also spoke about their strong leadership and policies for a clean energy system. The ACT is a stand-out among recent clean energy policy action — declaring the Territory is on track to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020, using a twin policy of reverse auctions and a generous feed in tariff to accelerate quick penetration of renewable energy.
Indigenous leadership: as a commitment to a just transition, Indigenous representatives from the Kimberleys, Leonara, New South Wales, Burt and Canada’s First Nations people were at the Congress. The opportunity for community owned renewable energy was identified as a solution to overcoming regional and economic poverty, with strong new relationships laying fertile ground for future projects.
International leadership: Soren Hermansen from Denmark spoke about his Island home, Samso, which became the first 100% renewable island in 2007. The story is one of local self-determination for a clean energy future and local ownership. To make it happen, the islanders invested 400 million Danish crowns ($84.35 million) — an average of more than $20,000 per citizen — in local wind capacity. Now Samso exports wind energy, creating a source of export income earnings for local citizens.
Candace Vahslin, the Senior Policy Advisor for Energy and Climate Change at the White House Domestic Policy Council, spoke about lessons from the Obama Administration. Key insights for policy makers: listen to people’s needs, meet people where they are at, build lasting partnerships, provide resources and incentives to catalyse action, and ask for community energy partners for solid commitments, solidarity and action. It total, the Administration attracted 300 orgs across 30 states, which committed $400 m.
Get in touch
The Congress was a launching pad for the Sustainability Law Lab, which aims to provide resources and support to assist our transition to a clean, distributed and fair energy system. Collaborative, cost effective and connected lawyers could help write the rules and broker solutions for laws and outcomes Australia needs in a world working together for people and the planet.