The Andrews government has kicked off energy policy reforms to clear the path for community-owned renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, with the release of a discussion paper on community owned renewables to compliment the current Parliamentary Inquiry into Community Energy.
Environment group Friends of the Earth welcome the discussion paper and say communities, government and business must work together to smash Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets.
“It is critical for the Andrews government to get the definition of community renewable energy projects right to ensure communities contribute towards hitting Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets,” said Em Gayfer, Friends of the Earth’s community energy coordinator.
“Friends of the Earth would like to see community owned renewable energy grow throughout Victoria. A commitment from the government to deliver an ambitious number of community projects would boost the sector.”
The discussion paper has been released whilst the Victorian Parliament is undertaking an inquiry into the benefits of community energy projects and is intended to resolve planning restrictions on community owned wind farms.
Earlier on Monday the committee visited two operational community energy projects at the Hepburn Wind farm near Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group’s community solar project.
"We were able to share our story of the impact of the removal of the carbon price and instability of the national Renewable Energy Target on our co-operative from 2013 - 2015 and how it is an imperative that the Committee set a high target for our sector and then a financial mechanism to deliver it." said Taryn Lane of Hepburn Wind.
“Communities shouldn't be subject to the same fees and levies as huge coal fired generators, nor should they be barred from building a community wind farm. We are excited by the Governments movements to deliver good, supportive policy frameworks for our sector," said Taryn Lane of Hepburn Wind.
The parliamentary inquiry is running alongside consultation into the renewable energy auctions designed to meet the Victorian Renewable Energy Target.
“The government can lock in big gains for community energy by setting aside a portion of the renewable energy auctions for community-led projects. This measure would leverage community, public and private finance," said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth renewable energy spokesperson.
A majority of Australian states and territories now have ambitious renewable energy targets. Only a fortnight ago the ACT Liberal party announced support for the ACT's 100 percent Renewable Energy Target. Friends of the Earth say community members would welcome bipartisan support for renewables in Victoria.
"It's time to return to bipartisan support for renewable energy policy in Victoria. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy can show leadership and match community sentiment by supporting Victorian Renewable Energy Targets."