Community energy is an approach to renewable energy development that involves the community in the development and ownership of energy generation.
It’s not a new concept – communities in the UK, U.S.A., Germany, Denmark and many other countries have been embracing this exciting, more democratic way of providing power for decades. While in Australia we’ve begun to embrace renewable energy – over 1.5 million homes have gone solar and large wind farms now provide about 5% of the power we use – our energy system is almost entirely reliant on burning fossil fuels in huge, centralised power stations connected to expensive infrastructure.
Instead of this centralised model, where a handful of large companies quite literally control all the power, communities around the country are now looking to produce their own clean, renewable power on a local scale.
Community renewable energy projects are diverse…
- Technology: from solar to wind to mini-hydro
- Scale: from solar panels on a community centre to wind farms generating electricity for tens of thousands of homes
- Ownership: from co-operatives like BM Renew to community trusts and companies
- Aims: from self-sufficiency to saving money to reducing pollution that drives climate change
Though they also share key similarities…
- Community owned: at the very least partly owned by members of the local community where they operate
- Community benefits: they deliver benefits to the local community like jobs and
- Community processes: they empower the local community through direct involvement in generating energy – very rare in traditional energy projects.
Read a more detailed overview of community energy at Comunity Power Agency and about the history of community energy at Embark – a non-profit group set up to help the community energy sector in Australia.