Grantmaking opportunities: community power through community energy

By: Dr. Colin Brown   |   Diversicon Environmental Foundation

It seems clear to me that leadership on climate change has to come from community members working together for the common good. Governments will follow.

Early in February, I had lunch with Vicki Brooke, the Chair and one of the main drivers behind the Zero Emissions Byron initiative. The Byron Mayor, Simon Richardson, was in Paris in 2015 and is one of 1000 mayors who made the pledge to be emission free by 2025. It made me realise how far things have come, when local communities are taking big steps to change their energy system.

In my early years, light was from candles or kerosene lamps; transport energy was primarily from horses or humans—we walked or rode bikes to get around.  Roads were dirt and vehicles run by petrol were rare.

Now Vicki and I both drive Teslas and our Tesla is totally solar powered. We have 12.5 kw of solar panels on our roof and 38 kw/hs of battery storage. The storage allows us to be energy independent even after 2-3 heavily overcast days.

To paraphrase Jeremy Rivkin, the 1800s were about coal, the 1900s were about oil and the 2000s are all about renewables.

Irrespective of the resistance of the fossils, renewable energy projects are exploding in number – on large scale, community and household levels.

Community power confers a sense of ownership to the individual members—they feel they can hold their energy fate in their own hands and this is very empowering. Now local community groups across Australia, including Solar Citizens and the Community Power Agency, are actively working to promote and support community and household renewable energy initiatives. Increasingly, local governments too are developing community renewable energy initiatives. For instance, Lismore Council is installing two solar farms owned by the community.

It seems clear to me that leadership on climate change has to come from community members working together for the common good. Governments will follow.

On 27 and 28 February 2017, all the different players in community energy will be convening in Melbourne for the Community Energy Congress, coming together to share information, develop skills, foster new networks, celebrate success and plan for action in this budding new sector.

There will be a special lunch for grantmakers and impact investors on Monday 27 February, where participants will learn more about how to support this important and growing sector.

The Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and the Australian Communities Foundation will co-host a special lunch for grant-makers and impact investors on the first day of the Congress to share how funders can support this important and growing sector. Simon Holmes a Court and Sophie Burke from FRRR will be sharing their experiences with participants.

Grant-makers or impact investors who would like more information about the lunch can view the invitation here.

Feb. 14, 2017

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