Mobilising our community energy to harvest the sun!
Healesville CoRE (Healesville Community Renewable Energy Project)
Healesville CoRE is about to become a new community group in our town. The formation of Healesville CoRE is being supported by a group of community volunteers acting as a Steering Group, passionate about community engagement, solar energy, reducing energy consumption and supporting everyone in the community to access clean renewable energy – at the lowest price possible. It is much cheaper than you might think!
We need volunteers from our community to work for Healesville CoRE. We need a wide range of people of different ages, genders and backgrounds as well as different skills. Can you offer administrative, technical &/or professional skills, to help us succeed? Will you join us?
Our vision is that Healesville CoRE will promote solar energy education within the community and facilitate access to technical skills and finance, so we can support each other in accessing solar projects, for individuals & for community groups – in homes, businesses and not-for-profits.
Once the Healesville CoRE group is formed, it will facilitate these projects.
What is Community Energy?
Community energy is all about communities taking control of their energy consumption and production in the move towards ‘Zero Carbon’.
Equity of access is very important to everyone. A central task of Healesville CoRE will be to organize the technical expertise, the business structures, the contracts and the finance for the whole community to benefit from the uptake of solar energy. We will make this as painless as possible.
As a result we aim to create cheaper power bills, keep more money in the community, provide jobs, and build connections within the community.
How does ‘community energy’ work?
Once formed, Healesville CoRE will work with the community to organize projects to install solar power for the production of electricity and hot water, thus reducing our power bills. These projects could be for individual households, sports groups, businesses, not-for-profit groups, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, retail outlets & factories.
How are these projects financed?
Healesville CoRE will facilitate the development of these projects by bringing together those who want to participate and the providers of the technology and finance.
Community members can either pay for their own project up front or Healesville CoRE can facilitate the provision of finance. Community members can also invest their own funds to finance these projects for others. In other communities around Australia investors have been able to earn interest of 5-7% over a 5-10 year period by financing community energy projects.
Finance can be organized within the community by setting up various legal structures such as trusts, companies or co-operatives, depending on the type of project involved. This means that those members of the community with spare money can invest in the local community to enable the expansion of solar power and solar hot water production. Borrowing from financial institutions and donation models are also a possibility.
What if I don’t want to buy solar equipment?
Leasing projects might also be possible depending on community need.
Why do it?
Energy bills are a constant in our lives and cost us a lot of money. The cost of electricity and gas is increasing all the time. Often people see the value of solar power to reduce these costs but find the upfront expense or the technical issues create a barrier. The community volunteers can reduce the hassle by organizing the technical stuff, including energy audits to work out the best system to install. They can also help to minimize the hassle in arranging the finance and contracts for the installation and maintenance of the equipment.
How do we pay for this?
The solar equipment will produce free electricity and free hot water for us to use and any excess electricity will be exported to the power grid and paid for by the energy provider.
These savings can be used to pay back the cost of the loan and a small administration fee to Healesville CoRE. By the end of the loan period the purchaser will own the equipment which will go on producing free electricity and free hot water for the next 20-25 years! You can earn money for any excess power that is fed back into the power grid. This is a win for the buyer, a win for the community and a win for the environment!
What type of projects have been set up by other communities?
There is a wide range of renewable energy projects that could be initiated. The list below is a list of possible projects.
NOTE: This is the technical stuff for those who are interested.
Energy audits can be organized to help reduce power consumption.
Bulk buying schemes
Bulk buying schemes can typically save between 20 – 30% of the normal retail cost of installing & maintaining solar energy systems.
No capital outlay projects
Installing solar power and solar hot water systems in homes, in sports’ clubs, kindergartens, factories, retail outlets, schools, medical facilities etc. for no upfront capital outlay is possible. This can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the whole community (money that stays in the community) for the estimated life time of the equipment (approximately 25 years).
Landlords & tenants
It is possible to facilitate landlords & tenants to embrace renewable energy with new technologies that enable the tenant to purchase energy more cheaply than from the grid. For the landlord, selling electricity to the tenant at a discounted rate to the energy grid also brings an income, as the rental accommodation becomes an energy generator.
Enabling access to solar power for those who do not want new equipment
Healesville CoRE could enable those who do not want solar equipment or whose roofs are not suitable (due to shading, construction etc) to buy their power at a discounted rate from other community members who produce more power than they need. This reduces the cost to the buyer and increases the income for the producer of the power.
‘Distributed’ solar energy
Initiating and supporting ‘distributed’ solar energy within the community is a new concept currently being experimented with by power companies and others. A group of homes or businesses are organized as a micro grid and they each feed excess energy to each other as well as to the main grid.
Community owned energy retailer
It is also possible to buy electricity from a community energy retailer with significant economic benefits to the community! Instead of buying electricity from one of the large energy retail companies we might choose to buy from a not-for-profit community energy retailer, and benefit the community with cheaper power costs and donations back to community groups, businesses and individual households, again retaining more money in the community.
There are many other possibilities including larger projects such as community owned solar farms; wind farms; pumped hydro and mini hydro systems depending on what the community wants?
How can we benefit the larger region of the Yarra Ranges?
We hope to become a model for other towns in our region and eventually set up an Information Hub for other groups to access information for their own community energy projects.
How can I participate?
Register your interest in the Healesville CoRE Project. Fill out the form on this website and we will contact you at a later date.
Go to the Registration page on this website and register your interest now!