ReNew 129 editorial: Community energy special

ReNew Editor, Robyn Deed

I like the term community energy, conjuring up, as it does, a picture of enthusiastic community contributors—aptly illustrated in the photo of exuberant delegates at the recent community energy congress on page 40!

The idea of community energy is a simple one—energy projects funded by the (usually local) community. However, its genesis in Australia has been anything but simple, with planning, financial and regulatory hurdles slowing down or preventing the development of many projects.

But it seems a pleasing shift is happening. A notable milestone was the community energy congress, held in June, which brought together groups and individuals with bucketloads of energy to get projects started, and share ideas.

That’s one of the things you notice straight away about community energy—there’s a whole lot of information sharing going on. From the Difference Incubator’s legal templates, to Embark’s governance structures, to ATA’s Sunulator, and much more besides, there are many ideas and models to borrow from—with some now proven in the field (or on the bowling club roof, as with Shoalhaven’s Repower One project!).

This issue we take a tour of community energy projects happening in Australia right now, including community solar, a bioenergy project that could transform a rural town, and the installation of two wind farms. We also consider the sorts of issues that can arise in community energy projects, around such things as metering and management.

Plus, we take a step back and look at community action more generally. Dr Samuel Alexander from the Simplicity Institute has examined the ‘disruptive potential’ of a range of social movements. Covering collaborative consumption, divestment, transition towns and community energy (and more in the original paper), his review of all these areas carefully considers just how effective they can be in initiating a low-carbon shift.

Our cover house sits somewhere in that world of social sharing. Built with the help of travellers, exchanging their work for board and lodging via HelpX, it’s also a great example of reuse and sustainability. We were also excited to find out about OpenShed, a website enabling the sharing of tools!

There’s much more to consider in this issue too, from a pioneering owner-build using hempcrete, to a discussion of how EVs could affect the grid, to a power station in a backyard in Tassie. We cover the basics of inverters, present an efficient hot water buyers guide, and delve into what’s available in renewable energy courses. Collyn Rivers explains how to improve the performance of fridges in caravans (with many of the tips just as applicable to domestic fridges). We also present our Winter Energy Challenge winner and notable entries, all innovative and practical. Enjoy!

Robyn Deed

ReNew Editor