Community Power


Australia’s first community-owned electricity retailer could be coming exclusively to the Northern Rivers.

The NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes has signed off on $60,000 funding for a feasibility study that could see Australia’s first community-owned electricity retailer in the Northern Rivers.
The business plan, for which tenders open this month, is expected to be completed in mid 2015, with hopes for the retailer to be up and running by the end of next year.

With the high take up of alternative power in the region, the Northern Rivers is well placed for Australia’s first community retailer. By cutting out the ‘middle man’ from outside the region the retailer could afford to pay higher prices for electricity from householders while keeping prices competitive across the board.

With the impending end to the solar feed-in tariff in 2016, the introduction of a community based system is timely for local solar households.

Byron Shire Council sustainability officer Kim Mallee commented that while some householders are currently enjoying feed-in tariffs of up to 60c per kwh, this will reduce to at best 6c per kwh when the tariffs end. Ms Mallee said a community- owned retailer would allow customers to also be retailers and generators of electricity, enabling the development of a local energy economy. “It would totally change the energy landscape on the Northern Rivers,” she said.

In the long term, the retailer could also stimulate investment and employment opportunities in local energy projects rather than taking money out of the region.

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