Australia’s first community-owned renewable energy retailer, Enova, is about to open its doors in Byron Bay after raising $3.8 million from 1,090 investors.
Seventy-five per cent of the voting shares are held on the NSW north coast, but chair Alison Crook said the company had attracted investors from every state and territory in Australia.
The former Monash University deputy vice-chancellor of resources said the company had hoped to raise $4 million, but had a minimum subscription level of $3 million.
“To raise the capital, we established ourselves as a social enterprise but it is a limited company, which means it’s a public company not listed on the stock exchange,” Ms Crook said.
“Our retail licence was dependent upon us reaching our minimum subscription, so we opened the capital raising on August 27 and by December 15 we were almost there with $3.2 million, but by the close-off it suddenly went crazy.”
Not-for-profit Arm to Help Low Income Earners
Enova’s first office will be opened in Byron Bay this month, with 18 jobs created.
The company’s licence allows it to serve regional areas from Queensland to South Australia, but Ms Crook said Enova would initially focus on northern New South Wales.
“There are a number of parts to the organisation,” Ms Crook said.
“There’s a trading arm that involves getting the retail happening, and making sure that we start the business that’s involved in giving advice and doing installation and management of renewable energy technologies.
“We can start the advice, installation and maintenance of renewable technologies right away, but in the retail side we have to complete an enormous amount of establishment and training before we can offer the service.
“We will be aiming to be offering services and trialling them in March.”
Enova will also have a not-for-profit arm.
“That involves us working to ensure the whole of the community can come with us as we move into a renewable future,” Ms Crook said.
“There are a lot of people struggling to pay existing power bills. There are people in social housing and people who are in what’s called ‘energy poverty’.
“We will be working to obtain grants from government and philanthropic funds, and to work with social housing providers and other people in the community who are looking after those on low incomes, to ensure we can offer services and get installations happening for people who would otherwise think ‘renewable is out of my reach’.”
h1. Energy Sourcing From The Grid
Enova will begin by buying renewable energy from the grid to sell to customers.
“All of the energy you use in your house comes from the grid. It comes through your energy distributor and the poles and the wires, and the grid doesn’t distinguish between green and black electrons,” Ms Crook said.
“So, what we do is we buy from the national energy market and sell to you; it comes through the grid.
“In order for you to have renewable energy, we enter into agreements to purchase green power from accredited renewable energy providers, so that whenever we are selling you energy we are offsetting that with green energy certificates.”
Ms Crook said Enova also hoped to increasingly buy from local renewable energy generators.
“What we hope to be doing is facilitating the development of community-scale renewable generation,” she said.
“Some of that will be on the north coast, some will be close by, some will be further away.
“We’ll be assisting and purchasing from renewable energy providers and helping them to get off the ground.”
h1. Company inspired by Bentley blockade
Ms Crook said the anti-coal seam gas movement, particularly the Bentley blockade, had inspired herself and three others to turn the idea for Enova into action in 2014.
The three other co-founders were Enova CEO Steve Harris, who is a former senior manager with Origin Energy, solar installation expert Patrick Halliday, and marketing manager Melissa MacCourt.
Ms Crook said the four were also inspired by the lack of political leadership on environmental issues.
“This may have happened without the anti-coal seam gas movement, but certainly it gave an impetus because it showed that different groups in the community were aware of the need to protect water and food supplies above all else,” she said.
“Bentley showed that if the people came together they could stand up and protect the environment, but what’s been happening progressively is that people are realising if we are going to do anything in the environment we can’t wait for political leaders.
“It’s all about people power and people demonstrating at a local level that they can take control of things for themselves.”