North Coast Australia’s First Community Energy Retailer

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Northern Rivers Energy (NRE), a company being formed by a consortium of forward thinking citizens of the Northern Rivers, has taken the first step to realising its ambition to establish a community-owned renewable energy retailer.
NRE has been awarded $54,000 from a consortium including the Total Environment Centre (TEC) and Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), to develop a business plan.

“We had several excellent tenders, but the NRE tender won because they had the most sophisticated and thorough understanding of the ways that the Northern Rivers community could be involved in the company,” said Mark Byrne of TEC.

“We hope NRE will be able to work with regional renewable generators to turn the vision into a reality,’ he said. He cited a possible example of Cape Byron Power, the new owner of the sugar mill cogeneration plants at Condong and Broadwater, presently the largest source of local renewable energy generation.

NRE spokesperson Alison Crook said full-scale community consultation will be carried out after the NRE completes the funded feasibility study and can produce detailed financial modelling.

“We want to give the people throughout the Northern Rivers the opportunity even at this early stage to signal their interest in participating in early rounds of discussions,” she said. She stressed that NRE is committed to community and environmental benefit.

NRE will encompass energy retailing, generation and asset management, and an educational energy literacy arm. It will service the entire Northern Rivers Region, covering the Tweed, Kyogle, Byron, Lismore Ballina, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley local government areas.

NRE aims to:

• Provide renewable energy at competitive prices and purchase solar and other renewable energy at a fair price from residential, commercial and government system owners.
• Facilitate community investment in larger (medium) scale renewable energy projects. Such projects may be initiated from anywhere in the community.
• Provide and maintain renewable energy equipment including energy storage equipment.
• Enable purchase of equipment by consumers through lease, finance, or power purchase agreements.
• Partner with social housing providers, caravan parks, retirement villages, and owners of multi-occupancy dwellings to facilitate access to renewable energy and efficient solutions for people on low incomes.
• Develop and operate a not for profit arm focussing on Energy Literacy (education and demand management). This would run a range of community based programs aimed at lowering demand and increasing efficiency of use.
• Facilitate more efficient energy use through innovation, more effective equipment, demand management systems and incentive schemes.
• Create jobs in the region in all aspects of the company’s business, and through purchasing from local providers and suppliers.

“Here in the Northern Rivers we have all the ingredients necessary to demonstrate that communities can meet their energy needs without relying on fossil fuels and can live in greater harmony with the environment, and still flourish”, said Ms Crook.

“The Northern Rivers already has a high level of take-up of solar PV. We have a community that really understands what it means to be a community and to support each other. And we have a community that demonstrably is aware of the reality of climate change and wants to do something constructive about it. If any region can show how the renewable industry can both create employment and reduce our impact on the environment, this region can,”Ms Crook said.

As soon as the feasibility study and business plan enable a sufficient understanding of the financial constraints within which the NRE must work, the team will begin a series of presentations and discussions with interested members of the public, and with community and business organisations. NRE is seeking input from the community to help shape the company vision and strategies.

Those interested are invited to go to the website: www.nre.org.au and register to obtain more information or participate in the project.

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