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Community power for NSW — the little company that could


A SMALL COMMUNITY-owned energy retailer has big plans to expand its community-based energy operations throughout regional and metropolitan NSW and to other states.

From its home base in Byron Bay, Enova Community Energy Ltd is currently rolling out its services in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and to the whole of NSW in October, with further expansion scheduled into QLD early in the new year. The company prides itself on being Australia’s first community-owned power company, putting the welfare of the community and the planet above corporate profits.

Enova says its business model differs from Australia’s current energy system where large scale generation plants and long-distance distribution networks result in a constant flow of dollars out of the community.

Seen as a “social enterprise” energy retailer, Enova advocates for a decentralised system where electricity is generated, stored and shared within local communities. With a not-for-profit arm, half of Enova’s profits (after tax and reinvestment) is allocated to the development of renewable energy and community projects in local areas.

Shareholders and customers

“Our mission is to ensure that the vast amount of money which normally flows out of our local communities in the form of residential and commercial energy bills remains within the communities and directly benefits local residents and businesses,” said Enova’s CEO, Felicity Stening. “As we expand from the Northern Rivers, we will direct funding for community energy projects into many other local communities across NSW.”

Community-owned power company — community and planet above corporate profits

With over 1,600 shareholders and more than 6,000 customers, Enova has big plans for its community approach to renewable energy. Working through councils, local community and climate action groups, Enova will roll out community energy services and plans to the rest of NSW, south east Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

“More than 60% of our existing customers already have solar PV systems, which is three times the national average,” said Stening, “Customers contribute excess solar power into the grid and receive what was the market-leading feed-in tariff for many years of 16 cents per kWh. Enova’s long-term vision is to assist communities to transition to a 100% renewable energy future.”

Smart meter concept for microgrids

community-power-inset-oct2019In addition to helping communities hang on to energy dollars that remain within community energy projects, Enova is starting to test virtual microgrids for businesses within the Byron Bay industrial area.

Microgrids involve businesses being provided with Wattwatchers metering devices that monitor energy generation and usage at five second intervals — enabling businesses to quickly access better retail tariffs for the energy they consume or export to the grid.

Enova is working with project partners including Essential Energy, L03, Wattwatchers, and the University of NSW which is providing data modelling support to help convince regional businesses that investment in microgrids makes economic sense.

‘Solar gardens’ to bring in renters and apartment dwellers

For many people in the community there are barriers to adopting renewable energy. For example, a lack of residential roof space for apartment dwellers prevents them from installing solar panels. Residents in rented homes may also lack access to renewable energy, or those residents with lower incomes may simply not be able to afford the installation costs.

To address these barriers Enova is developing the concept of “solar gardens”. Enova will source local locations for the installation of solar panels, such as factory or warehouse rooftops and negotiate with owners to install solar infrastructure and feed their excess generation to a virtual grid. Residents who would otherwise not have access to solar energy can then become members in the scheme and receive credits against their ongoing energy bills.

The first solar garden is due to be launched in the Northern Rivers in the coming month, with another scheduled for release in Sydney before the end of the year.

Enova is looking for more regional communities to partner with and is asking climate action and local energy groups to get in touch with them to promote a localised energy approach and build self-sufficient and resilient communities.

Further information regarding Enova’s vision and current services can be found in the following link

IMAGES: Supplied by Enova.

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