The planned community-owned Goulburn Solar Farm has been put on hold.
Community Energy for Goulburn (CE4G) has been planning the 1.8 MW solar farm on the outskirts of Goulburn for over four years, only to postpone building it at the last minute because of what they claim is “government procrastination in the energy market.”
CE4G President Ed Suttle announced the delay at group meeting last week.
“A grant from the state government had been put on hold, and the instability caused by the ructions in the Federal LNP has meant that it’s been almost impossible to forecast what the financial state of the project would be outside of the next three years,” Mr Suttle said.
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“Once the state and federal governments can sort out who they really want to support and what kind of future they want for our children and grandchildren we might be able to re-activate the solar farm project and start producing energy for this local community who will own it at the same time.”
In response, State Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said apart from an initial $52,000 grant to investigate the feasibility of the community solar project – there were no further grants on hold.
“Since I first started discussing state government grants with CE4G, two months ago, I haven’t stopped looking for grant opportunities. There is no application on hold because there is no grant application in progress,” Ms Goward said.
“I approached CE4G a few months ago to advise the group that I believed there was some funding that would suit the project. We have some wonderful options that may offer a decent amount of money.”
“The indecision referred to is not at a state government level.”
Ms Goward said she made formal representations about the project to NSW Energy and Utilities Minister Don Harwin MLC in July this year.
She said the NSW Government had demonstrated their support of CE4G by providing the initial $52,000 in feasibility funding. This was part of the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Growing Community Energy Program, held between 2015-17.
She said a Regional Community Energy Program might be able to assist.
“Last month Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the new Regional Community Energy Program and part of this new program is designed to help regional community energy groups to take charge of their own energy projects,” Ms Goward said.
“Applications for this program have not yet opened, however the department has been in contact with CE4G to provide more information about the program and its availability.”
Meanwhile, Mr Suttle said community energy is in its infancy in Australia, but thriving in Europe and America, and drives almost half of all renewable energy projects in Denmark and Germany.
“In Scotland there are over 15,000 community owned renewable installations producing over 500 MW of electricity,” he said.
“In Australia, the numbers barely reach 100 MW, yet there is so little support for this industry here.
“International experience has demonstrated that community energy can stand on its feet within a relatively short time, but needs government support in its start-up phase, just like fossil fuel generation had when governments built all the power stations.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Minister for Energy Don Harwin said the Minister admired CE4G’s commitment to the project.
“CE4G have been advised by the NSW Government to apply for this program which provides grant funding for community energy projects that are either innovative or dispatchable, with the capacity to deliver real benefits to the local community,” the spokesperson said.
“We admire the initiative of CE4G and their commitment to what seems an innovative and worthwhile opportunity for the Goulburn community.”
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