Green power grab in hippie heartland
Byron Bay residents could form Australia’s first community-owned, not-for-profit, clean energy generator and retailer.
In a region known for attracting all things green, it may not be surprising that an alternative to buying power from big fossil-fuel retailers would emerge.
But the electricity industry is sceptical that a renewable energy generator and retailer would be able to compete.
One-time Qantas Businesswoman of the Year Alison Crook has formed Northern Rivers Energy in the hope of attracting thousands of members, who could then buy, generate or invest in the enterprise.
Ms Crook has secured NSW Government funding for a feasibility study, after which a series of public meetings will begin.
But the Electricity Supply Association (ESA) says Ms Crook's vision is unachievable, due to the vast amounts and low price of available coal power.
The idea is gaining good traction though, with many businesses and homes signing up to offload their excess power.
Renewable energy expert Giles Parkinson says it is a sign of changing times, with a surge in rooftop solar and other power sources breaking down old monopolies.
“The traditional domination by the three big retailers, that's something of the past,” Mr Parkinson told the ABC.
“How it evolves will be very interesting to see but certainly community ownership and the community-owned retailer is one of those options and we've seen it happen in Germany and other parts of Europe where it's very powerful because you have people grouping together.
“They're not trying to make massive profits and they're responding to what the people want to do.”
John Truman, manager of civil services for Ballina Shire Council, said his and other councils would be keen to get involved.
“We're very interested in renewable energy sources so the opportunity to talk to anybody to assist in our future projects is something we'd be very interested in,” Mr Truman told reporters.