“Green” revolution led by local communities

12 Jun 2013

Major infrastructure projects will make a significant contribution to expanding Australia’s commitment to clean and green energy at a community level under the vision of not for profit organisation Embark.

The brainchild of Simon Holmes à Court and Mary Dougherty, Embark is part of the successful Lend Lease consortium that bid to redevelop the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct (SICEEP) in Darling Harbour.

Holmes à Court is the former chair (and a current director) of Hepburn Wind – Australia’s first community wind farm.

The two-and-a-half billion dollar Darling Harbour makeover includes a plan for a 400 kilowatt community-based solar farm on the roofs of the exhibition centre and the entertainment complex – the intention being to meet the base power requirements of these two buildings.

Embark Executive Director Andy Cavanagh-Downs (one of the keynote speakers at All-Energy Australia 2013 in Melbourne on October 9th and 10th) says what his organisation is proposing won’t just benefit SICEEP, but other significant developments – large and small. He says the principle remains consistent.

“A community group puts forward a proposal to an energy consumer to build a solar farm at a predetermined site. Once that is accepted, the community group sets up a company with a Board that manages the project. The company raises capital to totally fund the project from the local community. That capital is then used to procure and install the solar equipment at the site. The output of the solar installation is sold to the energy consumer over a 25 year period. Local investors get a return on capital of five percent per annum.”

Mr Cavanagh-Downs says the benefits to the local community, the business world and the environment are numerous.

“It gives local residents the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile project – a group of people take a stand and there is the reward of achieving a goal. People come together for a cause and engender a sense of community. The host of the project gets to purchase more renewable energy and engage directly with the local community. They are seen as responsible corporate citizens that use existing procurement procedures to affect social and environmental change,” Mr Cavanagh-Downs says.

But that is not all. He says this is an investment that keeps on giving.

The community Board gets to choose “a good cause for the year” and investors have the opportunity to either receive their dividend and capital return for that year, accept one and donate the other to the good cause, or donate both their dividend and their capital return.

Mr Cavanagh-Downs says the cause could be clean energy-related or linked to community needs, such as wheelchairs for the elderly, local sporting equipment or playground improvements etcetera.

The biggest challenge is finding suitable project hosts that will commit for a quarter of a century. The operator of Sydney’s exhibition centre and entertainment complex is on track to become the first.

Mr Cavanagh-Downs anticipates that “more and more businesses will opt in as the push for greater energy alternatives and local energy generation develops over the next decade and beyond.”

Embark is also working on community wind projects, including one involving New England Wind around Armadale in northern NSW.

All-Energy Australia – held annually at Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre – is this nation’s largest and most successful clean and renewable energy exhibition and multi-stream conference.

With more than 100 leading local and international speakers and in excess of 270 exhibitors, it attracts up to 5,000 delegates from around the world.


Sign up to our newsletter to get All-Energy Australia mail straight to your inbox.