Independent MP's push for regional profits from renewable energy boom

Independent MP Helen Haines pushes for regional profits from renewable energy boom

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Indi MP Helen Haines. Picture: Karleen Minney

Indi MP Helen Haines. Picture: Karleen Minney

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Independent MP Helen Haines will table a bill in Parliament today creating a new agency helping direct economic benefits from renewable projects into regional communities.

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Regional communities would receive support to develop their own renewable energy projects and share in profits with larger renewables companies under legislation proposed by independent MP Helen Haines.

The member for Indi will table a bill in Parliament today to create a new federal Australian Local Power Agency facilitating direct benefits for regional areas from renewable projects.

It would administer a dedicated grants scheme for community energy projects, underwrite community investment in mid-scale projects and facilitate co-investment involving both communities and renewables developers.

Ms Haines said the plan would change the relationship between people living in regional Australia and energy.

"Up until now, when we've been relying on fossil fuels, not many people can participate in energy generation, it's really a large corporation exercise," she said.

Despite renewables being rapidly developed in regional Australia, local communities too often failed to receive the full economic benefits of the investment through local jobs, skills training, and procurement, Ms Haines said.

Every spin of a wind turbine and every drop of sunlight should be generating income that stays in our communities. - Helen Haines

The bill, seconded by crossbench MP Zali Steggall, would address that by letting regional communities receive direct economic benefits from renewables projects in their areas.

"Last year, Australia installed a record amount of renewable energy, the equivalent of four Hazelwood power stations," Ms Haines said.

"We have two agencies dedicated to accelerating that investment, but no policies in place to make sure that investment translates into economic benefits for regional communities.

"The idea behind ALPA is simple: every electron generated in the regions should be money coming back into the pockets of everyday regional people.

"Every spin of a wind turbine and every drop of sunlight should be generating income that stays in our communities."

Developers of new renewable energy projects would have to offer 20 per cent of the value of their projects for local residents to invest in.

"If we had a system like that in Australia, that would be billions of dollars flowing straight into the pockets of people in regional Australia every year," Ms Haines said.

Under similar models in Europe, profits from locally owned renewables were invested directly back into communities, Ms Haines said.

"It's a great opportunity for diversification of income into small shires where they've got a low ratepayer base," she said.

"If we had that capacity for our farming communities to invest in energy projects, that's a great new source of income in the middle of a drought, something that right now they don't have access to."

The story Independent MP's push for regional profits from renewable energy boom first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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