Federal independent MP Dr Helen Haines has unveiled a $483 million plan to develop a ‘sunbelt’ of locally owned renewable energy projects across regional Australia.
The Local Power Plan, launched by Dr Haines this week, would establish 50 hubs in regional centres to support everyday communities to develop their own renewable energy projects.
Each of the hubs built as part of the Local Power Plan would provide technical expertise and distribute $650,000 worth of grants to local community groups each year over the next decade.
It would enable local groups to develop their own energy projects.
Dr Haines, who is the federal member for Indi, in regional Victoria, said this part of the plan was modelled on a successful pilot program by the Victorian state Labor government in the regions of Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley.
“In the Victorian pilot, an initial investment of $1.3 million generated 15 projects worth $14.5 million to the local economy and saves people $364,000 in electricity bills every year,” Dr Haines said.
“Our proposal is significantly more ambitious so would deliver much greater economic return and much greater savings.”
One scheme would see the federal government underwrite new mid-scale projects that are at least 51 per cent community-owned.
“The underwriting scheme would attract large private investors to partner with local communities to develop, for instance, a solar farm or a community battery that could help power an entire regional town,” Dr Haines said.
“Every year, energy companies make billions of dollars selling electricity to Australians,” Dr Haines said.
Dr Haines described the proposal as a “catalytic investment” in regional Australia, and said it would mean lower bills, new job opportunities and energy security in the regions.
“To make this a reality, we need the government to come to the table,” she said.
“Right now, we need practical solutions to jolt our economy back to life, and this is a sensible, practical plan we developed with communities right across regional Australia.”
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