An insight into the Community Energy Congress 2017, by Jessica Burg.
As a second-timer, I was curious and excited to see what this community energy congress had to offer and how other community groups had progressed since the last congress just over 2 years ago. Since our plane was delayed, we took the opportunity at the airport to chat about everything we hoped to learn or develop over the next few days; it was a great mix of legal queries, community engagement, industry challenges and more.
Once we were in Melbourne, there was barely any time to soak up any of the culture, art or even shopping – it was community energy time! Quick bite to eat and then we managed to catch the end of Chris Cooper’s session; sharing all his wisdom from his community energy travels around the world. It was here that I ran into an investor of Repower One, Two & Three, which became a great opportunity to gather feedback about some of our processes & communications.
Day 1 – coffee first, then off we went to Melbourne Town Hall where we were welcomed by the wonderful sounds of the giant organ. Boy did that set the mood! What followed was a morning of insight into where the industry was at, and how it could be developed to help communities. After lunch we broke off into different sessions, for me – financing, legals & risk. It was a very informative session led by leaders in the industry and lawyers. For me, it was a confirmation that what we were doing at Repower Shoalhaven was on track with legal requirements and risk management.
At lunch, I attended the launch of a fantastic toolkit by Frontier Impact Group. The toolkit contains so much useful information for developing community groups, and spoiler alert – Repower Shoalhaven is used a great big case study. The most fantastic thing though, is that it is completely accessible online at www.frontierimpact.com.au (resources). I decided to skip the social event that night, and hit the sack – my mind already boggling with ideas and information.
Day 2 – coffee, or 2. The excitement walking back into that big hall was even greater than the day before. By now, people were talking with one another, groups co-ordinating, ideas flourishing – we were an industry that meant business! I spent some time checking out the stalls, different associations, developers, manufacturers and groups. It was so great to see so many people doing different things in renewables, and so many paths to take.
Open space session – I found myself at a workshop for identifying legal needs for emerging and developed community energy groups. What comes out of it, I hope, is a legal group focused on these needs facilitated in such a way that is economical, efficient and accessible. Sustainable Law Lab – keep an eye out for these guys.
Last break out sessions for the congress – I chose ‘working with energy retailers’, mainly because I was interested in the role a few retailers are playing in developing models which benefit community energy groups. I found this session very enlightening and intriguing, leaving me to want to know more about these initiatives.
The closing plenary was a bunch of emotions rolled into one hour – proud, excited, relieved, motivated, but also a bit sad to be leaving the large group of people that are driving the community energy industry in Australia. Within a few hours, we were on a plane and headed back home.
What an amazing few days. I come back feeling more confident and proud to be a part of Repower Shoalhaven. There are great things ahead for us and I can’t wait.