ALPA Hearing

A photo of two documents, one a black and white parliamentary bill and the other a colour magazine-style report

It’s not nearly as exciting as a 63% reduction on your power bill, but TRY has been helping to develop energy policy as well. On 27 August TRY participated in our first parliamentary hearing, as a witness to the Inquiry into the Australian Local Power Agency (ALPA) Bills developed and tabled by Dr Helen Haines MP.

TRY has been involved in the development of the ALPA bills since early 2020, participating (along with community energy retailer Indigo Power and other community energy groups) on the expert panel that helped to shape the bill, and providing a submission on what we felt was needed to promote community energy in Australia. We were also present in Parliament House in February 2021 when Helen Haines tabled the bill in the House of Representatives.

The bill was subsequently referred to the Energy and Environment Committee to examine the bill and the benefits that it might provide. TRY also made a submission to the committee in early July, as did Indigo Power and many other individuals and groups around Australia. The public hearing was the culmination of the committee’s examination process and they will now write a final report with recommendations to the parliament.

Our session of the hearing went well, despite some technical glitches. James Jenkins did a great job of TRY’s presentation and Matt Charles-Jones answered a Labour MP’s climate change question very smoothly!

All the presenters in TRY’s session, RAW Energy, TRY, RePower Shoalhaven, the amazing indigenous organisation Original Power, and Heather Smith of C4CE (peak body of the community energy sector) and CORENA (not-for-profit funding group), answered the climate change question well – acknowledging climate change but emphasising the enormous benefits to communities of energy transition and not buying into the partisan dialogue that the Labour politician was trying to provoke.

The rest of the sessions were good, with some having some excellent dialogue around benefits and barriers to community energy groups and other organisations.

A few of the best presentations and answers to questions came from the National Farmers Federation, Hepburn Wind (a community wind farm), SolarShare (a community solar farm near Canberra), Bronwyn Chapman of the Goulburn Murray Climate Alliance, RE-Alliance (a renewable energy alliance) and Farmers for Climate Action, to pick out a few.

One of the best overall sessions was the one on the Community Power Hub model with Sustainability Victoria, the City of Greater Bendigo, Energetic Communities Assoc (a Queensland based community-energy hub) and the Community Power Agency (the industry body for community energy groups). The Clean Energy Council initially came out as a somewhat adversarial witness with respect to the 20% co-investment clause for commercial scale projects, but then provided some really insightful testimony in the Q&A.

Overall there was some fantastic testimony and some good feedback to help tweak a few parts of the bill. But the response to the bill was overwhelmingly positive and asked for the bill to be passed by the parliament. The total number of submissions received was over 1,000, and only a bare handful were negative, which is an enormous achievement for a parliamentary bill.

We now have to wait until the committee publishes its report. There are no guarantees that the Liberal dominated committee will support the bill. But the pressure to start proactively addressing climate change, especially internationally, is building, and this bill is a neat solution for the Liberal and National parties. It provides tangible benefits to rural and regional communities in areas that are often the Liberal/National heartland – it would be a once in a century shot in the arm for rural, regional and remote communities – and it will at the same time reduce carbon emissions. We have presented the best case that we can. Now, fingers crossed…

If you want to read more about what was said at the hearing, take a look at these articles:

Farmers support new govt agency to spread renewable energy wealth, Jamieson Murphy

Farm Online National, 31 August 2021

Haines’ Local Power Agency plan could be huge boost for community energy projects, Michael Mazengarb

Renew Economy, 27 August 2021

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