Energy projects sought

Gippsland Climate Change Network’s Latrobe Community Power Hub is on the look-out for community partners for small-scale energy projects.

It comes after the Latrobe Community Power Hub was named as host organisation for one of three, two-year pilot hubs in Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley to support the development of renewable energy projects. The state government has committed $900,000 for the pilot hubs.

Latrobe Community Power Hub project officer Chris Barfoot said the hub now had a two-year window in which to prove itself.

“It’s got to stand on its own two feet without funding and to make a difference in that time,” he said.

Having passed the first stage of planning, Mr Barfoot said the hub was moving on to the next phase.

“The first stage, as you can imagine is typical contractual arrangements, setting up the governance models, setting up the rules and regulations … getting the facilities in place, working out financing and so forth,” he said.

“We’ve reached the end of that phase and now we’re moving on to the stage where we can start to search for projects.

“We can interact with community groups and work out what we can do with them, and we can look at ideas for community members to potentially invest in community energy.”

Mr Barfoot said the Latrobe Community Power Hub could sit down with interested organisations to complete detailed financial and engineering models for possible projects.

“The idea, of course, is that we are trying to reduce the load on the people and on the community groups that are out there, to try and make it more economic for them and preferably where they are a not-for-profit organisation, hopefully they can provide more services to their members,” he said.

“These [engineering/financial] plans take any time up to a month by the time we have the data sorted. But once it is done, I know I can offer you a solid plan going forward.

“Then it is up to that group how they want to progress. They may want to take it away and fundraise and do it themselves, which is great – we’re there to assist them in that process. They may instead want us to help them find investors, which we can do. Or again, it may be a purely financial arrangement through another organisation, such as Bank Australia or Bendigo Bank.

“It comes down to what they want to do. Some groups have very experienced people and they want to run the project themselves, we’ll just help with assistance. Other groups don’t have that expertise, in which case we can provide a more detailed service for them.”

Mr Barfoot said the hub was interested in “all sorts of options” for projects with a wide range of potential partners.

“A classic example would be a nursing home, there are not-for-profit nursing homes around here which we would be very interested in working with,” he said.

“Another example would be Centenary House, at the hospital, which is funded by the various Rotary groups, and again, if we can find a way to put more money into their pockets so they can provide more services, then fantastic.”

Mr Barfoot said the hub was hoping to have successful projects up and running by the middle of next year.