Frontier Impact Group has been involved in assisting in the development of renewable energy projects across Australia. Recently Frontier Impact Group completed a project that addressed the funding options for communities to build renewable energy projects with a number of partners including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), Clean Energy Finance Corporate, Coaliton for Community Energy, NSW government, Yarra Community Solar, Embark and many others. They have also been exploring the idea of community cooperative models and see the key driver is for communities to use community investors as equity partners in their own projects.
The workshop was hosted by Fiona Lewis from NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and targeted local councils, community energy groups, NFP organisations and local businesses in the Greater Hunter and Central Coast regions. Presenters included: Jennifer Lauber Patterson and Mal Campbell from Frontier Impact Group and Tom Nockolds from Pingala.
The workshop was supported by the NSW Government Department of Planning and Environment and ARENA and aimed to provide participants with the tools needed to enable community renewable projects to get off the ground quickly with sound economic and environmental outcomes. The workshops sought to provide an in-depth understanding of the Community Renewable Energy Toolkit, which was developed as a guide for developing community solar projects by Frontier Impact Group.
Training was provided to support the use of the toolkit and included:
- Completing the planning and financial assessment of a real project;
- Identify key challenges in securing funding for Community Energy projects and how to overcome them;
- Recognising the steps required to develop large and small-scale Behind the Meter Solar PV projects;
- Managing risks associated with the development of Solar PV Projects;
- Learning how to use and apply the financial model template (spreadsheet) for Behind the Meter Solar PV projects; and
- Understanding the sharing of benefits between host sites and Behind the Meter Solar PV project investors.
The different forms of project funding for community renewable energy projects and factors that affect the choice of funding were described including:
- Equity funding: Retail and wholesale investors, institutional funds/banks (social impact funds), sweat equity and angel investors;
- Debt funding: Retail and wholesale investors, institutional funds/banks, angel investors, corporate balance sheets, and equipment lease companies.
- In-kind support
Case studies presented included: the Repower Shoalhaven project and Pingala: Young Henrys Project.
The Behind the Meter guidebook details the key project elements of a behind the meter Solar PV project and project phases (concept, prefeasibility, feasibility and final funding phases). The guidebook provides a logical checklist of things that need to be addressed at each phase in the project. This would be a very useful tool for Community Energy projects to help ensure their success.