Consumers SA’s Brian Attwood attended a Frontier Impact Group meeting held at the Adelaide Hilton on 24 November 2017. Brian reports that any group looking at setting up a Community Power Generation cooperative would benefit from the work of the Victorian-based Frontier Impact Group: which is now being shared with the wider Australian community.
The group's Community Energy Funding Toolkit is designed to, "up-skill the financial literacy of community energy developers and increase the likelihood that projects can be funded”. A Frontier Impact Group steering group decided to develop the toolkit when it, "discovered that funding was one of the key barriers for Community Energy project developers and there was a need to improve financial literacy around renewable energy projects”. The steering group consisted of the Australian Renewable Energy Association (ARENA), the NSW Government, and Community for Clean Energy (C4CE), Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Community Power Agency, and Embark.
The toolkit currently consists of two guidebooks: the Funding Basics Guidebook and a Behind the Meter Solar PV guidebook.
The Behind the Meter guidebook focuses on demonstrating the steps needed to develop, and successfully fund, community solar PV projects. This guidebook is the first to be released as the group identified Behind the Meter solar projects as having the highest likelihood of becoming commercially viable and a strong potential for replication. A large proportion of the successful projects developed to date are Behind the Meter solar PV projects. Subject to funding, the next guidebooks will cover Grid Connected Solar PV and wind projects followed by energy storage projects.
The Adelaide meeting was also shown (and very successfully trialled) a computer package called Sunulator, described as:
“...a simulation tool that can help you plan for grid-connected solar power. Unlike most other solar calculators, Sunulator uses half-hourly consumption and generation data over a whole year to estimate how much solar generation will be consumed onsite versus exported. Based on electricity tariff information, it then calculates the impact on your electricity bill and projects the savings over a 30-year time frame. Financial results include payback period, net present value and return on investment.
Sunulator allows you to compare the results for several scenarios, e.g different sizes of solar array or panel orientations, or different amounts of battery storage.
In Australia most solar systems are owned directly by the electricity consumer, usually a homeowner. Sunulator can also assist community organisations to install solar systems via additional investment options:
- A community organisation installs a system and sells electricity to the host site
- A solar system is installed through a loan from a community organisation
- A community organisation acts as an electricity retailer.
Economic returns are estimated both for investors and the host site".
To get the Alternative Technology Association Sunulator go to: ata.org.au/ata-research/sunulator
Brian says that, “[Sunulator] is invaluable and would greatly reduce costs of deciding whether an energy project is viable or not, in a relatively simple computer program, for such a complex subject".