A couple of years ago, soon after the Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Energy Report was launched, I was telling a friend about their plan which would enable Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy in 10 years at a cost of only $8/week per household. She said, "Great! Where do I send my $8 per week?"
That got me thinking. There must be thousands, possibly millions, of Australians who want more renewable energy badly enough to quite happily contribute to its cost. The only thing lacking was a 'place' to send the money. That was the germ for the CORENA (Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia Inc) concept.
CORENA was incorporated in April 2013 by a group of ordinary people wanting to give all Australians a practical and immediate way of speeding up the transition to 100% renewable energy, instead of just waiting on government action. We currently have 58 members from various states and territories. CORENA is similar in concept to other community-owned renewable energy schemes, except in our case the community is Australia-wide, and we rely on donations rather than investments to fund our projects.
Tulgeen Disability Services, on the far south coast of NSW, has already implemented a variety of energy efficiency measures to reduce their electricity consumption, and hope to install a 7 kW solar system on their roof in the near future. CORENA will provide an interest-free loan of $12,000 to help pay for the solar panels, and Tulgeen Disability Services will pay back the loan out of the savings on their power bills. Once the loan is repaid, Tulgeen Disability Services will benefit from reduced energy costs, and from Day 1, the rest of us will all benefit from the reduction in carbon emissions.
The CORENA Small Projects could be described as revolving crowd-funding. As soon as the Tulgeen loan starts to be repaid, that money will go straight into helping to fund a second project at another community-serving organisation somewhere else in Australia, then another, and another. By the time the public has funded around 120 similar projects, at a total cost of around $2.4 million, the repayments coming back into the fund from earlier projects will be sufficient to keep on funding an endless stream of similar solar and energy efficiency projects way into the future. All we need is one million people to make a one-off donation of $2.40, for example, or 100,000 people to donate $24 each.
CORENA also plans a very ambitious Big Project, namely funding or helping to fund a 50MW solar thermal plant with storage at Port Augusta. Or, depending on the amount of money raised, we might opt for a smaller utility-scale renewable energy project, such as a solar PV farm or similar. Either way, all subsequent profit from electricity sales will go straight into funding the next Big Project. It is renewable energy funded by the people for the people. We rely entirely on donations from people - lots of people - all those people who are worried by climate change or by the health and environmental impacts of coal and gas.
So far we have raised $2,433 towards the $12,000 we need in order to fund solar PV for Tulgeen Disability Services. If you would like to read more about what we do, or to donate to the Tulgeen project, please visit http://corenafund.org.au/category/small-projects/current-small-project/