Ploy for a renewables gold rush in regions

Independent MP Helen Haines wants regional communities to own a slice of renewable energy projects.
Independent MP Helen Haines wants regional communities to own a slice of renewable energy projects.

Regional communities would own a slice of renewable energy projects in their towns under a proposal from an independent federal politician, which she is offering up to the Nationals.

The federal government is again divided on the topic, with the Nationals jumping on Energy Minister Angus Taylor's bill - for gas projects - to push for taxpayer money to go towards coal and nuclear power.

Indi MP Helen Haines says she has the solution.

The regional Victorian MP has introduced a bill to parliament that would set up an Australian Local Power Agency.

It would cement a requirement for large renewable energy projects to offer at least 20 per cent of the profits to locals living within 30 kilometres.

The agency would also provide funding and technical support for communities hoping to benefit from local renewable energy, and be able to underwrite such projects.

"I've got a bill that I'd be very happy if the National party covered in their logos," Ms Haines told reporters in Canberra.

"This is a solution to that war that's going on within their own ranks."

Ms Haines has likened the potential of renewables to that of the gold rush, which could drive an economic boom in the regions.

"It's time we in the regions stopped being passive recipients of the energy system and started being active owners of it," she told parliament.

"Every spin of a wind turbine and every drop of sunlight should be generating income that stays in our communities."

The regional Victorian has looked at Europe for inspiration, pointing to Germany where farmers own 10 per cent of all renewable energy projects, and others in the community own 30 per cent.

The proposal is the result of extensive community consultation, prompted by numerous groups approaching the MP's office for advice on installing solar.

Farmers for Climate Action have supported the plan, and while the Clean Energy Council agrees with the idea of shared ownership, the group thinks 20 per cent is too much.

"With most large-scale renewable energy projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and in some case - billions of dollars - it is unrealistic for all projects to offer a 20 per cent stake to the local community for co-investment," spokeswoman Anna Freeman said.

"Greater flexibility than a simple target is required within the bill for communities to determine the benefit-sharing approach so that outcomes are positive, rewarding and beneficial for both project proponents and local communities."

It comes as the federal government's gas-fired recovery from coronavirus continues to face opposition.

Feedback is open on the government's plans until Friday.

The Australia Institute has released analysis against it, saying that 10 per cent of the oil and gas industry's workforce lost their jobs in the year to December, a higher rate than other sectors.

Australian Associated Press