What is a Community Energy Project?
A Community Energy Project is a challenging but exciting opportunity for communities to have ownership and control over something incredibly important in their life – energy. We wanted to invite knowledgeable people to have an opportunity to share their knowledge for the benefit of others. So, we interviewed over 60 people and organisations in the process of writing this guide. Their views are embodied in this guide. This guide is written by passionate advocates of community energy, to inspire you and help you in your journey.
How to Guides
Chapter One - Identify your stakeholders, your iwi, and the value of sustainability, equity and resiliency
A community energy project has a wide group of stakeholders. They include all the people, organisations and companies involved in the planning, financing, building, and maintaining the project, including selling the excess electricity. Key stakeholders are also the hapū and iwi in which your community lives who have a deep understanding of the environment upon which your community Energy Project will be built. The values of sustainability, equity and resiliency are very much part of Te Ao Māori. Connecting with stakeholders is very important for the success of your project.
Chapter Two - Developing your overarching vision and defining success for your project
A vision is important – it is imagining the future, but concrete steps need to be put into place for that future to be realised. This section asks the questions why people want to create a community energy project. The section “Defining success for your project” will help define the vision. This leads to an initial scoping and feasibility assessment, which is like drawing the plans of a house and pricing it out. To see it on the ground, first you need to see it on paper. This can be a great motivator for a community group.
Chapter Three - Building community engagement, celebrate milestones and telling your story
Every project needs a cheerleader, an encourager who will find something to celebrate at every opportunity in the progress of the community energy project. Telling the story positively is important for your stakeholders who might be a bit more distant to the project than your community. Enthusiasm translates into commitment to them, and especially for funders, this is good news.
Chapter Four - Defining your governance structures and roles
You want the benefit of our community energy project to last for decades, so it is important to get the legal structure right. There are several structures that can be used. You will need some good advice as to which is best. And then your project will need people to fulfil different roles. This section will help you work through this important decision-making time.
Chapter Five - Understanding the electricity ecosystem
The Energy sector is complicated and electricity the most complicated part of it. It is marvellous once you start to understand it, but it takes while. This section will help you immensely when you are talking with people in the electricity sector. They will appreciate the effort you have made and they will respect you for it. Hopefully that will help you with your project.
Chapter Six - Plan an outline of your community energy project
You want to get it right the first time so unless you have some electricity sector professionals as part of your team, it may be helpful to bring in an expert to take you through this section. This section really help you see what a community energy project could look like.
Chapter Seven - Finance and contract options
This section takes you into the world of negotiations with financiers and contractors. Having someone experienced in these matters on your side of the table will certainly help. Don’t hesitate to talk to your solicitor about the financing agreements or contracts with contractors. Typically, financiers are hesitant to lend to groups or projects where there is little option to recover their funds if things go wrong. A community energy project could fall into that category, hence putting together an application for finance that has been vetted by your community energy project legal adviser is a must. Likewise financial advice from an experienced accountant on community projects would be highly recommended.
Chapter Eight - Connecting to the grid
There is a lot to consider in this important stage of connecting to the grid. Not connecting to the grid is always an option, but then you lose the backup the grid offers you. And you also lose the opportunity to export your electricity and sell it in the electricity market. Selling your excess electricity will bring down the overall price of electricity for your community. There is a lot of opportunity and value in being connected to the grid.
Chapter Nine - Developing your long-term operational and maintenance plan
It is now built and all in place. You’re enjoying renewable electricity from your own community energy project. It’s wonderful reaping the benefits of your dreams and hard work and you want this to continue year after year. That means you must plan for your projects ongoing operation. Someone must run it, monitor and maintain it. And of course, selling your electricity will require someone who can do this. You need to have a plan.
Chapter Ten - Selling your electricity
Reducing the price of electricity for your community energy project is one of the stronger reasons for a project. Selling your excess electricity will bring in revenue to offset your member’s electricity costs. There are some things to learn about selling to the grid. This section will assist you with understanding the options.
Community Energy Projects - Case Studies
To date, there have been three case studies whose experiences have fed into the Community Energy How to Guide. View them below.