Although the long-term benefits of renewable energy clearly outweigh the upfront cost, often not-for-profit community organisations simply do not have the upfront capital to fund the installation of solar and energy efficiency upgrades. In 2019, Healesville Community Renewalbe Energy (HCoRE) received a $90,000 Federal Government grant to install solar panels on three local not-for-profit groups. For the next two years we worked on the project, developing ideas and plans, collaborating closely with Yarra Ranges Council, sourcing finance, developing contracts, until finally in March 2021, with much excitement, the first panels were placed on the Robyn Jane Children’s Centre. The next not-for-profit group to benefit was Healesville Living & Learning Centre, and finally in June 2022 a 39kw solar system was installed on St Brigid’s Primary School.
HCoRE was quite creative in structuring the finance – instead of just putting solar on the three buildings, we established a Community Energy Revolving Fund to develop and offer an interest-free loan. This means that the three groups will repay the funds over 7-8 years from the estimated savings on their electricity bill, and at the end of the pay-back period, they will enjoy another 20 to 25 years of free solar electricity. As the interest-free funds are repaid from these savings, HCoRE will then reallocate the funds to another community solar energy project, so that the funds keep recycling within the community for a longer period.
The Community Energy Revolving Fund builds community energy resilience and helps local organisations to cut power bills and reduce carbon emissions.