THE federal government has been challenged to listen to its own advice and to put $300 million on the table to fund regional small-scale renewable projects.
The call comes from independent politician Helen Haines, who recently pushed for a new government agency to be established, which would have supported communities to develop their own renewable energy projects.
A parliamentary committee investigating her bill decided not to support it, finding it difficult to justify the "creation of another bureaucratic agency with all the costs and administration" when pre-existing organisations could provide the same service, such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
However, the committee agreed with many of the core principles in the Indi MP's proposal. In her submission, Ms Haines said the government's existing renewable energy agencies, ARENA and the CEFC, "do not adequately support projects in regional Australia" and called for a wholesale review of those agencies.
"This report very clearly endorses many of the core elements of the Local Power Plan that I developed.... we need more funding and support for locally-owned renewables so more of the benefits of renewables stay local," said Dr Haines.
"The government's existing agencies do excellent work in driving our transition to renewables.
"But this report shows the government needs to have a greater focus on supporting everyday regional Australians who want to take advantage of renewable energy, not just big energy companies in the cities."
The inquiry report called on the government to give regional communities greater control over renewable energy projects and increased funding for community energy grant programs.
It also recommended the establishment of a new program to provide direct technical assistance to regional communities to develop their own locally-owned solar farms and batteries, and a new mechanism to attract investment into community owned projects.
Dr Haines has already met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor to request $300m in the upcoming federal budget to implement the recommendations.
"They understand the government needs to do more for regional renewables, and here they have a ready-made roadmap to get it done,"
"The renewable energy transition could be the next wool boom, the next gold rush for regional Australia. These reforms will help us achieve that."
"Now is the time for the government to stop dragging its heels on locally-owned renewables and make sure regional Australia doesn't miss out on the gold rush of the 21st century."