What is your venture?
Geraldton Community Energy is a start-up, community based ‘profit-for-purpose’ electricity retail enterprise, driven by a focussed group of local community members, who are aiming to address a number of energy issues facing our local community.
Currently, we exist as a steering committee but in November 2017, we engaged Jackson Macdonald to determine a best fit corporate structure aligned with our vision, mission and goals. This resulted in a recommended two entity structure encompassing a public company limited by guarantee and a wholly owned proprietary limited, which would ‘house’ the energy retailer and retail licence. We are working to incorporate and resource this structure presently.
On other fronts, we are working with potential local customers and an electricity generator (Tersum Energy), which has aligned values, shares our community commitment and has shared with us its networks and learnings from the WA energy market. We have also engaged in dialogue with government, to push the energy reform agenda in WA and have government representation on our committee.
In WA currently, only consumers of more than approx. $15,000 pa of electricity have the freedom to choose their electricity supplier (so-called contestable customers). Initially, we will look to supply these customers locally ‘in front of the metre’ and to build up our residential customer segment on a behind the metre basis. We will also continue to advocate for reform and to build our enterprise so that we are ready to provide energy to all sectors of our local community as the market is deregulated.
Given the vast renewable generation potential of the Midwest, coupled with ready access to pipeline gas, we are passionate about developing a significant business which secures local electricity generation and activates further renewable energy investment and innovation. We are in the process of developing a business that is incorporated, directed and managed here in Geraldton, to give local business and individuals an opportunity to invest, provide services and be employed and maximises the economic benefit to our local community.
What problem does it try to address?
Almost all grid connected household and businesses here in Geraldton are buying energy that is supplied by entities incorporated and operated outside the region. This means the money Geraldton’s community spends on energy acts as something of an economic leakage from our local economy.
The centralised model of energy generation, transmission and distribution served us well for many years before a tide of innovation saw the capital cost of renewable energy resources fall significantly. There has been a significant shift in where generation assets can now be deployed. ‘Power stations’ no longer need to be close to the coalfields of the South West and can sensibly be placed where the sun shines, the wind blows, bio-waste is created and wherever the population lives.
Unfortunately, the power network transmission infrastructure in Geraldton and many other ‘fringe of grid’ communities can require significant upgrades, before it can accommodate utility scale, renewable generation assets within regional communities. Geraldton Community Energy will work to build a local customer base, matched generation and will therefore reduce the reliance on the transmission network.
Since it will be locally incorporated and managed, not only it facilitate economic growth by removing network constraints on energy supply which constrains business here, but in being managed locally it will ensure that more of the money from operating the enterprise will translate into local employment and contract opportunities.
GCE will provide the corporate vehicle that can consolidate local electricity demand and activate local utility scale renewable generation and competitive despatchable power to cope with any intermittency issues.
A locally owned and operated community enterprise will be agile and able to incorporate clean generation, significantly reducing electricity costs for local customers.
What is your focus?
Right now our focus is on achieving incorporation, start-up funding and securing our foundation customers, in a way that is consistent with our community values. We have been overwhelmed by the interest in what we are trying to do and the way we are trying to do it. Despite national energy policy uncertainty, we are keen to provide a local energy solution which is competitively priced, and more sustainable for the environment and the community.
We have an experienced team on our steering committee, Murray Hadley, Mark Reid, Euan Beamont, Peter Klein, Rebecca Davidson and Todd West, with input from the Mid West Development Commission.
Our longer term focus will be geared towards building the local community and business customer base and in continuing to ensure that we are in a position of strength to provide a competitive local energy alternative particularly as the WA energy market is deregulated and opens up to greater competition. We aim to provide modest returns to any private investors in the retail or other investment vehicles we might offer, but also generate a community return through investment in local social programs from surpluses generated for the not-for-profit arm.
How can people support you or get involved?
We are currently calling for expressions of interest on a number of fronts.
We are extremely keen to identify householders and businesses in the central Geraldton area who are interested to save money on their power bills by hosting solar panels and battery storage on their homes. We are also keen to hear from passionate community members, who can have useful business and marketing skills to help us get this ambitious enterprise off the ground.
To find out more or register your interest, please visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/geraldtoncommunityenergy.
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