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Geraldton Community Energy – Venture Profile

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 have engaged with lawyers to determine our ideal corporate structure and funding roadmap to attract funding. On other fronts, we are working with potential customers and an electricity generator (Tersum Energy), which has aligned values, shares our community commitment and has shared with us their networks and considerable 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 representatives 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 but will continue to push for reform and to build our enterprise so 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 for the most part is supplied by a Government owned monopoly, directed and headquartered on St George’s Terrace. That means the money that the Geraldton community spends on energy essentially flows to Perth and 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 fall significantly. This has caused a significant shift in where generation assets can be deployed. Power stations no longer need to be close to the coalfields of the South West but can sensibly be placed where the sun shines, the wind blows and the population lives.

Unfortunately, the power network architecture in Geraldton and many other ‘fringe of grid’ communities require significant upgrades, before they can accommodate new renewable generation assets. Geraldton Community Energy will work to build a local customer base, matched generation and reduce the reliance on the transmission network.

Since it will be locally incorporated and managed, not only does it facilitate economic growth by removing network constraints on energy supply which constrains business here, but by being managed locally it will ensure 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 electricity demand and activate local utility scale renewable generation and competitive despatcheable power to cope with any intermittency issues.

What is your focus?

Right now our focus is on achieving incorporation, start-up funding and the race to see who will emerge as our foundation customer. We have been overwhelmed by the interest in what we are trying to do and the way we are trying to do it, but it is still challenging to go from the drawing board to up and running at a time of such uncertainty and change in energy markets.

We have an experienced team on our committee (Murray Hadley, Mark Reid, Lisa Farnell) with input from Steve Douglas at Mid West Development Commission, facilitation through Progress Midwest and space support from Pollinators.

Our short term focus is geared towards developing a structure that can accommodate both private and other sources of funding and that can allow modest returns to private investors but also generate community returns for investment in local social programs that can further empower the community or its members.

How can people support you or get involved?

If anybody wants to find out more, I am working as an executive to the steering committee and I’m at Pollinators most days. Feel free to get in touch: becci@progresseconomics.com.au.

Pollinators exists to nurture people and innovations that enable healthy, resilient communities. Our services, programs and events deliver outcomes for the individuals, their ventures, and our wider community, ensuring we are all #winning. Membership is open to innovators, entrepreneurs and organisations who share our values: being connected, collaborative and creative.

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