Electricity retailer Enova Community Energy, created from grass-roots community action in the Northern Rivers, has switched on its community-owned social enterprise energy model in Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast, Wollongong and surrounding areas.

The expansion enables Enova to supply electricity to homes and businesses throughout the entire state of New South Wales. Previously, Enova has only serviced regional New South Wales on the Essential Energy network.

Enova Community Energy was founded in 2016 in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales as a direct outcome of protests against coal seam gas fracking and the community’s drive towards alternative energy models. More than 1,600 individual Australian shareholders have invested to grow the organisation.

The company already has more than 6,500 customers throughout regional New South Wales. Enova CEO, Felicity Stening, said, “Enova’s aim is to establish an energy supply model that can be recreated by communities across the country and in the longer term, produce enough renewable energy locally to meet all its customers’ energy needs.”

Already more than 60 per cent of Enova’s customers have rooftop solar panels, which is more than three times the state and national average of solar take-up.

Enova is harnessing this renewable resource by buying back exported solar energy with a high feed-in tariff and recirculating it. Up to half of its energy supply comes from its own customers’ solar rooftops.

“Enova will work in collaborative partnerships with organisations and communities to facilitate and implement initiatives that create new energy models, where energy is locally generated, community-owned renewable energy,” Ms Stening said.

“The aim is to pave the way for towns and suburbs to generate, store and share their own energy and move away from coal-fired power sourced from long distances away.

“We are purposefully and actively disrupting the energy model that is reliant on polluting energy travelling across long-distance networks of poles and wires.

“That model from the 20th century is outdated and inefficient, as power is lost along the way. It’s also a model that sucks money out of local communities and directs it into often foreign-owned private enterprises.”

Enova Community Energy is focused on increasing the amount of locally-generated renewable energy, building energy security in local areas and ensuring money spent on energy bills circulates in local communities. As a social enterprise, 50 per cent of Enova’s profits are directed into initiatives to facilitate this vision through its registered not-for-profit charity arm.

Enova also plans to retail electricity to New South Wales as well as Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

This will enable community-owned large- and small-scale renewable energy generation and storage projects. In addition, new energy models facilitating the generation, distribution, storage and sharing of energy through local energy trading, microgrids, virtual power plants and solar gardens will deliver sustainable and resilient communities.

“Solar gardens and microgrids are key innovations for introducing community-owned locally-generated energy to suburbs and towns around the state and reducing reliance on long-distance corporate-owned energy. By leveraging technology and partnerships, we’re already delivering outcomes in this regard in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales and we have our first metropolitan solar garden and partnership announcements coming soon,” Ms Stening said.

Enova is already building a body of knowledge for making local energy systems, solar gardens and microgrids happen.

“Our vision for Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong is to enable energy self-sufficiency for everyone. To achieve this, we need to connect businesses in industrial precincts and houses in streets, so they can share locally-generated electricity amongst themselves; and, we need to harness rooftop solar in a way that enables people who can’t have solar panels to receive the benefits,” Ms Stening said.

Enova Community Energy’s next expansion is targeted for South East Queensland in April 2020.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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