Small villages such as Central Tilba could install community solar and battery stations if costly applications were removed, a South Coast not-for-profit group says.
South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) president Kathryn Maxwell says communities wishing to install small-to-medium shared facilities faced application costs of up to $75,000 from electricity providers.
If the NSW Government removed such barriers, communities could provide their own power and storage systems, without overloading the electricity grid.
Ms Maxwell on Wednesday, September 23, was participating in the launch of a national campaign by regional Victorian independent MP for the seat of Indi, Helen Haines.
The MP is pushing for a $483 million economic recovery plan for regional Australia, based on renewable energy and says the South Coast of NSW is a potential site for such projects.
However, while some have flagged larger scale projects such a wind farms, SHASA prefers small-to-medium solar projects which have the backing of their communities.
Ms Maxwell said Tilba was a perfect opportunity.
She hoped Dr Haines' project secured a hub to help the shire's community groups plan solar projects.
"It would help to overcome all the barriers communities face in trying to scale up," Ms Maxwell told Australian Community Media.
"We have been involved in a lot of roof-top solar.
"We want to put in a facility in Tilba with a large community battery, with a number of solar installations.
"It could be on the community hall, the Rural Fire Service (for example).
"The difficulty is that the NSW Government focus is on large-scale business, which is great, but the medium-scale, community-owned sector, needs more assistance.
"It needs barriers removed. You have to pay a large sum just to find out if they will approve a community-scale facility."
Ms Maxwell said such application fees were paid to providers such as Essential Energy.
"It is about $75k to get the tick that the grid can handle it," she said.
"That is an enormous cost when you have no certainly of going ahead."
Ms Maxwell said projects of one-to-five megawatts capacity faced "extremely difficult" hurdles in NSW "even compared to Victoria".
SHASA hoped to see the establishment of "a body to work through these issues with the state government so all these communities that want to go ahead can feasibly do it".
She said Central Tilba's small businesses depended entirely on tourism.
"If we could get a system that supplied and stored the power, and worked the grid really well, this would make an enormous difference to the community," she said.
"It becomes a selling point: 'we are an eco-friendly town, a carbon-neutral town."
Ms Maxwell said small-to-medium solar installations were more likely than wind farms on the Eurobodalla coastline.
"The council has done a through assessment and the only really feasible (plant) is solar," she said.
Ms Maxwell said wind farms were controversial.
"You will have enormous opposition; issues with birds and sea birds and the resource is variable, sometimes windy, sometimes calm."
Ms Maxwell said small-to-medium community projects were the most economical "and the one the community can engage with without so much opposition".
"The economic benefit stays local; local jobs, local installers; the community is investing and gets the return," she said.
The Tilba project, if it went ahead, would follow similar projects in Germany.
"Half of German renewables is done this way; small scale, community owned," she said.
"It is a proven way of going forward. We have done surveys and there is a lot of interest."
SHASA did not believe large investment was likely on the South Coast, but there was potential for several smaller projects.
"We could have quite a few up and down the coast," she said.
"We know our grid can take it.
"One of the big problems with big solar farms is that a lot of the power goes onto the grid in the middle of the day.
"Small to medium (projects) with batteries will not overload the grid.
"When the sun is not shining, the businesses can access the stored power."
Ms Maxwell said about 650 people had signed up for the virtual launch of Dr Haines' campaign on September 23 and was proud that SHASA was one of three groups selected to present.
"There is a lot of interest out there; it is exciting that this happening at a national level, that we have a federal MP driving this," she said.
"A uniform approach would be great."
Dr Haines hoped her Local Power Plan would deliver "a new locally-owned renewable power station" to the South Coast.
She said her campaign was "a blueprint to reboot economic activity in regional Australia" and "would establish 50 hubs around the country to support local community groups to develop their own renewable energy projects"
"The hub would provide technical expertise and distribute $650,000 worth of grants to local community groups each year for the next 10 years."
Dr Haines said the proposal was modelled on a successful pilot program in the Victorian cities of Bendigo and Ballarat and in the Latrobe Valley.
"In the Victorian pilot, an initial investment of $1.3 million generated 15 projects worth $14.5 million to the local economy and saved people $364,000 in electricity bills every year," she said.
Dr Haines also wants "a public underwriting scheme for majority community-owned energy projects".
"The underwriting scheme would attract large private investors to partner with local communities to develop, for instance, a solar farm or a community battery that could help power an entire regional town," she said.
Dr Haines has also called for "any new large-scale renewable energy projects to offer locals the chance to purchase up to 20 per cent of the project value and secure a minority stake in new projects".
"Every year, energy companies make billions of dollars selling electricity to Australians," she said.
"If everyday regional Australians could invest in these new renewable power stations, we'd create a significant new income stream for everyday people."