Enova to lead Northern Rivers solar energy revolution

RELUCTANCE from government and the big three energy retailers to truly embrace renewable energy has paved the way for a Northern Rivers people-powered energy revolution.

Set to officially launch early next month, Enova Energy, a community-owned energy retailer based at Byron Bay, aims to position the region as a solar leader.

Its chief executive is Steve Harris, a former senior executive at Origin Energy. Enova's chair is Alison Crook AO, a former deputy vice chancellor of Monash University and Qantas Businesswoman of the Year. Local energy consultant Patrick Halliday will spearhead the company's solar installation and maintenance arm.

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The not-for-profit company will create 15 local marketing and administration jobs within six months, with a view to ramping up business for existing local solar installers as well as creating an educational arm.

Enova will buy and sell energy and promises the country's highest feed-in tariffs and lowest Green Power price. It has already been approached by other regional community groups looking to take on its not-for-profit model.

Enova's five-year goal is to partner with social welfare groups to tackle energy poverty in the region.

The start-up is headed by former executive heavyweights, disillusioned by the government's inaction on renewables.

"One of the reasons we are doing this is because we believe the government is absolutely not doing the right thing to get the renewable energy industry going in this country," Coorabell-based Ms Crook said.

"It's a gap that we think we can not only fill; we can position the region as a leader. We can demonstrate that this region can create jobs, can get the whole renewable thing going and can be sustainable."

Her statement comes after Monday night's Four Corners program, End of Coal, which reported plummeting coal prices and game-changing advances in solar technology would lead to an economic downturn for which our coal-dependant nation is ill-prepared.

While Ms Crook was reluctant to promise a green jobs "boom" she emphasised that positioning the region as a renewable leader had economic trickle-down benefits for agriculture and tourism.

"Let's face it, there are no jobs flowing in this region out of the coal industry," she said

Enova will work with social welfare agencies through its not-for-profit arm next year to make sure the whole community can move into renewable energy, with plans to offer renters a product.

Formerly known as Northern Rivers Energy, Enova only registered its business name two weeks ago. The group received a state feasibility grant based on its capacity to step up levels of renewable generation not offered by the big three energy retailers.

"There was a realisation that you couldn't make more solar generation happen in the region without creating your own retailer."

Ms Crook said rolling out the business model to other regional groups and allowing outsiders to buy energy from us would make the model more viable for the Northern Rivers.

"The dividends stay in the region and 50 per cent of the profits will go back to the not-for-profit arm," Ms Crook said.

The community model aims to out-compete the big energy players by offering tailored packages using battery technology.

"We see ourselves as moving from just being a retailer (buying and selling renewable energy with an installation and maintenance arm) to being a local energy solutions provider," she said.

"At the moment the big three are saying they are going to do batteries, but they are not going to tailor anything. Whereas we will be in a position to offer a group of houses or a group of businesses in an industrial park a way to make it work."

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