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What is a Co-operative?

A Co-operative is a self-governing association of people, who collectively and voluntarily work together to achieve their agreed common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Co-operatives everywhere operate according to a set of core principles and values that fundamentally put the needs of their members first.

The principles are:

  1. Membership open to all, regardless of background
  2. Democratically controlled by the members for the members, with equal voting rights
  3. Surpluses allocated as agreed by the members
  4. Maintenance of the co-operative’s autonomy and independence, even when they enter into agreements with other organisations
  5. Education and training that allows effective contribution to the co-operative’s aims
  6. Co-operation amongst co-operatives
  7. Concern for the community, demonstrated through a focus on sustainability.

Who is an Energy Democracy Co-operative for?

An Energy Democracy Co-operative presents individuals and small businesses a new opportunity to benefit from local renewable energy.

If a person does not have a house or property to put solar on, then there are very few ways they can be involved in generating renewable energy. Until now, people who rent, move frequently or just do not have a roof that is compatible for solar power have been excluded.

As a member of an Energy Democracy Co-operative you can access solar power from panels located in a solar park in your neighbourhood.

How many solar parks in each Co-operative?

Depending on the wishes of the members, the Energy Democracy Co-operatives may be expanded to include other initiatives that benefit the members of the Co-operative.

Will joining the Co-op affect my existing premium feed-in tariff?

No.

Can anyone outside of Australia invest?

There are currently Co-operatives forming in every state and territory in Australia, and in New Zealand. The Co-operatives are only open to investments from residents in the locality of the Co-operatives.

If you would like an Energy Democracy Co-operative in your region, or you do not live in Australia, please contact us at info@energydemocracy.net

Is membership limited to local residents?

There are many people who have registered interest in joining an Energy Democracy Co-operative. We encourage local ownership as much as possible. The Co-operatives will prioritise allocation of shares to local based members to maximise local ownership.

What are the membership requirements?

The Energy Democracy Co-operatives require a minimum level of activity from members. To retain membership, you will need to continue to fulfil active participation requirements which are detailed in the Disclosure Statement for each Co-operative.

What is the legal liability of Energy Democracy Co-operative members?

The legal liability is limited to the value of shares held by a member.

Who are the other members?

For privacy reasons, we cannot disclose details of individuals in the community who have registered or joined the Co-operatives. The easiest way to meet other members is to come along to one of our events.

What is the difference between registration and joining an Energy Democracy Co-operative?

  • A registration is non-binding expression of interest with no associated costs. You are not obligated to proceed with investing in an Energy Democracy Co-operative if you have registered. You are not committed to investing until you accept the investment offer detailed in the Disclosure Statement, which is released after a host site for a new solar park has been finalised. Please take the opportunity to read the information available on this website before you register.
  • You join when you invest in the community solar park, and become a member of the co-operative. In addition to your investment amount (*explained later in this document) there is a $250.00 fee for share transaction costs when you become a member.

How can we join an Energy Democracy Co-operative?

The easiest way to join an Energy Democracy Co-operative is for you to select the appropriate co-op location and register your interest.

Energy Democracy is working throughout Australia and New Zealand to deliver community ownership of new renewable energy schemes, so look out for one near you.

You can keep updated on the Co-operatives that are available through our website http://energydemocracy.net.

As soon as the Disclosure Statement is available for each Co-operative, after being approved by the Regulator, active memberships will be sought.

Can I apply for membership as a joint owner?

The constitution allows for joint holders, so applying jointly with your spouse or partner is permitted.

Where can I sign up?

You can join an Energy Democracy Co-operative online on this site.

We strongly advise you to read the Disclosure Statements and gain your own financial advice prior to making an investment decision. The Disclosure Statements contain information about joining a Co-operative.

Where can I deliver my application?

Our preference is for the application to be emailed to: info@energydemocracy.net however you can mail it to our postal address:

  • Energy Democracy
    PO Box 147
    Yarraville VIC 3013

Is someone available to talk to us from Energy Democracy?

If you would like to discuss a potential energy Co-operative, or would like someone to speak at an event about sustainable energy, or you would like to visit a solar park, please contact us and let us know your requirements at info@energydemocracy.net

Who buys the solar energy?

The electricity generated in the solar parks is credited to the members of the Co-operatives through a virtual net-metering environment. Surplus electricity can be sold via a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
In some instances - mostly rooftop projects - a portion of the electricity generated may be sold directly to the energy user on the property where the solar park is located. They can be confident that their energy is sourced in an environmentally sound manner.

Details of the type of energy contract selected and who the energy customer can be found in the specific Disclosure Statements when each solar park is open for investment.

Will the expected return fluctuate per the level of power the solar park generates?

While summer months produce more energy than winter months, the estimated return in the Disclosure Statement is calculated as an average across the entire project life. Virtual net-metering means any fluctuation in generation is realised in real-time.

Will the project store power using batteries?

Yes, batteries are included in the solar parks.

Carbon offset

The Co-operatives will sell Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) throughout the life of the solar park. This means that the ‘green’ portion of the generated electricity will not necessarily be a carbon offset. This could change if the RECs are purchased by a group for the purpose of carbon offsetting.

How will the board of directors be formed?

A board-designate is required for each Co-operative before it can become legally incorporated. The board-designate is confirmed at the first Annual General Meeting (AGM).

You are encouraged to actively participate in your local Co-operative, so do consider a role on your Co-operative’s board. Please note your interest in your Registration of Interest.

What obligations will I have on a board of directors?

The board-designate is responsible for ensuring the progress of the Co-operative’s plans and activities to minimise the risks. They are answerable to the Co-operative’s members.

We strongly recommend that you undertake your own due diligence prior to joining an Energy Democracy Co-operative.

Where can I find financial projections?

Financial projections can be found in the Disclosure Statements and are made available once we have finalised plans for each of the solar parks.

What guarantees and insurances are there?

Each Energy Democracy Co-operative carries insurance to help manage its risks. Please read the project specific information when it is published in the Disclosure Statements for more on equipment guarantees.

What happens if weather, vandals or some unforeseen circumstance damages the solar park?

The solar park will be covered by insurance. The solar panel and inverter equipment manufacturers provide additional guarantees.

What is the minimum subscription?

Minimum share subscription is determined for each Co-operative specifically. Download the Disclosure Statement relevant to the Co-operative near you.

Can I apply for a number of shares above the minimum subscription?

Yes, you can apply for shares above the minimum subscription.

Is there a cap on how many shares I can own?

Yes. The National Co-operative Law stipulates that the maximum number of shares that one member can own is limited to 20% of the share capital without prior approval from the Co-operative Board and the Regulator.

How can I sell my shares?

Members may sell their shares in the community solar park. As with other Co-operatives, to sell a share you must find a willing buyer first. Energy Democracy will facilitate easy transfer of shares by liaising with people who are looking at buying or selling existing shares and keeping a register of interested buyers and sellers.

What happens if we move home?

We intend to incorporate many of these Co-operatives around Australia and New Zealand. That allows Energy Democracy to offer portability – that means a member of a Co-operative can move from their house or commercial premises and Energy Democracy will facilitate the transfer of shares from one Co-operative to another. The members continue to reap the benefits of being a Co-operative member in their new location.

Has renewable energy generation technology been considered?

The Energy Democracy Co-operatives are technology agnostic; we are open to the use of different technology tools as they are developed and prove their worth. Our focus is on commercially proven clean energy generation that presents a lower risk for community investment.

How big is a solar park?

Community energy projects are usually between 0.5MW (500kW) and 5MW. A 500kW solar park occupies one hectare. This could be visualised as a square with sides of 100m each, or the size of the roof of a large warehouse.

What is Virtual Net-Metering?

The co-op will use the energy generated by solar panels to recharge its storage units and to export through its meters to the electricity network. Electricity used by the co-op members will be delivered via the network through smart meters. The physical electricity that is exported from the solar park is unlikely to be transported specifically to the members – it is impossible to track the flow of electricity through the network.

However, as a community-owned electricity generator, the co-op can assign its exported generation to local co-op members. This is a ‘virtual’ transfer of energy and its value is transferred for billing reconciliation purposes. 

How long is the energy payback?

Energy payback is the time that it takes a generator to produce as much energy as was used in its construction. This includes the energy in the manufacturing processes and site construction activities. Energy payback for photovoltaic (PV) solar projects in Australia ranges between two (2) and four (4) years.

How much water is used for cleaning the panels?

Panels accumulate small amounts of dust which degrades generation. The maintenance of the solar park includes regular cleaning to maximise return on asset. Very little water will be required during cleaning.

Are there problems with glare effects from the solar parks?

Two reports, ‘The Mount Majura solar park – Glare Analysis’, prepared by CBRE and ‘Solar Glare Aviation Hazard Evaluation Engineering Report’ prepared by Canadian Solar conclude that whilst some level of glare is to be expected from the solar arrays, the impact of this glare to surrounding land users, vehicles or aircraft is ‘low potential’ and not likely to be hazardous.

 

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