More Renewable Energy Loans For Community Projects

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Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) is in the news again funding two worthy projects to support community organizations’ move to renewables. CORENA is providing interest-free renewable energy loans to the Barnardos South Coast Children’s Family Centre in Wollongong, New South Wales, and the Heritage-listed Capri theatre in Adelaide, South Australia.

The Capri Theatre was built in 1941 in art deco style. It houses a 1923 world-class WurliTzer theatre pipe organ. You can read the fascinating story of this organ here.

When the CORENA project is complete, this vintage American-made organ will run on renewable power supplied by a 71.8 kW solar electricity system backed up with a 51.2 kWh battery. After all, most concerts are in the evening. Volunteers from the Theatre Organ Society of Australia staff and maintain this not-for-profit cinema.

The theatre has striven to be energy efficient to reduce its large power bills. In the past, solar panels could not be fitted to the ancient roof, as it could not carry the weight. New lightweight, slimline panels from Sunman have come to the rescue. One hundred and sixty-seven 430W Sunman panels will be fitted.

As energy prices rise in Australia (we have had two price rises in the last 3 months), a battery has become an attractive proposition. Capri plans to fit two 25.6 kWh batteries so that energy generated during the day can be used to power that mighty organ in the evenings. Capri expects to save over 94,000 kWh of power and AU$32,500 per year in costs. That’s 31 tonnes less CO2 entering the atmosphere while watching movies, eating popcorn, and listening to organ recitals.

CORENA already has most of the AU$155,303 needed for the Capri project, but is seeking donations for the final amount outstanding. 

Barnardos Homes will find it easier to support vulnerable children and their families now that CORENA has partially funded the installation of a 25.73 kW solar system on the roof of its South Coast facility. The AU$6,044 per annum savings on the electricity bill will be channelled into support programs after the interest-free loan from CORENA is repaid. The environment will breathe easier, with 23 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted.

Barnardos South Coast Children’s Family Centre Manager Maria Corsiglia states, “The benefits of solar energy for Barnardos are two-fold as it creates environmental benefits for our community whilst also ensuring we reduce our overall operating costs into the future. This means we can dedicate more funds to support local children and their families. Moving away from coal fired energy to clean energy sources is the way of the future and I’m proud that Barnardos and CORENA are leading by example. The children are also enjoying learning about solar power and sustainability and are excited to see this project unfold.”

Barnardos Australia is here because every child needs a champion. We listen, we act, and we advocate for the safety of children at risk of abuse and neglect, providing family support programs and services that empower children to reach their full potential. When it comes to protecting vulnerable children from abuse, we never give up. We are dedicated to the prevention of trauma in children, and support families to be the best parents they can be. We help children to recover and thrive, and we find safe homes for them through foster care and open adoption.”

Barnardos was established by Dr Thomas John Barnardo in 1866 to care for vulnerable children in London. Originally called “The National Incorporated Association for the Reclamation of Destitute Waif Children,” its mission has evolved as society’s views have changed. Initially caring for and educating children left orphaned and destitute by a cholera outbreak, the charity has changed its focus from orphanages to fostering and adoption. The last traditional orphanage closed on 1988. Dr Barnado fought against the Victorian notion of the “undeserving poor.”

According to the Barnados 2021/22 report, the organisation has helped over 14,000 children, young people, and families — mainly through referrals, youth programs, early learning and education, supported housing, and parenting programs.

CORENA funds carbon emission reduction projects throughout Australia via interest-free loans. It is a registered charity providing loans to community, nonprofit, and social enterprise organisations. CleanTechnica has previously published articles about CORENA here and here and here.

So far, over $1.2 million has been provided to finance over 50 projects. The Capri theatre project is number 52. It is a unique and highly effective way of funding climate change mitigation. In total, CORENA-funded projects have allowed community groups to avoid using over 4.5 GWh of grid electricity. This equates to over 300 households switching to 100% renewable energy. Every project helps. It would be great to see this model adapted and used throughout the world. From what I have read, it is a much better way of doing things than the Californian PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program.

CORENA’s revolving climate fund uses donations from ordinary Australians and interest-free loan repayments from previous projects to finance new projects. From $626,432 in donations, $1.2 million in climate impact has been funded. This multiplier effect has enabled a $100 donation to the first project in 2013 to achieve the equivalent of $451 in renewable energy installations. It is important to note that loan repayments from projects are calculated so that they are never more than the organisation’s original energy bills. The community organisation is never out of pocket.

“We encourage community-focused organisations to apply for an interest-free CORENA loan to reduce their emissions and long-term energy bills,” Sarah McCabe, CORENA’s Head of Operations, said.

“CORENA offers interest-free loans to community, non-profit and social-enterprise organisations to fund the following project types:

  • Solar installations.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades (including LED lighting, building insulation etc).
  • Replacing gas appliances (including water/space heating, cooking) with energy efficient electric alternatives.
  • Purchasing electric vehicles.
  • Any combination of the above — or talk to us about any other project type that will reduce emissions.

“CORENA provides technical advice and assists with project development. Community organisations who want to learn more about CORENA loans are encouraged to attend one of CORENA’s regular monthly online Q&A sessions.”

Successful loan applications lead to installations that mitigate climate change. As well as emissions reduction, a loan recipient reaps the long-term benefit of reduced energy bills. After the interest-free loan is repaid, more money is available for community use, whether it is to maintain an art deco theatre complete with Wurlitzer organ or to support vulnerable families.


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