How did we start In September 2011, a public forum on renewable energy was organised by Permaculture Blue Mountains, Katoomba Area Climate Action Now now Climate Action Blue Mountains and Transition Blue Mountains. While the idea of a community energy project in the Blue Mountains had been talked about previously in these sustainabilityoriented groups, the forum provided momentum to move the idea forward. Soon after, Climate Action Blue Mountains members invited community energy expert Nicky Ison, a Founding Director of the Community Power Agency, to visit the Blue Mountains and assist in developing the first steps of such a project. Nicky spoke at an information night, focused solely on communityowned renewable energy, in late November 2011 and followed that with a firststeps workshop on 3 December. The project began to take shape and the Blue Mountains Renewable Energy Cooperative BMRenew was informally created. First year While community energy is a mature part of the energy sector in parts of Europe and North America, it is still in its infancy in Australia. When residents of the Blue Mountains hatched the idea of building communityowned renewable energy generation locally, there was a single existing community energy project, Hepburn Wind, which had only officially launched a month before our first steps workshop. In other words, we had a steep learning curve and spent considerable time investigating group structures, governance options, renewable energy technologies, business models and more. Working in between day jobs, family commitments and more, we slowly built the size of the group, put in place operating structures, defined our vision and goals, reached out to other local organisations including council and researched technology, finance and legal issues. Vision Creating a community owned renewable energy future. Mission Inspire and facilitate local, community owned renewable energy generation and energy efficiency initiatives, for the benefit of the environment and the community. Objectives To create decentralised locally owned renewable energy generation To return financial benefits to our community To bring affordable renewable energy to our community To inform, engage and activate our community about our energy potential To be a model for cooperative, inclusive and successful community driven projects Technology Choices Unlike many other community energy groups, who start with a specific project in mind when they form, BMRenew has a big vision and knew early on that we were open to different technologies to achieve our aims. However, selecting a specific technology and basic parameters like scale was one of the key questions that we explored early on. We initially narrowed our focus to three options Commercial scale solar photovoltaics PV in other words, a solar array significantly larger than a household system but appropriately sized for the daytime electricity consumption of a business, community or government facility. Examples would include shopping centres, light industrial businesses, swimming pools or community centres Wastetoenergy pyrolysis a fairly nascent technology, but a sophisticated way of using biomass for stationary electricity generation. Pyrolysis is currently only deployed in a pilot form in Australia but has great potential as both a source of clean energy and a solution to reducing green and organic waste in landfill, alongside composting. Wind turbines subject to further investigation and discussion with the local community, there is an excellent high wind area in the corridor betwen Lithgow and Oberon, outside the World Heritage Area and National Parks of the Blue Mountains. This area is also close to large capacity sections of the electricity grid in place to take power from the coal power stations near Lithgow, one of which is now mothballed not operating. The group, some members in particular, did a lot of work investigating the wastetoenergy option taking it to a near prefeasibility stage. However, a draft change of policy by the NSW Government made it unproductive to continue pursuing the project that policy has now reversed, making the wastetoenergy plant a live option again. However, in the interim, the group pursued commercial solar as an alternative and is focused on delivering a first solar project before taking on a different technology. Official Launch Formation Michael presents at BM Renew launch In August 2013, we held the official public launch for the Blue Mountains Renewable Energy Coop read more about it here and by the end of the same month, formed officially as a registered cooperative with a board of nine directors. We are currently as of mid 2014 a nondistributing or nontrading cooperative with no provision for issuing shares this makes us a notforprofit entity legally, but this may change once we work out the final details of the financial model for our first commercial solar project and we are committed to finding a model that makes a sound return for local investors as well as returning benefits to the community.