Paul, Alex and Neil met with four of the Sydney Council officers whose roles touch on the issues involved in Innovation Grants in the energy and sustainability areas. Kate Read arranged the meeting together with our first contact person, Jon Boys. Also present were Nik Midlam and Chris Barrett.
Chris challenged us immediately by stressing that projects like ours would have to overcome significant difficulties imposed by the Australian Energy Regulator [AER] which must approve any form of electricity supply to consumers. The case of Stucco Apartments, a Newtown Student Housing Cooperative, provided a cautionary example of the technical and legal difficulties we may face. Bjorn Sturmberg, a consultant who worked closely with the Stucco applicants, was recommended as a valuable advisor for us as we undertake our proposed Feasibility Study.
Chris also stressed that we would be wise with our residents NOT to base our motivation solely on the potential energy cost savings, though we wonder how we would get buy-in without that incentive. Tricky issues that we will need to address include clarifying how our collected energy will be shared equitably since not everyone will benefit equally and whether we will be better off to treat our Strata as two separate developments of 9+9 units in order to qualify with the AER for a ‘deemed exemption’ status which has much less onerous conditions attached.
Following the meeting Kate Read sent us the following very helpful summary to help us shape our final Innovation Grant Application which had to be submitted by the 24th July. Kate wrote:
- Application would be strengthened by confirmation from residents that they support in-principle the application and are interested in understanding whether a microgrid presents a cost-effective option for them
- The City recently launched its Environmental Strategy and Action Plan – would be helpful for the application to explicitly articulate linkages/how the project supports the City’s endeavours around renewable energy
o In the budget section of the application form, amounts need to be shown in both income section and expenditure section with sufficient detail so that assessors can see clearly what is being funded (eg if project management is included in the more detailed budget, this should show hourly rate and number of hours attributed to various elements like survey development, engagement with hotels, survey delivery, results analysis etc)
o Quotes will be needed for any third party services that form part of the project
o The costing seems very low – when the assessment panel does their assessment, value for money is one aspect that they will be considering but initial conversations here suggest that provided there was justification for each of the costings $20,000 would not be an unusual request in this context
- Include in the application the key themes that will structure the business case/feasibility report; including noting that the business case will consider how the project will tackle particular residents not wanting to participate
- As per our discussion, Bjorn’s insights into the legal and regulatory barriers that were faced by Stucco and potential pre-emptive action will be helpful
- Chris Barrett indicated that there would be benefit in approaching the project by the clusters of smaller blocks rather than the site as a whole – because once projects get over a certain scale they trigger additional requirements. Reflecting on this I think it would be good for the business case to cover off an option A and option B – one dealing with the site as a whole, and one approaching the project as per Chris’ suggestion. The reason I think this is because the innovation grant funding is intended to fund projects which are scalable. The built form of most of the apartments in the City of Sydney area are at the larger scale so it would be good to understand the learnings/feasibility/implications of the site being approached as a whole.
After a brief meeting of the Working Group the next day, Alex prepared a new, significantly revised Application to which Paul and Neil added some minor amendments before we submitted it to Cameron Ellis of the SCC Grants Team on the On-line Application Form. At this time Alex also made contact with Bjorn Sturmberg who agreed to conduct a three-hour workshop with us to help us sharpen our Feasibility Study.
Support to cover the $500 cost of this workshop was sought and granted by the Blackwattle Mews Strata Committee. The working group plans to invite members of the Committee to join us for the workshop and to invite other interested residents to join us for a summary of our conclusions in the last half hour or so. We expect to conduct this workshop at the local Glebe Community Centre.