NSW start-up Enova aims to foster community solar growth

A NSW start-up with plans to become Australia’s first community-owned renewable energy retailer – as well as its cheapest – is hoping to win local support for its venture ahead of a public share offer.

Former power utility exectuive Steve Harris and fellow directors will sign off on a prospectus for the Byron Bay-based Enova, before embarking on a four week road-show around the Northern Rivers region to try and raise $3 to $4 million. 

The group is also launching an ad campaign based around the concept – “Meet your new energy supplier – You”.

Harris – who came out of retirement to help spear-head what has till now been a labour of love – says the money raised in the prospectus will be used to for the start up and operating costs for the business, including hiring and setting up systems.

If $3 million is raised, then Enova will need to have 5,000 customers within three years to be viable. It hopes to begin operations by the end of the year.

As those figures suggest, Enova is not about to challenge the big three utilities. But it does intend to tap into a growing movement towards local generation and renewables that – if replicated across the country – could have a profound impact and provide the “glue” between new technologies, the grid and the community.

Harris says Enova intends to tap into deep community interest in renewable energy, and the opportunities afforded by the plunging cost of solar PV and the onset of battery storage, and do what he says bigger companies will struggle to do – adapt to change.

Enova’s main business will be as a retailer – selling renewable-sourced electricity to its customers. But it will also act as an asset owner, installing solar and storage in homes and businesses, and will even provide a service to help customers going off-grid if that’s what they choose to do.

The key to its success, Harris believes, will be its connection to the community and its ability to be nimble and innovative. New technologies are bringing dramatic change and opportunities, and he believes the big utilities don’t have the capacity to react quickly enough.

“We want to be part of that revolution,” Harris says. “We are going to be there to provide a service for the community to do what they want to do.”

“At end of day it is about renewable energy, cutting greenhouse emissions, giving customers opportunity to be involved in doing something, changing source of energy, offsetting, developing local renewable generation plants, a creating new model.”

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson