‘Social enterprise’ aims to power local market for less

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Mr Littlejohn made a presentation in the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry boardroom on Tuesday, followed by another at the Gerald Hotel. Another session will be held at Pollinators City Hive on March 6 at 12.30pm.
Camera IconMr Littlejohn made a presentation in the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry boardroom on Tuesday, followed by another at the Gerald Hotel. Another session will be held at Pollinators City Hive on March 6 at 12.30pm. Credit: Geoff Vivian

Geraldton Community Energy aims to provide electricity at about 18 per cent below the current Synergy price to Geraldton residents by June.

If the company succeeds, it will break the long-standing monopoly Synergy inherited from the former State Energy Commission.

The company’s interim chief executive Rod Littlejohn told two public meetings he had set a 100-day target to start selling.

While he was yet to sign up a large commercial or industrial electricity user, he said there were now enough interested residents and small businesses for the company to start reselling power to them and GCE could therefore start buying energy wholesale from the grid.

He invited potential customers of the “social enterprise” company to express their interest.

“We estimate Geraldton currently spends $70 million each year on power,” he said.

“Under this model we think you can pull $3-5 million per year back into the community.”

The company would then decide how to distribute the profit to benefit the community, he said.

Mr Littlejohn said GCE was looking for board members who would be given free training, and also a chief executive.

He has been acting chief executive while setting up the company but said he intended to resign.

As the owner of a company called Tersum Energy, Mr Littlejohn said he intended to become the power “generator” by installing solar and wind generators and batteries in homes and on business premises.

He said he intended to help start similar companies in other regional centres but had started in Geraldton because it had many advantages.

These included a stable economy and climate, plenty of sun and wind, and proximity to the end of an ageing power grid and to the North West Shelf gas line if needed.

Mr Littlejohn said all the skills needed to build a power supply were available locally so there should be no need to fly workers in.

Electrical contractor and solar installer Adam Volkerts, who is not involved with the company, said there was no reason the company could not use local contractors.

“The people who will benefit from it the most will be small electricity users who can’t see the need for a financial outlay of their own to cover a small electricity bill,” he said.

“Who is going to fork out $3500 for a solar system when their electricity bill is only $100 a month?”

Mr Littlejohn said Western Power would continue to own the poles and wires.

A Western Power spokesman said there was no in-principle or signed agreement with the Geraldton Community Energy group for any project.

“We are unable to discuss projects that are currently under evaluation,” he said.

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