CORENA – How one dollar spent can fund emissions reduction projects multiple times [video and podcast]

Introducing our new ‘Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions’ show

If you’re following our ’Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions’ Youtube channel, you may have watched some of our video series, such as how to achieve Climate Active carbon-neutral certification, setting a Science-Based Target, or Net-Zero strategies.

Today, I’m proud and excited to introduce our very own Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions show. This show will provide businesses with best-practice and cutting-edge ‘net-zero’ stories. I’ll be the main host, and in every show, I will interview climate action leaders.

Today, we are releasing the video and the accompanying blog post of the first episode, but soon, we’ll release our podcast, so please stay tuned.

Ep. #1 with Briony O’Shea

For the first episode of the “Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions” show, I’m interviewing Briony O’Shea, the Chair of Corena. Briony is a chemical engineer with a Master of Laws in International Law. She specialises in renewable energy and future fuels such as hydrogen and biogas to support the transition to a low-carbon future. She joined Corena in 2017 as a volunteer and took over the role of Chair in 2020.

Corena is a community revolving energy fund, which takes donations from people or organisations in the community to drive emissions reduction via a Revolving Energy Fund.

I’ve blogged about Revolving Energy Funds in previous articles. These funds are a great mechanism to finance climate action strategies. They are a self-sustaining funding mechanism, which you start with seed capital that you invest in sustainability projects, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, or solar projects, for example.

The fund’s unique feature is that you return savings from sustainability projects back into the REF to finance the next round of investments. In this way, you can spend funds multiple times to drive emissions reduction, resource and cost savings.

You can watch the full video of the interview here:

What is Corena?

Corena is a grass-root, donor-funded, not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers. The premise of the Corena model is a revolving fund to which supporters donate, and the provision of zero-interest loans to not-for-profit and community organisations to implement climate action projects. Examples of funded projects are installing solar panels, improving energy efficiency, switching away from fossil gas use, or purchasing electric vehicles.

To date, Corena has implemented over 40 projects Australia-wide, with most projects being solar PV installations and energy efficiency. Altogether, 663 kW of solar PV have been installed, generating over 1,800 MWh of renewable electricity. Corena has received donations of over $460,000, and because of the revolving nature of the fund, these donations have resulted in over $800,000 in loans given. They’re on track to exceed $1 million of loans given this year.

How does it work?

Corena raises funds to support climate action projects via donations from anyone keen to help tackle climate change. Corena provides zero-interest loans to community organisations to install solar PV or implement other climate action projects. As these loans are paid off by the recipient with the savings from their solar project, the money is re-loaned to another organisation.

What are the benefits?

There are several benefits for everyone involved. For Corena, every project they support is making a tangible difference in reducing emissions. The money donated is put to work immediately to reduce carbon emissions, and the donors can track the impact each investment makes.

For donors, the revolving fund model means that the money they donate for one project is repaid and goes on to fund another project, so a single donation amount can be utilised multiple times. Corena has an impact calculator on its website that demonstrates the revolving benefit of the donations they’ve received.

For the recipient organisation, there’s not only the benefit of themselves being able to be part of the climate solution and take direct action, but in doing so, they receive the benefits of reduced energy bills, which contributes to their bottom line.

What kind of organisations can make use of the funds?

Corena provides loans predominantly to not-for-profit organisations that don’t have easy access to funding to take climate action. Corena also looks at what service the organisation is providing the community. Corena goes through a process of assessing what each organisation’s needs are, and what projects or installations might benefit the organisation.

How can you apply for a zero-interest loan?

You are eligible to apply for a Corena loan if you are a non-profit community organisation, or if you are providing services to your community. A solar project may be suitable if your premises have regular daytime use, your roof is in good condition, and you either own your premises or have a secure long-term lease. An electric vehicle project may be suitable if you have vehicles with regular high usage.

To apply for a project loan, please go to Corena’s website, fill in and submit the online Expression of Interest form.

How can people participate?

If you want to support Corena, there are several ways how you can be involved.

  • Individuals: You can donate to the revolving fund, by visiting corenafund.org.au and choosing to donate to a project. You can elect to join as a volunteer, and there are many ways that volunteers can donate their time, whether it’s to provide social media support, IT, developing communications materials, or offering to approach other organisations to help identify new projects to fund. Individuals can also lobby their local government to take action by setting up a revolving energy fund for the community.
  • Organisations: You can donate to Corena, or you can identify climate action projects that Corena could fund. You can also help by fundraising via your own networks.
  • Local governments: You can donate, identify not-for-profit organisations within your community, and potentially on council premises, that would benefit from a Corena loan, and help connect with those organisations. You can also adopt the Corena model and set up your own fund to provide interest-free loans to residents or organisations within your community to take climate action. The Corena model is particularly useful for councils that have declared a climate emergency.

People can get in touch via Corena’s website and subscribe to Corena via email, eNews, or social media. You can also send a direct email to Briony@corenafund.org.au or office@corenafund.org.au.

To view or download this episode’s show notes/transcript, please click here.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate action strategies and accompanying financing plans. If you need help with developing your climate action plan, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.