Graeme Smith was pondering over a long standing- problem at the end of 2015 – how to provide affordable power to this small, off-grid community. Despite having a freehold title to 170 sq km of land east of Tennant Creek with enough funds in the bank, the people of the Mununggura Aboriginal Corporation cannot afford to leave their community. The price of giving solar power to a remote community prevented them to build an economy on their land according to a report by ABC News.
According to Mr Smith, the corporation’s chief executive, from the onset, they had no power and no water because they are not on the grid. They put up houses with generators, but still it’s not enough. The corporation purchased two diesel generators with two houses pulling off a generator and they‘ll be spending $600-$700 per week for diesel.
He also added that because there is no employment in community, people were not able to pay for the diesel, thus they decided to live in town, get houses there, look after their kids at school and just go on the dole. With his initiative, the Mnunggura Aboriginal Corporation rent out a solar power system at a price of more than $200,000 from the Indigenous Business Australia or IBA and turned off their diesel generator. The IBA is a government-funded organisation that encourages economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Within 3 months, the community’s power bill decreased by more than half, the population grew from 3 to 40, a school was built and local jobs sprang up. Ray McInnes, from IBA stated that the organisation had never looked at solar projects before Mt. Smith approached them and asked the IBA in finding a suitable solar power provider. Mr Smith stated that leasing the solar power system saved the corporation of spending large capital and allowed the community to change along with the technology developments.
Income from the community’s investment portfolios will pay for the leasing cost until Mununggura own the solar power system outright.