Throughout the world, community involvement in renewable energy across many scales and varieties of activity is increasingly common, driven by broader processes of technical, social, political and environmental change. Social movements play a fundamental role in this process of change, acting as dynamic sites of action and innovation in thinking and practice. The past 10 years have seen the emergence of a growing community movement in Australia around renewable energy. This has predominantly been motivated by a desire to take direct and empowering action on climate change at a local level, especially in the context of wavering Australian government policy and support for both carbon reduction and renewable energy over the same period of time. Community renewable energy (CRE) is a relatively new feature in the bouquet of climate change action and renewable energy deployment in Australia. CRE is a form of renewable energy deployment in which communities, of location and of interest, come together to initiate, develop, own and benefit from the asset. This article in an effort to understand the scope and character of CRE in Australia and theorise why it has emerged at this time. In doing this the authors draw on two national surveys of the nascent CRE movement, one conducted in 2011 and the other in 2014, and present an analysis of the key characteristics of CRE in Australia and how these have changed over this time period. The authors apply social movement theory to analyse its emergence at this time and to compare movement drivers in Australia with those in Germany and Denmark, where CRE is most well established.