Helen Haines - "the Munro Avenue Kindergarten's new solar panel installation ... is a shining example of how our region is seeing real benefits from locally owned renewables'...
L to R: John Lloyd (Convenor, Renewable Energy Benalla), David Blore(Benalla Community Energy Project (BCEP), Patricia Brooke (BCEP); Karen Nankervis (BCEP), Sandy Campbell, Brad Foletta (Solar Gain), Dr Helen Haines (MP for Indi), Alan Robertson (Head of Construction, Winton Solar Farm/FRV), Sue Campbell, Michelle Lindsay (Munro Avenue Pre-School Teacher), with three dear little preschool students, energy consumers of the future!
John Lloyd’s presentation at the ‘Switch On’ ceremony for the Munro Avenue Pre-school ‘behind the meter’ initiative
…I would like to explain how the solar panels came to be installed on Munro Ave Preschool.
As Michelle mentioned, I am Convenor of Renewable Energy Benalla, which is an action group of Benalla Sustainable Future Group, a not-for-profit community group which actively encourages taking action on climate change.
Renewable Energy Benalla seeks to encourage the uptake of renewable energy in Benalla Rural City and has initiated the Benalla Community Energy Project as one way of contributing to this. The community energy project aims to establish a donation based revolving fund to install solar panels or undertake energy efficiency upgrades on community facilities in and around Benalla.
The project provides interest free loans to the selected community facilities, to fund the works required, with no upfront contribution being necessary. Loan repayments to the fund from the host site are based on the estimated savings made on energy bills. The loan repayments gradually rebuild the balance of the fund, which can then be used to make a loan to another community building. In this way the fund becomes a revolving fund.
Donations from the community help rebuild the balance of the fund more quickly than relying solely on loan repayments, which enables new loans to be made to other community facilities more frequently.
Following discussions with the kindergarten management group, the North East Regional PreSchool Association, Munro Ave was selected as our first project. Normally, we would have needed to conduct a fund raising program but we were fortunate enough to obtain a grant from the Winton Solar Farm Community Benefit Program, which together with significant contributions from others, enabled us to undertake our first project without the need for fund raising. Future projects however will require donations from the community. We have established a facility to accept on-line donations and the details are on the publicity leaflets available today.
I would now like to thank the people and organisations that have made major contributions to this project.
I will start with Susan and Sandy Campbell. Sandy was involved in some of the early discussion about establishing the fund and decided to make a significant donation to 'kick start' the fund.
When the Winton Solar Farm announced their Community Benefit Scheme we applied for a grant of $5000 which we were fortunate enough to receive. We knew that this would enable us to start our first project without having to conduct a fund raising program. Our thanks to Zach Tariq, Project Manager at Winton Solar Farm who unfortunately is an apology today as he is not well, to Alan Robertson, Head of Construction, and to Sarah Stent, Community Engagement person for FRV, the builders of the Winton Solar Farm.
I also need to thank Brad Foletta, the Manager at SolarGain Wangaratta. Some months ago I was talking to Brad about Renewable Energy Benalla and our plans to establish this Community Energy Project. He was interested and said that he thought it was time for SolarGain to give something back to the community. SolarGain did this by making a significant in-kind contribution to the installation costs of the panels.
There have been others who have supported us in this project. We were able to obtain a small grant from DELWP, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, which enabled us to employ consultants to develop guidelines for project management and governance of the Community Energy Project. Thank you to Fiona Roberts from DELWP and to the consultants Cath Botta and Trish Curtiss, who did the work for a reduced fee.
Without the contributions and support from all these people we would not be here today celebrating this event.
Introducing Helen Haines MP …
It is now my pleasure to introduce Dr Helen Haines, the Independent Federal Member for Indi, who will officially launch this project.
Among the many aspects of her work for Indi communities, Dr Haines has a special interest in promoting renewable energy and in particular Community Energy. During 2020 she consulted with a panel of local community energy leaders to develop the Local Power Plan. The goal of the Local Power Plan is to encourage investment in community owned energy in regional areas, which would allow ordinary Australians to share in the benefits of the renewable energy boom.
In February, Helen tabled in Parliament her private member's bill, the Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021, which would implement the recommendations of the Local Power Plan.
Given Helen's interest in this area we felt it was highly appropriate to ask her to officially launch our project today.
Our Next Community Energy Project …
I would now like to publically announce our next project. This will be to install panels on the Bernard Briggs kindergarten in Church Street. This project will take some time to be implemented as it will largely depend on donations from the community. While the loan repayments from Munro Ave will help, they will take some time to rebuild the balance of the fund. We will be initiating a fund raising program in the near future. However, if you would like to donate to our fund now, the details are on the publicity leaflet.
Finally, can I thank you all for attending our official launch today and once again a special thankyou to all those who have contributed to this project. I would especially like to thank Michelle for her cooperation in allowing us to conduct this ceremony at the kindergarten today.
Convenor, Renewable Energy Action (REB), an action group of
Benalla Sustainable Future Group (BSFG)
Thursday 6 May 2021
On Friday 9 April, photographer Heath Whiley took these wonderful photos of the team from Solar Gain installing solar panels on Munro Avenue Preschool - the inaugural REB Community Energy Project. Renewable Energy Benalla would like to acknowledge Solar Gain for their generous'in-kind' contribution of labour costs involved in installing the panels, along with a significant initial contribution to establish the Renewable Energy Fund by Sandy and Sue Campbell, and of course the Community Grant of $5000 received from the Winton Solar Farm.
Announced in December 2020, winners of Winton Solar Farm Community Grants and funded projects included 'Renewable Energy Benalla – seed funding for a new Community Energy Project'.
"John Lloyd, convenor of volunteer sustainability group, Renewable Energy Benalla, (an action group of Benalla Sustainable Future Group) said seed funding would enable the group to launch its Community Energy Project and progressively install solar and energy efficiency upgrades on local community buildings.
“Funding from Winton Solar Farm will enable us to provide a loan to Munro Avenue Preschool to install premium solar panels and a smart meter next month.
“With the savings they make from going solar, the Preschool can pay back this loan in a few years, at which point we will reinvest the money into providing new solar panels for another community group,” he said."
Extract from Winton Solar Farm news item - $35,000 in social support awarded as part of Winton Solar Farm Community Grants. December 15, 2020
Yesterday I was informed that the Community Energy Project was successful in obtaining a $5000 grant from Winton Solar Farm.
This will enable us to install panels on our first project – Munro Ave preschool.
More information to come!
REB Report to BSFG Meeting, 22nd February, 2018
The BZE-Benalla Transition Strategy document details three major strategies that need to be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve zero net energy. These strategies are:
i) Energy efficiency measures to reduce energy use,
ii) Promote and install local roof top solar,
iii) Investigate utility scale renewables, battery storage and micro grids.
Mondo Power Bulk Buy Offer
Mondo Power will be presenting their proposal for a bulk buy of panels, monitoring systems and eventually batteries, and the establishment of microgrids, to the Benalla community in early April. This proposal, if accepted by community members, will lead to increased numbers of PV panels on roofs and has the potential to see the establishment of microgrids in Benalla at a future date.
Small working groups have started to prepare plans to start on the implementation of the three major strategies mentioned above:
Offer of assistance from solar farm developer
FRV Services Australia, a Solar Farm Developer, has approached BSFG/REB to offer assistance.
This is part of the community engagement and benefit sharing by renewable energy project developers required by the Victorian government if they wish to be involved in the VRET.
Financial support is certainly part of this assistance being offered and there may be other forms of assistance as well.
Indi Energy Action Group
Cathy McGowan, Federal Member for Indi, has established an Indi Energy Action Group to promote and support community energy groups across the electorate of Indi.
Community Energy Retailer
Work is being done to investigate the possibility of establishing a community energy retailer in north-east Victoria.
The proposed community energy retailer would be a decentralised energy retailer providing a platform for local communities to achieve community energy goals and access locally generated renewable energy.
Check out our posts and Facebook to find out more about events - both upcoming and recent - issues and items of interest.
Banner - launch of REB's Munro Avenue Pre School 'behind the meter' solar panel installation, May 6 '21