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.
Renewable Energy Benalla (REB) Action Group Report 2020
Renewable Energy Benalla Vision:
For Benalla to become a zero net energy town by reducing and balancing energy demand with 100% renewable energy supply. Whilst Renewable Energy Benalla (REB) was busy during the last six months of 2019 the arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic early in 2020 has resulted in the cessation of monthly meetings and most other activity.
Transition Strategy to 100% Renewables
The major focus for REB is to implement the Transition Strategy that was developed in conjunction with Beyond Zero Emissions. The transition strategy detailed three major strategies that need to be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve zero net energy.
These strategies are:
Strategy 1. Promoting Energy Efficiency A series of six fortnightly sessions focussing on improving the energy efficiency of existing houses were conducted during August to October. These sessions were advertised with the heading, Reduce Energy Bills and Increase Thermal Comfort, and covered the following topics: Understanding energy bills; Draught Proofing & Insulation; Lighting & Windows; Efficient Hot Water Systems, Heating and Cooling; Appliances & Cooking; Energy Monitoring, Solar Power & Batteries. Renewable Energy Benalla was successful in obtaining a Community Sponsorship Grant from Benalla Rural City to enable us to conduct these sessions. While the content of these sessions was well received we were somewhat disappointed with the relatively small number of participants. We will give consideration to what changes we need to make to have more people attend as our plans are to repeat these sessions for a number of years to help achieve the goal of reducing energy demand by one third over the remaining eight years of the transition strategy.
Strategy 2. Promoting Roof Top Solar The final session of the Energy Efficiency series was about the advantages of installing solar panels and issues around battery storage.
Another way to promote roof top solar was our work on establishing a community energy project.
Community Energy Project
As part of promoting roof top solar REB has been investigating the establishment of a Community Energy Project based on donations from the community that would provide solar panels for community buildings such as kindergartens. BSFG has established a Benalla Renewable Energy Fund that community members can donate to. This fund will be used to enable the installation of solar panels on kindergartens and other community buildings with no upfront costs required from the community organisation.
We are planning to adopt the CORENA model of providing loans to the host sites with loan repayments based on the savings made on energy bills. The fund then becomes a revolving fund that enables loans to be made to other host sites for the installation of solar panels or implementation of energy efficiency measures.
REB has been successful in obtaining a small grant from the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) to enable us to employ consultants to prepare guidelines for project management of the Community Energy Project including governance, fundraising, selection criteria, publicity and community engagement.
As reported last year REB was successful in obtaining a grant from DELWP for the production of four communication pamphlets designed to encourage people to install solar panels and to provide information about energy efficiency. The titles of the pamphlets; Renewable Energy Benalla - Our Vision Energy Efficiency at Home, Keeping a rental house comfortable and energy efficient, Installing Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) and Batteries. Strategy
3. Investigating Utility Scale Renewables One member of the REB committee has been doing a lot of work investigating the possibility of establishing a regional utility scale waste to energy project in Benalla. A number of discussions have been held with Council staff about the feasibility of such a project. Further investigation and discussion with council will continue.
Hume Region DELWP, as part of their Climate Ready Hume project had funds available for free screenings of the documentary film "2040" which looks at the effects of climate change over the next 20 years and what technologies that exist today can reverse the effects. BSFG and REB applied for a screening at BPACC in December which was very successful with 160 people attending.
The REB website, www.reb.org.au has been very successful and receives lots of 'hits'. Our thanks to Bev Lee and Peter Maddock, for their great work in maintaining the website.
North East Community Energy Network (NECEN) This network consists of representatives from all the ten community energy groups in North East Victoria. Meetings are held every 2 months in Wangaratta but of late have been via Zoom. A lot of valuable networking takes place at these meetings with each group reporting on their activities. This network is supported by Indigo Power.
One major initiative that REB took part in was a regional hot water bulk buy. There were two systems available; a very efficient heat pump system or an evacuated tube solar system. The major purpose was to encourage people to reduce energy demand by installing a very energy efficient hot water system. Four people took up this offer in Benalla with 65 systems being installed across the region.
Launch of Indigo Power REB took part in promoting the launch of Indigo Power, a community owned energy company. There were a series of launches to be held in regional centres, including Benalla, but COVID 19 came along and the launches were conducted by Zoom. Indigo Power is a registered Social Enterprise, which means that 50% of profits will be shared amongst the community. Indigo Power aims to encourage the move to 100% renewable energy for our region.
Future of Renewable Energy Benalla:
REB began as an action group of BSFG but then in August 2018 REB decided to become an incorporated association basically to protect the name from a potential commercial organisation wanting to adopt it.
The REB group has always been a small group and has struggled to meet its objectives and meet the requirements of the model rules for incorporated associations. We have decided to cancel REB's incorporation and revert to being an action group of BSFG once again.
Community Engagement to help Achieve our Vision: A plan to achieve zero net energy by 2028 is an ambitious and complex task. REB need more people from the community to assist with implementing the Transition Strategy. This may be to help with a small distinctive task or to become involved in the organisation of a specific event or project. REB is currently investigating ways to improve our engagement with the Benalla community and to encourage people to become involved in achieving 100% renewables by 2028.
John Lloyd, Convenor,
Renewable Energy Benalla
Are your community energy programs designed to maximise community participation? An invitation from Sustainability Victoria:
"Sustainability Victoria invites you to a series of free webinars in September and October on how to ensure quality participation in your community-owned energy projects, now and in the future.
Presented by Dr Jarra Hicks from the Community Power Agency, you’ll hear about best practice approaches to community participation based on the latest insights from Sustainability Victoria’s Community Power Hubs pilot program.
This four-webinar series is ideal for community energy groups wanting to ensure future projects are designed and structured to facilitate community participation, or those wanting to create better opportunities for community participation in existing projects.
Designing community-owned renewable energy projects with strong community participation - Webinars - September-October 2019
Webinar 1: Introduction to designing community owned energy projects with strong community participation. Thursday 19 September 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 2: Facilitating participation through economic arrangements. Thursday 26 September 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 3: Facilitating participation through governance structures. Thursday 3 October 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 4: Facilitating participation through community engagement practices. Thursday 10 October 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Find out more and register for free if you’d like to join the webinars. For further enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Strategic Coordinator (Hume) | Regions, Communities & Local Government
M: 0437 038 118 |Ph: 03 8626 8826
www.sustainability.vic.gov.au | follow us @sustainvic "
From the Web Team: REB is a small action group which is working on many aspects of Renewable Energy from a number of directions. With time at a premium we don't want to put on more pressure on them to write reports, so it seems like putting in the information they contribute at meetings via the minutes is a good idea! The work the group is doing is wide ranging and clearly requires considerable research and decision making.
From the August Minutes (20 August 2019)
"1. Action Groups – report on action plan to implement key strategies
1.1 Waste to Energy – report from Adrian.
Adrian has contacted Kelly Wickham at Sustainability Victoria to discuss whether there is any funding available to investigate feasibility of options. Adrian has made contact with Mt Alexander Sustainability Group and will try to meet with them to discuss their project. Still investigating plasma system which recycles plastic back to food grade pellets. Gasification to produce syngas, original company who were liaising with don’t have the capacity. Have found a Canadian company which is more progressed. Cruise ships using similar smaller systems.
1.2 Community Energy Project – report from John
Account for Community Energy Fund is nearly established. John circulated advice received from the Bendigo Sustainability Group and Chuffed.org. Loan based approach would be much easier than PPA type arrangement. Need to work out fundraising and how to proceed and how to accept donations. If people are going to want to claim on tax return will need to get Deductable Gift Recipient (DGR) status. Initial project would be for the two kindergartens we have been liaising with. Mens Shed might also be interested.
ACTION: John and Larissa to identify what are the steps and tasks needed and what skills might be required to progress with the community energy project, with the aim of seeking a few more volunteers to assist. Draft an email to go out to contact list and circulate to REB group for review.
1.3 Energy Efficiency sessions – report from John
The draft proofing and insulation session was held last night with 10 people attending. Most that attended indicated they would attend the next session. Might need to get a list of handyman and trades people that could undertake retrofit work such as installing installation.
2.Mini Grant project: Designing to Engage Benalla in a Renewable Energy Future
Documents were finalised and printed. The group discussed how the flyers should be used and distributed. Should promote at the Lakeside Market, will work on organising for 28 September market. Will also put some in West End Post Office, Library and Swanpool Cinema.
3.Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap
3.1.Launch – the document was recently launched in Wangaratta, John attended. John distributed a hard copy of the Roadmap.
3.2.John is organising a guest speaker to talk about the Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap for the September BSFG meeting. Discussed whether REB could use the opportunity to also promote the REB group. Agreed that this was a good idea. Meeting should be widely promoted.
4.Hot Water Bulk Buy
John and Kevin have been liaising with Indigo Power on the hot water bulk buy. Draft flyer was circulated with indicative prices. Will need a plumber and electrician, John will speak to potential interested plumber and advise Indigo Power.
5.Community Engagement Strategy
5.1.Reports of discussions with stakeholders
Peter discussed with Daryl Defazio who has some concerns around large scale solar. Hasn’t been able to get in touch with Tim Bowtell as yet.
5.2.John distributed Bendigo Council Community Engagement Toolkit which might be useful as we consider community engagement opportunities.
6.1.Annual Statement to Community Affairs Victoria is due the end of October. Peter will report as per the BSFG AGM.
Motion: That Peter is to complete the online lodgement of the Annual Statement to Community Affairs Victoria based on the information presented at the BSFG/REB AGM.
Moved: Kevin Smith 2nd: Peter Maddock All in favour
6.2.Still haven’t heard about the outcome of the funding application submitted with GVCE (Goulburn Valley Community Energy). Geoff Lodge would still like to progress with solar on community housing which isn’t dependent on this funding. May also be future discussion if GVCE are successful with Winton Solar Farm project, regarding community benefit sharing which would be from the outset (unlike others who may only commit once operational and making profit).
6.3.Kevin and Peter will attend the Lightsource BP Solar farm (Winton) session – looking at extending / increasing the size of the solar farm application.
6.4.Chelsea from DELWP wanted to gauge interest in screening of the film ‘2040’ as either a promotion or fundraising event for BSFG and REB. Everyone agreed it would be a good idea at either the DELWP Theatrette or BPACC. Peter suggested ‘Point of no return’ is another good film to screen.
6.5. Benalla Youth Action Society John sent email to the group to ask if they are thinking about the School Strike for Climate on September 20th.
Tuesday 17th September 2019 10am"
Community Energy Forum Friday 3rd August at BPACC - find out what community energy means for Benalla, & you
New, renewable energies are changing the way we get our energy. We are no longer reliant entirely on power from the big energy generators and companies.
We need to make sure that communities benefit from the renewable energy. The Community Energy model gives local towns and regions power over how they generate and consume electricity.
Join us at a Community Energy Forum on Friday 3rd August at BPACC and find out what community energy means for you and our region.
Locally generated renewable energy will create local jobs, cleaner energy and allow the community to control where their energy comes from. It means that towns can create mini-grids, where residents can trade power between themselves – powered by household solar and battery energy. This reduces reliance on the dirty and expensive national energy grid.
A local community energy retailer is currently being developed to allow towns and regions to achieve their renewable energy goals.
Come along and listen to some of Australia's foremost experts in the field explain how we can harness this new form of energy to build a new model of energy.
Three great speakers will outline what community energy is and how we can benefit from it: Simon Corbell, Victorian Renewable Energy Advocate; Nicky Ison, Co-founder of the Community Power Agency; Alison Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of Moreland Energy Foundation.
This is a free event but please RSVP for the Benalla meeting by 3 August at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/benalla-community-energy-forum-tickets-47537010478
Download the Forum Flyer.
The Renewable Energy for Benalla (REB) Action Group is currently planning a workshop on reducing energy costs for business. REB has been working closely with Benalla Business Network, Catherine Macmillan, Business Development Coordinator for Benalla council, and Sustainability Victoria to plan this workshop.
REB has developed a questionnaire to survey energy use by business that will be distributed through the Business Network. This will provide some base line data on energy use in the business/industry sector and will help with planning of the workshop.
REB members have started to make some preliminary investigations about a suitable community energy project.
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) Involvement
At the recent EcoCity World Summit in Melbourne, BZE launched the Zero Carbon Communities Guide in which REB features, as do the other two communities BZE is working with, Baw Baw and Nillimbuk. attended the launch as did representatives from the other two communities.
REB has recently received the first draft of a ten year transition strategy to 100% renewable energy. There is much work to be done on this document before it is finalised.
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