Renewable Energy Benalla (REB)
Report to Benalla Sustainable Future Group AGM - Thursday 27 May 2021
While the activities of Renewable Energy Benalla were impacted by COVID restrictions during 2020 some activities resumed with the easing of restrictions in 2021.
Benalla Community Energy Project (BCEP)
REB has been successful in implementing the Benalla Community Energy Project (BCEP) which 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 required from the receiving community organisation. 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 eventually be used to make a loan to another community building. In this way the fund becomes a revolving fund.
We were able to undertake our first project without conducting a fund raising program, as we obtained a grant for $5000 from the Winton Solar Farm Community Benefit program. This grant, along with a significant donation from Sandy Campbell and a significant in-kind contribution from SolarGain, enabled us to install panels on Munro Ave kindergarten.
Following installation of the panels we conducted an official 'switch-on' ceremony at Munro Ave kindergarten on May 6th where Dr Helen Haines, the Independent Member for Indi, launched the Community Energy Project.
At the conclusion of this ceremony we announced the next project would be the Bernard Briggs Kindergarten.
A special thank you to members of the BCEP working group: David Blore, Patricia Brooke, Karen Nankervis.
Thanks are also due to the BSFG committee for their support of the BCEP.
Website and Social Media
Bev Lee and Peter Maddock continue to manage the operation of the REB website which receives a lot of attention.
Recently they have been joined by Heath Wiley who has initiated an Instagram account and is an excellent photographer. Our thanks to this Web team.
Waste to Energy: Adrian Howden continues to investigate a variety of options for a utility scale waste to energy project for the Benalla region. COVID has restricted the extent of these investigations.
Solar Garden: Kevin Smith has been investigating Solar Gardens with the ultimate aim of establishing one in Benalla. A 'solar garden' is like a small solar farm where households unable to install solar panels (e.g. renters) can buy a 'plot' of panels and receive an annual credit against their energy bills for the energy it produces.
North East Community Energy Network (NECEN)
This network consists of representatives from all the community energy groups in North East Victoria.
A lot of valuable networking takes place at these meetings with each group reporting on their activities. The network is supported by Indigo Power. Following the success of the trial Community Power Hubs the state government is making funding available to set up six more hubs in Victoria. Indigo Power and Goulburn Valley Community Energy have put in a joint application to establish a Community Power Hub in Hume Region.
The Benalla Stationary Energy Transition Strategy which was developed with support from Beyond Zero Emissions details appropriate strategies to achieve our goal of 100% renewables by 2028. However this is a complex task and while REB has managed to work on some of the strategies outlined in the Transition Strategy document we urgently need more people to join us to help us achieve our goal.
Many of you will have recently received a letter appealing for people to join REB and help us achieve our vision of Benalla becoming a zero net energy town by 2028. This remains an urgent need.
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
Tim Bowtell's compelling portrait of Greta Thunberg, painted on the side window of the Benalla Rural City offices in Mair Street for the Window to Window festival, draws from and is representative of Tim's current work and concern about climate change.
Tim describes being surprised that around 90% of people who spoke to him while he was painting weren't aware of Greta Thunberg, and is pleased that his work has acted as such a catalyst for conversations about climate change.
The discussions which began in social media and mainstream television news last week continued this week in three pages of Letters to the Editor in the Ensign, most of which were about the portrait of Greta, and most of which were positive!
The announcement by Time Magazine of Greta as their Person of the Year a few days into the controversy on social media proved a wonderful endorsement of Tim's choice of a portrait of Greta for his window.
This news item from 9 News Border North East on December 12 includes responses from Renewable Energy Benalla's John Lloyd and BSFG's President Peter Holmes:
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