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!
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
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Banner - launch of REB's Munro Avenue Pre School 'behind the meter' solar panel installation, May 6 '21