On 23rd, 24th and 25th May 2022 two of our members completed Voluntary Home Energy Efficiency Advisor training provided by the Hume Community Power Hub, https://www.communitypowerhub.net.au/hume/.
Community Power Hubs provide grants for community groups to install renewable energy and undertake energy audits, https://www.communitypowerhub.net.au/.
Indigo Power https://indigopower.com.au/about-us/, and GV Community Energy https://www.gvce.com.au/ are jointly delivering the Hume Community Power Hub.
Once endorsed our Voluntary members will be able to advise about improving Home Energy Efficiency. We hope to then have a contact form here to use this service.
'Tents to Castles: Building Energy Efficient, Cost Saving Aussie Homes' - Climate Council's Latest Report
This post is a slightly edited version of a post received by email list from the Climate Council, April 21, 2022.
Australia’s historically poor energy efficiency standards mean that many of our homes are like ‘glorified tents’ (1): damp, draughty, ice cold in winter and stifling in summer. This makes them energy guzzlers, highly expensive to run and more polluting than they need to be. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Climate Council’s latest report, Tents to Castles: Building Energy Efficient, Cost-Saving Aussie Homes (2), has found that by increasing the minimum energy efficiency standards for new homes from 6 to 7-Stars, we can dramatically cut household emissions, reduce energy bills, and improve people’s health and wellbeing.
For the first time in 11 years, these minimum standards in the National Construction Code are under review. As we are based in Victoria, our State has already voiced support for implementing a minimum 7-Star energy efficiency rating! You might like to send an email to thank Minister Wynne for his Government voicing support for this update, and encourage the new standards to be enforced from 1 September 2022.
Australians have some of the most expensive energy bills in the world (3), but this report, Tents To Castles, finds that living in a 7-star, all electric house in any capital city in Australia would save occupants $450 on average per year in heating and cooling costs, compared to the current building standard.
Increasing the energy efficiency of our homes doesn’t just make them safer, more comfortable and cheaper to run, it's also a great way to reduce emissions! Adding an extra star to each new home being built in Australia would mean 25% fewer emissions compared to homes at the minimum standard now - the equivalent of taking a car off the road for an entire year for each new home built (4). With 1.1 million homes expected to be built across the country over the next 5 years (5), the sooner we take action, the bigger the impact we can have on Australia’s emission reduction efforts.
Australians deserve far better from our homes, but we need the help of all state and territory governments to realise this. We must show them that Australians want homes that are energy efficient, comfortable and cheaper to run.
The opportunity to update the National Construction Code will not come around again until 2025. State and Territory Ministers are preparing to review these regulations, as part of the Building Ministers’ Forum, so now is the time to make our voices heard. Delaying this action by even another 3 years will lock in higher bills and add 9 million tonnes of emissions this decade - a decision we cannot afford.
P.S. Want to learn more about the benefits of increasing the minimum energy efficiency standard for new homes to 7-Stars? Read the Tents to Castles report here.
(1) Australian houses are just glorified tents in winter, Sydney Morning Herald, June 2015
(2,3,4,5) Tents to Castles: Building energy efficient, cost-saving Aussie homes, Climate Council, April 2022
Future of Renewable Energy Benalla
Report to BSFG Committee - 26 October 2021
Renewable Energy Benalla (REB) has been struggling for some time to achieve some of its goals. We have recently had discussions about the future of REB. While these discussions about how the group will operate will continue for some time we believe we need to inform the BSFG committee of some proposals for change.
Renewable Energy Benalla is a very broad title and could evoke the notion of direct marketing of renewables rather than the social/community goal of promoting the adoption of renewable energy across the Benalla community.
We are proposing that the title be changed to Community Energy Benalla as that better reflects the community focus.
However there is the issue of possible confusion with the Benalla Community Energy Project.
Considerations for Future Operations of the Group
Benalla Stationary Energy Transition Strategy
The focus of this document is to reduce stationary energy emissions to zero by achieving 100% renewable energy within 10 years. The document outlines three key steps to achieving this:
We are currently investigating a Solar Garden proposal which fits within the Replace with local renewables strategy.
The Benalla Community Energy Project (solar panels or energy upgrades) does focus on Replace but may also focus on Reduce if future projects are to do with improving energy efficiency.
Reduce and Replace strategies could be within the resources of Community Energy Benalla.
Switch to Utility Scale would be beyond the resources of CEB without major involvement from the council.
The goal of Switch would be to have a solar farm built to provide energy directly into the Benalla grid.
A local example is where Wangaratta Council invited a developer to build a solar farm to provide power to the industrial estate. This attracted industries to Wangaratta to benefit from cheaper renewable energy.
Could Benalla council be encouraged to do that for Enterprise Park?
Reduce energy demand through better building and energy efficiency
REB has conducted Energy Efficiency workshops in the past however the numbers attending the most recent workshops were disappointing. This is one of the key steps in reducing emissions and should continue to be part of the work of Community Energy Benalla.
There are many resources on the internet about retrofitting existing houses to make them more energy efficient and reduce energy bills. Possibly CEB could focus on directing people to these resources through website and social media?
Another possibility could be to conduct a forum focussed on people having problems paying their electricity bills.
Energy Efficiency Awards
In 2016 and 2018 BSFG and SunReal sponsored the Environmentally Sustainable Business Award as part of the Benalla Business Network "Business Excellence Awards". While it appears that BBN may not continue with these awards they may be interested in supporting an Energy Efficiency Award, obviously for businesses.
While it is obvious that some sort of sponsorship would be needed we believe it may be something worth pursuing, particularly with the focus on businesses. Sustainability Victoria assisted with the judging of the business awards and they may be able assist again.
Such awards may be best initiated by BSFG rather than CEB.
A major issue for Community Energy Benalla will be one of leadership as I will be moving away from Benalla in the near future.
Are you, or do you know of, a community group looking to reduce energy use, save money and lower emissions?
The Powering Communities Program in Indi provides $67,700 to fund up to 12 small projects that will assist community groups to improve energy efficiency practices, lower energy use, save money and reduce emissions.
Not-for-profit, community organisations are invited to submit an expression of interest to my office for projects of between $5000 - $12000 to:
Eligible purchases include solar PV, batteries, air conditioning, hot water heaters, LED lighting, cooktops and refrigerators and energy audits. A full list can be found in the Guidelines here: https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/powering-communities-program.
Community organisations must meet specific eligibility requirements and provide documentation to support their final application if their EOI is successful. I strongly recommended that you carefully read the grant guidelines before applying.
The guidelines require that community groups use Clean Energy Council accredited retailers and installers and choose Clean Energy Council approved products.
A list of accredited installers and products is available here:
Installers - https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/consumers/buying-solar/find-an-installer
Products/Retailers - https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/consumers/buying-solar/find-an-approved-solar-retailer
To submit an expression of interest please complete this online form. Expressions of interest must be submitted online by 5.00pm Friday 2 July 2021. Once received, expressions of interest will be assessed by my grants consultative committee in mid-July 2021. Successful applicants will then be invited to make a full application for funding.
For further information, please call Helen Haines office:
Helen Haines MP
Independent Federal Member for Indi
117 Murphy Street Wangaratta VIC 3677
T 03 5721 7077
79 High Street Wodonga VIC 3690
T 02 6024 6284
With meetings at the Benalla Rural City offices cancelled due to COVID-19 regulations, there will be no minutes for March/April. However the following report covers developments since the last minutes.
Virtual tour of Energy Efficient House
Adrian Howden’s son has worked on developing a 'virtual tour' of an energy efficient house.
The basic app is set up and he is now waiting to use material from the presentations last year to develop a 'walk through' highlighting problems and solutions.
John Lloyd has forwarded to Adrian the power point presentations on 'Draught Proofing & Insulation' and 'Lighting & Windows’ that were presented during the 2019 Energy Efficiency sessions. Some slides from these presentations may be able to be used in the 'virtual tour'.
John will make suggestions for future action in relation to Energy Efficiency shortly.
Community Energy Project - Establishing a donation-based fund to install panels on community buildings
1. Participation in a Community Energy workshop webinar & consultations with CORENA
John Lloyd took part in a Community Energy workshop organised by Hume DELWP and the Community Power Agency. The purpose of the workshop was to provide critical feedback and advice about our project. We received a number of helpful suggestions about implementing this project.
As a result of participating in this workshop DELWP have made a $3000 grant available to REB to help implement the project. We believe the best way to use this grant is to employ someone to undertake administrative tasks involved with setting up governance of the fund and to pay for professional development of communication messaging and materials.
In relation to obtaining Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, which means donations are tax deductable, we were advised that this could take a long time and it was suggested that we should talk to CORENA, who have been conducting a donation based revolving fund for a number of years. CORENA informed us that they did not have DGR status for the first three years of their operation and they suggested that we should not wait to obtain DGR status but should go ahead without it. CORENA also advised that obtaining DGR Status should become easier from July when applications will be handled by the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).
As the Benalla Renewable Energy Fund is a BSFG bank account, BSFG will need to obtain DGR status. John has discussed this with BSFG President, Peter Holmes, who agrees that BSFG will need to do this.
2. Community Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants 2020
Grants of up to $12,500 were available for energy generation and storage projects. There was a very short time frame for applications with only two projects per electorate to be funded and it was based on 'first come first served' principles. John suggested to the North East Regional Pre-school Association (NERPSA) that they would be eligible to apply in their own right. John offered to help them with their application if they decided to apply. NERPSA did not apply as the Indi electorate already had the maximum number of applications.
3. Community Energy Project implementation and Development of a Consultant’s Brief
Community Energy Project working group members have been communicating by email and are working through the steps required to implement this project. A brief is currently being developed for a consultant to undertake the tasks mentioned above.
Request from Geoff Lodge, Goulbourn Valley Community Energy
Geoff Lodge has requested/suggested that REB could be involved in helping GVCE install larger PV systems on factories in Benalla. Follow up with Geoff to be confirmed.
Waste to Energy
Adrian Howden has stepped away from involvement with Plastic Energy and moved to a watching brief to see what they are doing in Australia and where. His suggestion of a plant in Albury/Wodonga seemed to have merit for them, but as to who will be the principal investor remains to be seen. The main project has hit a snag in that the amount to be processed is larger than the plant size they have at present.
Adrian is exploring another approach which requires specific data from EPA, looking at a local plus a specialized operation added to it and considering if it is the type of operation we want and need to achieve an economic outcome. “All this is now a pipe dream in the current economic crisis, but if grasped, the opportunity could be feasible. Time will tell” Adrian.
Preliminary work on Micro Grid Feasibility
Nothing reported this month.
A reminder about the final session of Renewable Energy Benalla’s 2019 Energy Efficiency workshops which is on tomorrow night 14th October at the Benalla Uniting Church, opposite the Coles car park from 7.30pm until 9.30pm.
This workshop on Energy Monitoring, Solar Power & Batteries will be presented by Kevin Smith. We didn’t get to cover this topic last year so I am also including some people who attended our workshops in 2018.
We will also be mentioning an Energy Efficient Hot water Bulk Buy. Renewable Energy Benalla and Indigo Power are partnering to offer two best price energy efficient hot water systems.
Reclaim Energy CO2 Heat Pump – 315 litre
Standard installation with rebates - $2000 - $2200
Normal price fully installed approx. $4700
Apricus Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water – 315 litre
Standard installation with rebates – $3000
Normal price fully installed approx. $5600
0418 135 330
Reduce Energy Bills and Increase Thermal Comfort
More Comfort – Less Cost
Renewable Energy Benalla is conducting a new series of free workshops on how to reduce energy bills and increase the thermal comfort of your home.
Session 1 August 5 - Understanding energy bills and getting the best rate
Electricity contracts, understanding your usage, comparing retail rates
Bring your electricity bills to discuss
Session 2 August 19 - Draught Proofing & Insulation
Locating and fixing draughts
Insulation to improve thermal performance
Session 3 September 2 - Lighting & Windows
Energy efficient lighting
Solutions to poorly performing windows
Session 4 September 16 - Efficient Hot Water Systems, Heating and Cooling
Water heating is a major energy user while heating accounts for 30% of energy bills
Learn about efficient options
Session 5 September 30 - Appliances & Cooking; Transitioning from Gas
Appliances & cooking account for 30% of energy bills
Session 6 October 14 - Energy Monitoring, Solar Power & Batteries
Monitoring real time energy consumption
Advantages of solar power & batteries
These free workshops will be conducted fortnightly on Mondays in the meeting rooms at the Uniting Church in Carrier Street, Benalla, (opposite the Coles car park), from 7:30pm to 9:30pm.
While attending all the workshops would provide the major benefit, some people may wish to only attend some of the sessions.
It is important to register to attend these workshops by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org indicating the workshops you wish to attend or phone / SMS Peter on 0418 135 330.
Next 'Reduce 1/3' Building Efficiency Workshop. Session 4 Wednesday September 26.
Renewable Energy Benalla is conducting workshops on how to reduce energy bills and increase the thermal comfort of your home. Topics to be covered in session 4 on Wednesday 26 September include
Windows, Hot Water, Heating and Cooling.
Windows - poorly performing windows can result in increased energy costs. We will examine some solutions including window coverings, shading, insulating window films, secondary glazing, double glazing and window frames.
Hot Water - Water heating is one of the biggest energy users in any home. We will examine efficient hot water system
Heating & Cooling - Heating accounts for one third of the average householder's energy bill. Learn about smart, efficient heating options.
Workshops will be held from 7pm - 9pm at the Benalla Gliding Club,
Samaria Road Benalla. RSVP by 23rd September to Peter Maddock at:
Click here to Download Flyer
Our third Building Efficiency Workshop will be held on Tuesday August 21st from 7.00pm until 9.00pm at the Gliding Club, Samaria Road Benalla. We are revisiting topics covered in session 2, Lighting, Draught Proofing, and Insulation to provide additional information.
Session 3: Tuesday August 21st
Energy Efficient Lighting - presentation by lighting expert.
Draught Proofing - fixing draughts has a big impact on thermal comfort. Learn about overlooked sources of draughts and effective draught proofing techniques.
Insulation - The Key to Thermal Performance. Ceiling insulation, wall insulation, floor insulation.
Session 4 will be held on September 26th and cover Windows, Hot Water, Heating and Cooling.
Topics including Appliances and Cooking, Energy Monitoring & Control and Solar Power, may be dealt with in a 5th session either later this year or early in 2019.
RSVP for Session 3 by Sunday August 19th, Peter 0418 135 330, email email@example.com.
Following the cancellation of the Tuesday 24 July Session 3 Workshop the remaining schedule is as follows;
Session 3 will now be on Tuesday 21 August at 7.00pm-9.00pm and will provide additional information on Lighting, Draft Proofing and Insulation as we realise that these topics were not dealt with in sufficient detail at the last session.
Session 4 will be on Wednesday September 26 from 7.00pm-9.00pm and will provide information on Windows, Hot Water and Heating & Cooling.
The remaining topics, Appliances and Cooking, Energy Monitoring & Control and Solar Power, may be dealt with in a 5th session either later this year or early in 2019.
Download the workshop flyer.
RSVP Sunday before session, Phone/SMS Peter on 0418 135 330
Or submit details via our Contact Form. Include Session Number in Comments,
The workshops are held at the Benalla Gliding Club from 7 until 9 pm
The REB Efficiency Group had its second meeting on Tuesday June 26th at the Benalla Gliding Club.
Howard asked us to think about orientation and how this might affect the comfort and efficiency of our homes. The movement of the sun around our homes is very predictable. Ideally the living area is best facing north to allow penetration of winter sun, however eaves will largely exclude the sun in the hot summer when the sun is high in the sky. Sleeping and utility areas are better placed on the south side of the house.
The Australian Government website Your Home has an excellent guide to Passive Design, http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design.
Peter provided a brief outline of the Energy Freedom Home stepwise process of improving the energy efficiency of your home until eventually it can, after installation of solar panels, become a net exporter of energy.
As Peter's home has a northerly facing living area he is investigating better utilising this aspect of the home to make it more comfortable and energy efficient. This could include replacing northerly windows with doors to allow more winter sun access. These doors would then also allow access to an outdoor living area which would become a private area after changes to fencing. He is also considering insulation, draft proofing, and windows. Peter recommended Sustainability Victoria's video, Energy Efficiency at Home.
Other useful links with information on improving energy efficiency.
Indigo Shire Better Build Toolkit
ATA: Free Renter's guide to Sustainable Living
The REB Efficiency Group had its first meeting on Tuesday May 22nd at the Benalla Gliding Club.
This meeting provided a brief overview of the series with an emphasis on reading power meters and understanding power bills. It is considered useful to establish a baseline energy use before people embark on improving the energy efficiency of their homes so that improvements in performance can be measured.
Geoff Lodge, CEO and Executive Director of GV Community Energy gave an informative talk on the Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard including some valuable insights on retrofitting.
There are three more sessions in the series.
Session 2 - Tuesday 26 June - Lighting, Draft Proofing and Insulation.
Session 3 - Tuesday 24 July - Windows, Appliances & Cooking and Heating & Cooling.
Session 4 - Tuesday 21 August - Hot Water, Energy Monitoring & Control and Solar Power.
Information Links on Building Efficiency.
Indigo Shire Better Build Toolkit
ATA: Free Renter's guide to Sustainable Living
We encourage you to analyse your power bills to establish your baseline energy use.
Full details in REB's 'Wipe Out Gas and Electricity Bills' flyer.
A light supper will be available at the end of the evenings.
RSVP by the Sunday before a session, Phone Peter 0418 135 330, AH Howard 0409 504 420
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