Renewable Energy Benalla (REB) Action Group Renewable Energy Benalla
Vision: For Benalla to become a zero net energy town by reducing and balancing energy demand with 100% renewable energy supply.
The last 12 months have been extremely busy for the Renewable Energy Benalla action group with monthly meetings to plan how to implement the Benalla Stationary Energy Transition Strategy that was developed with the support of Beyond Zero Emissions and launched in November 2017. 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: 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.
Along with these three strategies it will also be important to promote the vision and activities of Renewable Energy Benalla. Many homes and businesses have made great progress with increasing efficiencies and installing rooftop solar but many people aren’t aware of the possibilities and the momentum for change that is developing. A critical activity will be to promote options and inform people so they support the change that is necessary and become active in achieving it.
In order to help promote Renewable Energy Benalla an REB website, www.reb.org.au has been established which is maintained by Bev Lee and Peter Maddock. Their work with the website is very much appreciated by members of the action group.
Renewable Energy Benalla also became incorporated in order to protect the name from any possible business starting up in Benalla who may have wanted to use that name.
A number of sessions focussing on improving the energy efficiency of existing houses were conducted during 2018.
These sessions were advertised with the heading, Reduce Energy Bills and Increase Thermal Comfort, and covered the following topics:
Understanding your energy bills - electricity and gas; Energy Efficient Lighting; Draught Proofing; Insulation; Windows: shading, coatings and films, and glazing; Efficient Hot Water Systems; Efficient Heating and Cooling Options.
These sessions will be repeated again in 2019 and in following years to help achieve the goal of reducing energy demand by one third over ten years.
Promoting Roof Top Solar
As part of this strategy REB invited Mondo Power to make a solar panel and battery offer to the Benalla community which unfortunately was not accepted by the community. Discussions have been held with Mondo to review the reasons for the failure of this offer.
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. In order to do this BSFG would need to establish a Benalla Renewable Energy Fund that community members could donate to? Community buildings would make repayments to this fund based on the savings they would make by having solar panels on their roof. This would mean that funds would again be available to install panels on another building.
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.
Involvement with Beyond Zero Emissions
I attended the BZE AGM in Melbourne as an invited guest speaker and gave an overview of REB activities.
The Beyond Zero Emissions Electrifying Industry Report was presented to a small group of regional people on 26th March. Vanessa Petrie, CEO of BZE travelled to Benalla to present the report.
Renewable Energy Benalla has submitted applications for two different grants.
a) Hume Region Community Renewable Energy Mini-Grants
This grants program aims to support communities to engage members of their communities in activities or events which raise awareness and understanding of renewable energy opportunities. An application titled "Engaging Benalla in a Renewable Energy Future" was submitted. The grant sought was for $2915 for the design and printing of a range of communication materials to assist REB raise its profile and increase engagement with the wider Benalla community. Benalla Sustainable Future Group was nominated as the lead agency as REB does not have a bank account. This application was successful and the moneys will be paid into the BSFG bank account.
b) Victorian Community Climate Change Adaptation Grants (3CA Grants)
The 3CA Grants program aims to support practical projects focused on adaptation activities with clear community benefit. Discussions were held with Goulbourn Valley Community Energy (GVCE) about a joint application to thermally upgrade low income housing by improving draught proofing and insulation to make them more energy efficient and more thermally comfortable. A joint application for $100,000 titled 'Adapting Community Housing for Climate Change' has been made with GVCE nominated as the lead organisation. If the application is successful GVCE will handle the financial aspects.
The submission involves conducting assessments of 50 houses owned or managed by community housing organisations, 25 in Benalla and 25 in Goulburn Valley, and then carrying out retrofits of those houses. In Benalla we will focus on houses managed by Beyond Housing. Announcement of successful grant submissions will be made by the end of May.
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. The successful application for a grant to develop communication materials will help with this process.
John Lloyd, Convenor, Renewable Energy Benalla