Community Renewable Energy

Local Power Plan is an Incredible Game Changer for Community Renewable Energy!

The movement towards government support of local community renewable energy groups like Healesville CoRE, has received an incredible impetus from Independent MP for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, with her Local Power Plan, which includes a bill which she hopes to get through the Federal Parliament called the Local Power Bill 2020.

The Local Power Plan proposes a new Australian Local Power Agency to develop 3 innovative schemes, including 50 local power Hubs across Australia and a new $310 million fund to support local communities to develop their own energy projects. In addition, it proposes the underwriting of a new Community Investment Scheme, which would enable local people to purchase 20% of the value of new large scale renewable energy projects e.g. solar and wind farms, community batteries etc.

 

This proposal, if passed by Parliament, could be a game changer for community energy in Australia and could lead to significant opportunities to be taken up within the Yarra Ranges Municipality. Our President wrote to the YR Council about the Local Power Plan and said: “If Council and Healesville CoRE could develop a Collective Impact Strategy to stimulate and guide the development of community renewable energy across the municipality we could be well placed to attract Federal Government funding to our towns and perhaps to have Healesville designated a community energy Hub to disperse funds to other community energy groups across the municipality. I hope after reading the Local Power Plan you will understand the potential for social and economic development opportunities for our municipality.”

For further information and video go to: https://www.localpowerplan.com/

Helen Haines said:

“By bringing cheap, clean power to the regions, spurring a new wave of local employment, and creating new sources of income that will last for decades, the Local Power Plan is one opportunity to reboot our regional economy.

“To make this a reality, we need the Government to commit $483 million over 10 years.

“If you share our vision for a generation of prosperity fuelled by cheap, clean, local power, visit localpowerplan.com and get involved:

  • Ask your local Federal MPto support the Local Power Plan
  • Contact your local councilabout supporting local renewables projects
  • Write a letter to the local newspaperin support of the Local Power Plan
  • Get involved in community energy

Helen Haines said, “The next 50 years could be the brightest ever for regional Australia, if we have the smarts and the grit to work for it. Let’s get to work!

If you would like to join Healesville CoRE to support our work for local renewable energy please sign up here: https://www.healesvillecore.org.au/membership/

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What has Healesville CoRE been up to Recently?

We have continued to beaver away, working hard to bring our community information about renewable energy, together with opportunities to purchase solar and battery, and solar hot water systems for homes and businesses. See below for links to our website where you can get further information and express your interest in installing solar power and/or solar hot water.

Strengthening & securing our administration: At the end of July 2020 we completed a major project in integrating our administrative systems to an online communication and document storage system, which is working very well for us. We received $10,000 funding from Sustainability Victoria to do this and we submitted a detailed report which will be of benefit to other community groups. We have now received the go ahead to share that report with other community groups. Let us know if you would like a copy.

Strengthening environment group communications across the municipality: We have set up a Forum on our website just for environmentally focused groups from the Yarra Ranges and Yarra Valley. This will enable all groups to interconnect and communicate with each other when they feel the need to. All groups have been contacted to participate and we are heartened by the response so far. If you are a member of an environmentally focused group and would like your group to be part of this communication channel, please get in touch with your committee to let them know this.

Supporting our financial members: We have also been working to create greater access for our financial members to enable them to communicate with each other and to access information they might like to see, with a Members’ Only website portal where there is a Forum and document access to Minutes of meetings and reports and other information of interest. If you are a financial member of Healesville CoRE and would like access, do get in touch.

Very successful AGM held on 7 September via webinar: Our new committee is now up and running and holding meetings using video. Our President presented our comprehensive Annual Report for 2019-20, produced very professionally this year with the pro bono support of James McDermid, graphic designer, whose input was greatly appreciated. Click here for access to the Annual Report. Our two guest speakers, Simon Prunster from Yarra Valley Water and Julian Guess from Yarra Ranges Council both presented very exciting developments in renewable energy projects both locally and nearby. To view video of Simon’s presentation, click here.

Some of our Current Projects:

  1. We are working on installing three solar systems on not for profits in Healesville, using Federal funding facilitated by our local MHR Tony Smith. We had a couple of problems to overcome, which have now been resolved and this project will soon recommence. The $90,000 investment will bring long term energy savings of 10’s of thousands of dollars to each organization for the next 20-30 years: the Healesville Living and Learning Centre, the Robyn Jane Children’s Centre and the Galena Beek Cultural Centre, just near the Healesville Sanctuary will all benefit. We are scheduled to have the project completed between December 2020 and March 2021.
  2. Six volunteers have been trained as home energy efficiency advisors to provide free advice to home owners who would like to participate, and this project is now well under way in preparation for when home visits will be permitted again.
  3. This week we completed an application for grant funding to develop, with consultancy support, a comprehensive Community Engagement Strategy which, if our application is successful, we hope to complete between April and July 2021.
  4. On 22 September our President tabled the Healesville CoRE Annual Report at the Yarra Ranges Council meeting and addressed Council about the work of Healesville CoRE, with very positive comments from a number of Councillors. If you would like to read this presentation click here.
  5. He also presented a report to the Yarra Ranges Environment Advisory Committee (YREAC) on 10 September, with much support from those present.
  6. We are working on a suite of policies to strengthen our committee and governance systems and processes and this project, funded by a $6,200 grant from FRRR is nearing completion.

We participated in a codesign process with Dr Helen Haines, the Independent Federal MP for Indi, to assist in the development of the ambitious Local Power Plan, which was launched on 23 September 2020. View the details here.

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Healesville CoRE Takes the Lead in Developing an Integrated Online Admin System for Not for Profit Groups

A major problem for not for profit voluntary groups is how to centralize their administration systems – no centralized email system or document storage, no centralized data base and no automated membership registration system etc. The sort of thing that most larger organizations just take for granted! And with individual volunteers coming and going with their own computers, over time the admin system starts to become weaker and problematic.

Healesville CoRE has been working on creating our own centralized admin system using easy to access off the shelf software that needed additional work to be integrated, and we were fortunate, with YR Council help, in obtaining a grant from Sustainability Victoria to develop this system for other not for profit groups.

A small team of our members and three external consultants are now bringing this work to fruition and a report will be compiled for Sustainability Victoria which we hope eventually to make available to other community energy groups and other not for profit groups throughout Australia.

We are very pleased that our initiative with this project has been recognized and acknowledged. The integrated system is now being used by Healesville CoRE and has made a huge difference to our organizational efficiency and productivity. We are excited that our work will now benefit other not for profit groups throughout Australia.

In addition we obtained a separate grant from FRRR to develop 40 Policy documents, which is now in process, and we are also hopeful we will be able to use this work to help other not for profits around Australia, thus leveraging the value of the grant funding!!

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The Magic Pudding Solar System!

Another Great Achievement for Healesville CoRE – Solar Systems for three Not for Profit Groups in Healesville!!

We announced in earlier Newsletters last year that we had received an offer of funding from our local Federal MHR, Tony Smith, for $90,000 for three solar energy projects in Healesville. We did our research, got solar systems designed and quoted on, got Council involved. Submitted a formal application for funding and the funding has now been officially approved!

Recently YR Council and Healesville CoRE appointed a Project Manager and the systems are now undergoing final design in preparation for tenders to be let very soon. We thank the YR Council Sustainability Unit for their assistance which has helped us a lot.

All the solar systems will include a Mondo Ubi electronic monitoring system which we will be able to utilize to monitor the productivity of each system and to use the Ubis in the Healesville Micro Grid which we are planning to establish in the future.

Healesville CoRE is very excited to be supporting the Healesville Living & Learning Centre ($20,000), the Galena Beek Cultural Centre ($50,000) and the Robyn Jane Children’s Centre ($20,000) all of whom will save a substantial amount of money by generating their own solar energy. This funding will be used as interest free loans for each organization.

In addition, we suggested this funding become a Revolving Fund whereby each organization benefiting from the funding uses the savings they make on their electricity bills to repay the interest free loan so the money can then be used for other community groups, in perpetuity – the Magic Pudding Solar System!! Free money to install a solar system that saves money to pay for itself and then the money revolves for other groups to use for decades to come.

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Want to hear from someone who purchased a heat pump last year?

Karen & Ron Roberts’ Experience with their Reclaim Heat Pump

In August 2019 Healesville CoRE members Karen and Ron Roberts decided to take advantage of the Solar Hot Water & Heat Pump offer by purchasing an Apricus CO2 Heat Pump from Reclaim Energy. They already had a 3.5kw solar system with 14 panels installed a few years earlier, and although this certainly reduced their power bill, they knew their old electric water unit was chewing through the kilowatts and needed replacing.

The figures are:

Cost of unit                              $3520

Installation                              $1262 (Plumbing and electrician)

TOTAL                                     $4,782

Less Federal rebate                 $1732 (STC $1156 and VEEC $576)

Less State rebate                    $1000

Total out of pocket cost        $2050

The graph below tells the story, look at the July total compared to the August one! As you can see, the peak usage remains fairly constant, but the off peak usage drops dramatically and then remains quite low. They believe this is because the old unit used to heat up during the off peak portion. The new one only heats up once a day for 2 hours from 10am till 12 noon which will be changed in the winter to maximize the suns effect on the solar panels.

Karen and Ron are with Tango and their feed in tariff rate was 11.3c until June, and 12c from July until now. Their power bill averaged at $103.45 per month from March to August 2019, then after the heat pump installation dropped to an average of $43.20 per month from September 2019 to February 2020. These figures may have to be adjusted slightly because we need to take into consideration the days were longer and warmer after the heat pump was installed, but they calculate that they will still be saving about $700 a year ($7,000 over 10 years), which means that the heat pump will pay for itself after about three years. Not a bad investment!

Healesville CoRE planned to launch another Solar Hot Water Bulk Buy at our next community session on the 7th of May, but this of course was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Come to the webinar on Tuesday 23 June 2020, then you too can take advantage of it and save emissions and save money!

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$90,000 funding from Federal Government for solar infrastructure in Healesville now in progress!

Those of you who read our newsletter regularly will know that in May, just prior to the last Federal Election, our local MP for Casey, Tony Smith MHR, pledged Healesville CoRE $90,000 for three local solar energy projects. We copped some flack at the time from members of the community who disagreed with us being open to funding from the Federal Government. However, Healesville CoRE also spoke to the Labour candidate about our financial needs, so we did not favour one party. The President, with the unanimous support of the Central Committee, made it clear to those who protested to us that we are not politically aligned and will work with whichever party is in power, as we represent all people in our community, regardless of their political affiliations. We did lose some financial members over this issue, unfortunately, but we stuck to our guns and three community groups will, hopefully, benefit from this funding.

After discussions over an extended period of time the process of accessing the funding is now in train and Healesville CoRE is working on the projects, preparing documentation about each project to present to Council, so a formal funding application can be made to Canberra in early December 2019. The projects will be assessed by the relevant Minister and we are hopeful that the funds will be made available early to mid-2020. We are very pleased that this funding program is now in process and we look forward to announcing the funding next year and we also look forward to getting solar panels on the roof tops of the community groups involved.

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Is a significant solar farm getting closer for Healesville on our old tip site?

Many in our community were very upset at losing our community tip and having to drive to Coldstream to dump our household rubbish. But Council has now sponsored a feasibility study into the possibility of making constructive use of the old tip site by building a solar farm on it. A company called Enhar won the feasibility study contract and together with Australian Energy Foundation (formerly Moreland Energy) they have now completed their study and have submitted their recommendations to Council. They have identified a number of sites around the Yarra Valley and Healesville is right up there as a possibility.

Prior to completing the feasibility study, a Stakeholder Meeting was held at the Council offices in Lilydale in September, with a widely representative group of stakeholders, including two from Healesville CoRE – Simon Prunster and Jeff Barlow.

Enhar and the Australian Energy Foundation presented the results of their study, including input from a range of community groups, including Healesville CoRE. Feedback on their report and other input from the stakeholders was invited with some of the issues raised to be included in the final report. There is the possibility of a small solar farm or a larger solar farm, depending on a range of technical and financial issues which were explained to the meeting.

We understand Council will make a decision some time in December and Healesville CoRE hopes Council will decide in favour of a large solar farm on the Healesville site! Energy production from the site could be used for council buildings, street lights and / or for the community and other purposes. Watch this space!!

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Getting Healesville CoRE on the radar with Sustainability Victoria

Getting Healesville CoRE on the radar with Sustainability Victoria and connecting with other community renewable energy groups in Victoria.

Meeting between Sustainability Victoria, YR Council, and H’CoRE on Monday 23 September 2019

Very positive feedback to Healesville CoRE from Sustainability Victoria and from the YR Council for the work we are doing. This meeting was a great opportunity for Healesville CoRE to inform this government department about our work and to hear about the work Sustainability Victoria is doing to support community energy groups throughout Victoria – from setting up communication infrastructure so we can all ‘talk’ to each other online (what they call a ‘Community of Practice’) to working to establish a ‘Collective Impact Strategy’ with government, councils and community groups working together to achieve common goals.

This two hour, very constructive meeting was attended by three reps from Healesville CoRE: Sean O’Sullivan, Simon Prunster and Jeff Barlow; three reps from Sustainability Victoria and two reps from the YR Council Sustainability Team.

The Collective Impact Framework was discussed but it became clear this is a concept at the very early stages of development for Sustainability Victoria. They only have 5 staff and they are trying to do things differently from the way Government usually goes about engaging with the community, where Govt usually employs a top down approach. Sustainability Victoria is trying to explore the possibility of a more horizontal approach with more connectivity between government, councils and communities.

Healesville CoRE received some very positive feedback with Sustainability Victoria being impressed and confident in the quality of our work and the professional approach we are using. They receive our newsletter and think it looks professional, with excellent content. This was reaffirmed by Julian Guess from Council.

We explained the problem that volunteers cannot be expected to decarbonise Australia, that we are overworked with the enormity of the task we face and that we are of the view, as they are, that it will take a collective approach to achieve Net Zero for Healesville and for the Yarra Ranges.

They were impressed with the admin infrastructure we have set up with CiviCRM software and the move to using Google’s G-Suite for our other admin software. They wanted to look at what we have set up in CiviCRM to see how it works and to see if it could be rolled out to other community energy groups who are reporting to Sustainability Victoria that they are having admin problems.

They could see from our presentation how CiviCRM could be scaled up to be used across the Yarra Ranges. They also understood the problem of not enough volunteer labour to do all the work required and the need for finance to employ an administrator and to hire professional support for the CiviCRM software. We are hopeful that if the Victorian Government provides funding for community renewable energy groups that Healesville CoRE might also be included.

We are clearly on the radar for Sustainability Victoria, they see the good work we are doing with very limited resources, that we have great potential, that we need financial support, and they and Council can see how H’CoRE could be scaled up to roll out a program across other community groups all over the Yarra Ranges with a view to establishing many community energy groups. I explained how we need to research ways of creating deep community penetration for action and how we can use the findings to apply across the Yarra Ranges. In all, a very positive meeting.

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Great success for our solar energy event with Glen Morris

Great success for our solar energy event with Glen Morris at his Lab at Moora Moora on 14 September 2019.
On Saturday, 14 September, Healesville CoRE held an information and solar equipment ‘show and tell’ event at Moora Moora Co-op on Mount Toolebewong at the Workshop, Training centre and Lab of Glen Morris.
The weather was perfect with sun and bright blue skies, which gave the event guide and solar technology Guru, Glen Morris, the chance to hold most of the demonstration tour in the open. Attendees were introduced to various pieces of equipment in live operation on trailers, on roofs and on a “tiny” house. We even saw in operation the micro grid of one group of houses!!
Glen tests the latest products coming on the market and his laboratory is full of inverters and batteries in operation. He explored the history and the workings of the wide range of equipment on site in his clear, friendly and engaging way to the 35 people attending the event. A great success according to all in attendance! And what a treat to see a piece of equipment that can produce clean water from air!

 

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Yarra Ranges Council declares a Climate Emergency!!


Photo by Michael Nardella

We are very excited to bring you the great news that on Tuesday, 10 September 2019, the Yarra Ranges Council voted 5 votes to 3 to declare a Climate Emergency. The public gallery was overflowing with supporters of the motion, including children, and there was much excitement and jubilation once the vote was taken!

Learn more on the international movement to declare a Climate Emergency

In making this Climate Emergency Declaration Council is declaring that we cannot engage in ‘business as usual’ if we are to seriously tackle the Climate Emergency. Council is saying, we need a society wide mobilization that takes very seriously the danger now facing our planet and all life on the planet.

The Yarra Ranges Council is taking leadership in making this Declaration. It is sending a very strong and unequivocal message to the community and to governments that we need urgent, collective action across all levels of government and the community. There is no time to waste! We must act NOW!

Cr Mike Clarke’s Motion: A Climate Emergency Framework!

In fact, Cr Mike Clarke’s motion went further than declaring a Climate Emergency. His motion created a Climate Emergency Framework which will enable a Whole of Council approach to the Climate Emergency, as well as also enabling greater collaboration between Council staff and the community in developing carbon abatement projects and activities.

This Whole of Council approach and greater collaboration between the Community and Council is what Healesville CoRE has been advocating for the past two years.

Read Cr Mike Clarke’s amended motion

The Healesville CoRE Role in Facilitating this Outcome!

The Healesville CoRE team is really pleased to have played a prominent role in facilitating this outcome. Our President, Jeff Barlow, is a Community Member of the Yarra Ranges Environment Advisory Committee (YREAC), which is a Council appointed group to advise Council on environmental issues. Jeff brought a motion to YREAC in June this year, which YREAC supported unanimously, to request that Council signs the Climate Emergency Declaration. This was supported by a letter from Healesville CoRE and a further supportive motion, which Jeff organized, from a meeting of the Yarra Valley Community for Climate Action, both with unanimous support.

Cr Mike Clarke, who is the Chair of YREAC, then formulated his motion on the basis of the support of YREAC, as well as the support of other community groups and individuals writing to Council.

A community group asked Jeff Barlow to speak in favour of the motion at the Council meeting which he did, and young kids from the community, who were present, stood behind Jeff, facing the Council, as he made his presentation to Council. It was an historic and very moving occasion.

Read Jeff Barlow’s community presentation to Council here

Practical Implications!

It is a real pity that the motion did not ask Council to sign the Climate Emergency Declaration, which would have had significant symbolic meaning, rather than simply declaring a Climate Emergency! However, the motion as passed, will have significant practical implications. Already plans are being discussed for the next steps in creating greater community/Council involvement in carbon abatement. More about this when we have something more concrete to announce.

Congratulations to Council!

Healesville CoRE would like to congratulate Cr Mike Clarke for bringing the motion to Council and for all the work he did behind the scenes to enable the motion to be passed. We would also like to thank our Councillors, who voted in favour of the motion, for their courage and wisdom in putting other concerns aside so they could focus on the big picture. They decided to move away from rubbish, roads and rates and away from bureaucratic concerns, to embrace the bigger picture of Global Warming, and to address the serious implications for the planet if temperature increases are not kept below 1.5 degrees. It is courageous leaders like these that the world needs – Federal politicians please take notice!!

Congratulations to our Community Who Lobbied for Change!

Healesville CoRE would also like to thank all those community members who signed petitions, attended meetings, voted for motions, wrote to individual councillors, and who spoke up for the Climate Emergency Declaration! It takes a community to get the action we need.

In our view, the Yarra Ranges community can be justly proud of the Council’s decision. When taken together with the work Council has been doing on renewable energy for Council buildings over the past 10 years and all the tree planting to store carbon, that has occurred, we can see a good start has been made to an ongoing process of broader community and Council action that will need to be mobilized. We think we are up for the challenge! Would you like to be involved too?

If you would like to support us in our ongoing work for the community please get in touch, become a financial member of Healesville CoRE or make a donation. Any or all of these would be very much appreciated. And remember to write to Council to congratulate them on this historic decision!

Read the Mail Newspaper article

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