Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan told Parliament this week that it was time for government to do its bit to support community energy projects.
Ms McGowan acknowledged the effort of various organisations across the region for their work supporting renewable energy initiatives, including Benalla Rural City Council, the Winton Wetlands and the Benalla Sustainable Future Group.
Her speech also highlighted that the transition to a renewable energy future would require high levels of social consensus and engagement.
‘‘International best practice has demonstrated that community ownership has become a well-established mechanism to build consensus and assist the transition to increased renewable energy sources,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘Community-owned renewable energy projects that allow communities to reduce their energy costs, or even make income from power production, would enable these benefits to be felt across the broader community, addressing the government’s energy policy priority of security, reliability and affordability.
‘‘The community energy sector is in its infancy and faces significant regulatory and cultural barriers. However, its strong growth from two or three groups in 2010 to more than 60 groups today is a clear indication that the sector will play a significant role in the development of future energy policy.’’
One such group is Renewable Energy Benalla (REB), which is working with the Better Business Network (BBN) and Benalla Rural City Council to better understand the current energy use and demand patterns of Benalla businesses.
During August REB will be conducting a Benalla business energy audit which will allow it to identify options to assist Benalla’s business community by providing tips to reduce energy use and highlighting ways to save money on energy bills.
The audit will also identify interest in group buy-in opportunities for organisations in Benalla and will review the latest technology systems being developed to modernise Victoria’s energy grid.
Identifying new technological opportunities such as battery storage, micro-grids and internet enabled devices will highlight potential partners for a Benalla Energy Model.
The REB is asking local businesses to take a few minutes to complete an online survey which is accessible at www.surveymonkey.com/r/BenallaEnergy4BusinessSurvey
REB was formed after a ‘whole of community energy forum’ late last year which 90 local business representatives attended.
Due to high interest in renewables in the region, Benalla has since been chosen as one of three Victorian pilot towns to participate in Beyond Zero Emission’s (BZE) Zero Carbon Communities Project.
BZE is a not-for-profit research and communication NGO which develops blueprints for the implementation of climate change solutions.
It aims to move Australia from its current reliance on fossil fuels to a more environmentally-friendly, carbon-capturing, renewable energy-driven economy.
The Zero Carbon Communities Project is an initiative aimed at reducing carbon emission by focusing on six areas including energy, buildings, transport, land use, industrial process and export industries.