By Kath Gannaway
Healesville has voted resoundingly for a renewable energy future with over 225 people packing The Memo hall on Thursday, 29 June, to set the Healesville Community Renewable Energy project on its way.
To a background tune of ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’, a series of speakers told of the inspiration behind Healesville CoRE and plans for the future, how other small communities have shaped their own renewable energy projects, and how it might look in Healesville.
Yarra Ranges Council has been instrumental in the Start Up group that set the process on its way.
Cr Fiona McAllister said she was proud to have three renewable energy projects in the Yarra Valley.
“From where I stand tonight, it feels like the tide is turning and turning in the right direction,” she said.
“What tonight is about is a steady and very determined ground-up push for change with communities taking matters into their own hands,” she said.
Healesville resident Jeff Barlow is the inspiration behind Healesville CoRE.
“It’s amazing to think that just a short time ago the idea of Healesville renewable energy was just a flicker in my imagination,” he said.
“Basically, this is about getting solar energy into Healesville in a bigger way than it is already,” he said.
“The steering group has done its job of getting this community meeting going; we need now a group of Healesville people to take the concept forward,” he said.
He said a new committee would look at what the possibilities were for private homes and businesses to community organisations.
They could include, he said, bulk buys of solar hot water and batteries to finance, bulk buying of electricity, microgrids and more.
Keynote speaker Alison Crook AO is chairperson and a founding member of Enova Community Energy Ltd, Australia’s first community-owned energy retailer.
She said communities could take control of their own power and spoke of the benefits flowing from the Enova social enterprise model in putting money back into communities and reducing carbon emissions.
Denis Ginnivan, a board member of Totally Renewable Yakendandah (TRY) shared “Yak’s” story as a community not unlike Healesville.
“We didn’t feel that we have to wait for the government, they may support something that’s already moving, and I sense that something is happening here tonight,” he said.
“One of the big things we started was a perpetual energy fund which is now up to $20,000 which goes towards supporting organisations to start (with solar) and the loan gets paid back by savings made in power bills.”
He said the local hospital has a 90KW system in operation and estimates savings of $1 million over 10 years.
The local music festival owns three of those panels which pay for the festival power use.
TRY also runs education programs including bill coaching and energy audits.
Healesville solar technician Glen Morris got down to the nitty gritty with facts and figures.
Speaking of relative costs to pay-back times on batteries and solar panels, he said Australia was seeing a very rapid drop in the price of storage, and solar panels.
“Most houses have enough roof space for all the energy needed by that home, the challenge is storing it,” he said.
Mr Barlow said the immediate task was to set up the new CoRE Working Group to take the project forward.
“We are fortunate that there is a lot of interest in contributing to this group,” he said.
A series of meetings is planned for July and August.
Anyone interested in being part of Healesville CoRE can contact Mr Barlow on 0411 562 315, email email@example.com, or through facebook HealesvilleCoRE .