By Michael Doran
Leadership in the renewable energy debate is hard to find, except in Healesville where a committed group continue on the path towards a net-zero emissions town by 2027.
Healesville CoRE, a community initiated group established in 2107, enlisted Monash University’s Net Zero For Communities Team to survey community support for the 2027 objective.
Healesville CoRE President, Jeff Barlow said the results show the growing interest in solar balanced by the need to reach beyond residents already committed to renewable energy.
“The survey reinforces the high interest in the solar bulk buy we are proposing for 2019,” he said. “The relatively small number of respondents means we have more work to do to expand our community engagement.”
The survey was distributed online and ran from 22 November to 3 December, generating 144 responses, a somewhat small number that the researchers attribute to the ‘solely online’ survey method.
However within that group the message was clear that cost savings, energy self sufficiency and reducing carbon footprint were the main motivators for households considering a switch to solar power.
The survey found that 93% of respondents would consider changing to a community electricity retailer that reinvested in the Healesville community and 70% are interested in connecting to a micro-grid in the future.
In October, CoRE announced a partnership with Mondo Power, an business that has run bulk buys for other community groups, including the Yackandandah micro grid.
Mondo Power’s role is to advise on and organise the technical part of the project, working with residents towards the ultimate goal of a Healesville micro-grid.
One of the challenges is to ascertain what the broader community feeling is and the survey says ‘that the attitudes of the remainder of the Healesville community are unknown’.
“We realise this may be a biased sample but it does give us solid feedback and statistics we can work with to develop the project,” Mr Barlow said.
“In February we are running information sessions with Mondo Power to help residents understand the benefits and what is entailed in participating in the power bulk-buy. We are also doing a range of promotional activities, including brochures, market stalls and a new website.
“We continue to receive good support from the Yarra Ranges council, Bendigo Community Bank, Monash University and HEWI.”
What is undisputed is that Healesville CoRE is doing productive work on behalf of the community by gathering and presenting workable options to locals wanting to pursue a renewable energy future.
“Our community can become more resilient by producing, storing and distributing our own energy needs. With this report we can offer solid solutions and that will help build trust in the project,” Mr Barlow said.