Stories from Nth Victoria: Totally Renewable Yackandandah

When it comes to renewable energy, community groups like Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) are out in front, setting their own ambitious target to hit 100% renewable energy by 2022.  With National Volunteer week finishing up last week, Y2R celebrates the work of volunteer led groups like TRY pushing the boundaries in the shift to renewable energy.

Yackandandah is a small town in northeast Victoria, known for its people “can-do” attitude and its strong sense of community.

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“2017 Yack Folk Festival”, “Community owned petrol station in Yackandandah”

The town nests individuals, like you and me, uncertain about what their future holds who are looking for practical solutions to help address one of the greatest challenges ahead of us: climate change.

In Yackandandah, some extraordinary people have turned their concern into positive actions that will help reduce their carbon footprint and that of their community, and empower future generations.

“Humanity is in real trouble”, said Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) President Matthew Charles-Jones. “It is our responsibility to act now.”

TRY is an incorporated community group formed in early 2014 after a community energy forum organised by Indigo Shire Council. Since then, the group has been run by passionate volunteers with a common vision, seeing their town powered by 100% renewable electricity by 2022.

“Our group is apolitical and we strongly believe that bipartisan support is essential if we want to achieve the goals that will benefit our community”, said Charles-Jones.

One of the group’s objectives is to strengthen the cohesion and resilience of the local community. For this, the group closely interacts with Indigo Shire council, federal, state and local politicians, the network provider, North East Water, and strongly engages with the local community through their football, netball, tennis, bowling clubs and neighbourhood house to only name a few.

“Yackandandah’s community is very supportive of TRY’s goals”, commented Charles-Jones.

TRY works with local businesses and individuals to reduce their energy consumption, and deploy renewable energy generation and storage. With the support of the community, the group has already helped raise funds to support energy efficiency works  to couple with a 90 kW solar PV array installed at the Yackandandah Health Centre in 2016.

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90 kW solar PV array on Yackandandah Health Centre

They are now embarking on a Mini-grid trial with AusNet Services, with the promise to take the town one step closer to “energy sovereignty”. Establishing the Mini-grid is a multi-step process that starts with a house energy assessment and selection of the right solar package for the home owner. The solar system is equipped with a Mondo™ Ubi™, an advanced smart home energy monitoring and management system that allows connection with the future Mini-grid.

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Mondo™ Mini-grid concept

This is a perfect example where the work of volunteers can be taken a step further with the support from businesses that will benefit from an integrated energy grid transformation.

TRY are a leader in community energy in Australia despite them having to juggle their voluntary efforts between their every-day work and personal commitments.  “It can be challenging having a group ran by volunteers”, confessed Charles-Jones. The group welcomed the recent Victorian government announcement of $900,000 to establish a series of community power hubs in Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley. This kind of regional support from the state government would certainly help facilitate a just energy transition that local communities will be proud of in the future.

 

The incredible efforts of TRY’s volunteers do not stop here. With a clear parallel between energy resources & water, the group is working with North East Water on water/energy displays to familiarise their town with resource usage.

Finally, TRY has dreams of a fair transition that is inclusive of all communities and has initiated a beautiful project with iconic artist, Shane Howard, on an Anthem for Renewables. Throughout his career, Howard has been a devoted supporter of the environment, worked closely with Aboriginal musicians and advocated on human rights issues. We look forward to singing along with TRY for a brighter future!

Political representatives can take inspiration from community groups like TRY who are setting their own renewable energy targets, proving that there is strong community support for ambitious fixes to our energy system.

We too believe supporting jobs and investment in renewable energy ought to be above party politics.

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