Landmark bill tabled in parliament

People speaking at a press conference
Matthew Charles-Jones speaks at the press conference after the tabling of the Australian Local Power Agency Bill on 22 February. Photo: David Foote, Auspic

TRY was in Australia’s capital on Monday when our independent member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines MP, tabled a new bill to to enact The Local Power Plan. The Plan was the result of over 12 months work of Helen’s office and an expert panel of community organisations, of which TRY was a member, along with almost 100 submissions from around Australia.


logo for The Local Power PlanWith the current boom in small residential rooftop installations and large-scale commercial projects, the bill aims to fill a gap in Australia’s renewable energy landscape by amplifying the work of community-energy groups, so that the benefits of renewable energy can flow directly into rural and regional communities. It encourages community groups to build knowledge, stimulates mid-scale renewable projects and facilitates community investment in large-scale projects.


The bill allows communities to decide their own course and do what best suits their community’s context. With TRY’s foundation of three microgrids, a 200-property minigrid, and installation of a 274 kWh community retail battery with Indigo Power, the mid-scale energy storage and generation projects that are our next step to 100% renewables are exactly what the Local Power Plan is aimed at.


TRY is thrilled to be a part of developing the bill and will continue working towards taking advantage of our unparalleled renewable resources, bringing the benefits, economic opportunities, reliability in energy supply and increased resilience in times of extremes, back to the people in our community.


The bill has now been commended to the House of Representatives for debate and the community groups that participated in its development, along with many others, look forward to seeing the parliament take on board a policy that will give regional Australia a once-in-a-century chance to reinvigorate itself.

 

The significant benefits of the The Local Power Plan have also been taken up by Farmers for Climate Action and the Community Power Agency in their Repower our Communities campaign. Keep an eye out for it and support it where you can!

Two MPs and representatives from community groups standing behind them
Dr Helen Haines MP and Zali Steggall MP stand in front of community group representatives in the Mural Hall at Parliament House on Monday. The group participated in drafting the Local Power Plan with Helen Haines office last year. Photo: David Foote, Auspic.

Working with the CFA

Photo of volunteers outside the CFA fire station
Volunteers outside the Yackandandah fire station. Image: Indigo Power

TRY is thrilled with the partnerships we have nurtured on our mission and a good example is our relationship with the CFA. It took a few years of discussions and planning but we worked with the CFA to add a solar system and battery to the Yack fire station with the final installation occurring in 2019. The outcome of that was not only local resilience and cost savings but has contributed to the CFA subsequently rolling out a program across the rest of Victoria.

Check out the 45 second video they made on the collaboration to celebrate Earth Day in April 2020.

 

The Yack CFA installation has been a fantastic outcome for our community since it’s installation in 2019 and is shortly to be augmented with a second battery to provide for longer operations during power outages. Look out for an announcement in the near future!

 

Photo of the inverter hardware
The inverters and battery installed at the Yack fire station in 2019 – you can read a CFA article about it here

Sustainability award winners!

A group of people cheering in front of a community building
After a challenging year, some of the TRY committee and their families celebrate our win in the Premiers Sustainability Awards!

After a year unlike any other, we gathered in the Osbornes Flat Hall on December 16 for our last committee meeting. As we set up a projector screen and put out the drinks and nibbles for an end-of-year quiet celebration, we planned on watching the Premiers Sustainability Awards ceremony but didn’t really believe that we would win. There were so many worthy, energetic and inspiring projects in the finalists (check them out here).

logo of the winner of the Premiers Sustainability AwardsSo we are over the moon to win the Community Category in the awards. And the Premiers Regional Recognition Award! It is fantastic recognition for our community Virtual Power Plant (VPP) project that launched in September 2019.

 


Thanks to Sustainability Victoria for the fantastic video!

The award was for leadership and excellence in sustainable initiatives with demonstrated benefits for communities. The communal benefits of a network of public buildings that generate their own power, with some of them also storing energy, must have made a compelling submission!

On a project of that size, with planning and negotiation over a couple of years and countless hours of work, we couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and sponsorhip of our partners and many other people and organisations. Heartfelt thanks go to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Indigo Shire Council, Into Our Hands Foundation, Yackandandah Folk Festival, YCDCo, Mondo, Selectronic and the committees of the public buildings which participated. For further details on the VPP and award nomination, see our news item here.

 

Plaque showing TRY as the winner of the Premiers Sustainability Award, Community categoryPlaque showing TRY as the winner of the Premiers Regional Recognition award 2020

 

What is 100% and how do we get there…

Project postcards in front of a person signing in to the town hall meeting

Our 100% Feasibility Study is considering what it will take to get Yack to 100% renewables and the best mix of options to do so. It’s a big task, but it is also a big task to show the community what that all means.

So we’ve created some infographic postcards to explain some of the important concepts and decisions that need to be made. They will be put on display around Yack so people can look at them and give their thoughts on the paths we might take.

We want to find out what you like, what you don’t like, what worries you, and what excites you, and any other thoughts you might have. Send us an email with your thoughts on the project, or fill out a feedback card at one of the displays.

Each card is presented below as a slideshow, with a link for you to send us your comments (if the link doesn’t work, simply send your comments to [email protected]). The slideshows are best viewed on a computer or tablet, to avoid having to zoom in too much.

Click on the arrows at the side of the card, or the numbers below the card, to see the other side. Click ON the card to see an enlarged version.

 

1. Who are Totally Renewable Yackandandah?

Perhaps you know a bit about TRY, but here is a brief summary of what we have done, why, and how we intend to reach 100% renewable energy for our town.
Email your response to Postcard #1 here

  • A graphic and a fun fact about Yackandandah
  • A description of who TRY are, what they are doing and why and how they they are doing things

 

2. What is 100%?

What does 100% actually mean? How much energy does that mean we need to generate all the time, and are some targets easier than others?
Email your response to Postcard #2 here

  • A chart showing the difference between 100% net and 100% gross renewable energy
  • Notes about different definitions of 100%

 

3. Yack’s current energy imports from the grid

So how much energy does Yack currently need to import from the mains electricity grid (after local rooftop solar generation is taken into account)? What are the times of highest usage that reaching the 100% target will have to deal with?
Email your response to Postcard #3 here

  • A chart of the energy imported from the main electricity grid to Yack
  • Questions about how much energy Yack needs to import from the grid

 

4. What technologies can we use to reach 100%?

Which technologies suit our region, given its climate and landscape? And what characteristics of some of them can make reaching the target easier.
Email your response to Postcard #4 here

  • A chart showing when solar- and wind-energy generation typically occur during a day
  • A list of strategies to cover Yack's energy needs

 

5. What is pumped hydro energy storage?

Many people mistake pumped hydro as generating electricity like the Snowy hydroelectric scheme – it’s not. It’s a storage mechanism that involves moving water between storage reservoirs at different heights.
Email your response to Postcard #5 here

  • A diagram showing pumped hydro energy storage
  • A description of pumped hydro energy storage

 

Thanks for taking a look at our postcards. We’re really looking forward to hearing from you!

Blog: How far have we come?

Yackandandah's main street in early morning sunlight
Early morning in the main street of Yackandandah. Photo: J Milbank

TRY was started in 2014, and gosh, after the events of 2020 how far away does that seem? Six years of of concerted, determined effort, many long days, scores of grant applications, numerous market stalls and many fearless chats. They seemed to fade into the background in 2020’s turbulence but their legacy is still there.In Yackandandah, on average a person with a solar system saves 63% on their power bill

We now have three functioning microgrids, 191 buildings contributing to the minigrid, an awesome community energy retailer, Indigo Power, and a rooftop solar density approaching 60% of buildings in the Yack valley.

We also have a public virtual power plant (VPP), with solar installations on ten public buildings and batteries at three of them, producing energy for the minigrid. This reduces the running costs for community groups, and provides resilience in times of emergency for organisations like the CFA, public hall and sports park.

We’re not finished yet though, with plans underway to expand and deepen the public VPP and promote the replacement of inefficient hot water systems. Here are a few stats covering the benefits to participants in the almost three years since minigrid operations started in December 2017 up to August 2020.

Stats on minigrid benefits


But how close are we to achieving the 100% renewables goal?

Our federally funded 100% Feasibility study is looking at that very question, and more importantly, how we progress to the target of 100%. In many ways, despite the enormous achievements of the last six years, we have only laid the all important foundations for our target and the last big push is still to come.

We have travelled through the first four stages of our five-stage roadmap and we’re entering stage five: generation and storage of renewable energy at community-scales, ie. in quantities large enough to supply the whole community, not just individual households.

We have a community-scale generation and storage installation, Yack01, about to be installed at the site of the old Yackandandah sawmill, our community-scale project. We’re also powering on with expanding the VPP and further developing resilience within the town so it can continue operating even when power blackouts occur. And recently our efforts have been noticed in the Premiers Sustainability Awards.

And we take enormous heart from the fact that our efforts are also influencing others. The small-scale microgrid trials that TRY and Mondo started are now being scaled up and run in larger pilot studies to develop a market mechanism for distributed energy resources (DER), such as the ones TRY has in its minigrid.

So how far have we come? Such a very long way! We still have a way to go but we are confident that our regenerative efforts will change the way Yack and other towns view their power supplies, and their capacity to operate in times of emergency and hardship. And of course to tackle the climate emergency. All the while demonstrating the very significant benefits, savings, autonomy and reliability, that can come to residents. We’re powering towards 2022 – just watch us!

looking down High Street towards the Star Hotel
Looking down High Street, Yackandandah. Photo: J Milbank

A local hero and finalists for a sustainability award

Matthew Charles-Jones being videoed by Gerald Wiblin for the Premiers Sustainability Awards
Matthew Charles-Jones being videoed by Gerald Wiblin recently for the Premiers Sustainability Awards

With the intensity of pandemic restrictions, home schooling and the chaos of border closure effects, a couple of achievements almost slipped by unnoticed. TRY’s Chairperson, cofounder and long-time renewable energy advocate, Matthew Charles-Jones, was nominated and short-listed for the Victorian section of the Australia Day Awards in the Local Hero category.

Taken by surprise (he doesn’t know who nominated him), Matt was self-effacing about the honour, claiming it as recognition for TRY and the Yackandandah community’s determined efforts to reach the 100% renewable goal. But he was very touched that someone thought he was worthy of nomination.

He didn’t win but was chuffed to have been part of it. The other nominees were of very high calibre with Dr Kirby White, founder of Gowns for Doctors, taking out the Victorian 2021 Local Hero honours on the 27 October.

Premiers Sustainability award

And we were very excited today to find out that we’ve been announced as a finalist in the Community category of the Premier’s Sustainability Awards 2020 for our public Virtual Power Plant. The VPP was finally launched last year after at least three years of diligent and dogged work with multiple community organisations, Indigo Shire and the CFA.

Yack’s VPP is a network of publicly owned buildings across the area that generate, store and share electricity – ten buildings had solar systems installed and three of them, the Yack Public Hall, Sports Park and the CFA station also had batteries installed.

The project saw the installation of 74 kW of solar across TRY’s footprint, generating an extra 104 MWh of clean energy, reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 88 tonnes CO2 per year. They provide the core for a robust, localised, low-carbon and resilient electricity supply, and we’ve got more installations on the way.

It’s an exciting project which is already saving community groups operation costs (although due to pandemic restrictions we don’t yet know how much as many buildings have been closed) and will provide extra resilience during emergencies to organisations that have batteries, such as the CFA.

We feel incredibly honoured to be included in the awards this year, especially when you look at the calibre of the other finalists. There were a record number of entries. You can check out TRY’s nomination and the other amazing finalists here.

Our heartfelt thanks go to our partners and sponsors for the VPP:

  • Sponsors: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Indigo Shire Council, Into Our Hands foundation, Yackandandah Folk Festival, and YCDCo.
  • Public buildings and hall committees: Yackandandah Health, Yackandandah Public Hall, Yackandandah Museum, Osbornes Flat Hall, Bruarong Hall, Wooragee Hall, Yackandandah Sports Park, Yackandandah CFA, Indigo Valley CFA, and the Masonic Hall.
TRY members looking happy at the Yack Public Hall
TRY members were chuffed to find out we’ve been shortlisted for the Premiers Sustainability Awards in the Community category. Photos: Juliette Milbank

2020 AGM Round Up

TRY members attend the 2020 AGM in typical pandemic style

TRY’s Annual General Meeting was held on the 21 October via an online forum, as was appropriate for the strange year that 2020 has been. It was kept short and focussed to avoid the Zoom fatigue that we are all feeling after 6 months of pandemic restrictions and set a TRY meeting record by finishing in an hour!

Matthew Charles-Jones, the outgoing Chairperson, gave a summary of TRY’s achievements and activities around the new tax deductible (DGR) status, Indigo Power’s impressive progress, the federally funded feasiblity study into the path to 100%, and the soon-to-be completed community-scale battery, Yack 01. The financial statements were then tabled and accepted with Treasurer Bernard Wilson giving a brief rundown of financial activities.

All executive positions were declared vacant, new nominees elected, and the new President, Juliette Milbank, wrapped up the meeting with a thank you to the dedicated work put in by the committee members and the fantastic support of the broader Yackandandah community.

She acknowledged the pivotal and dedicated work by Matt Grogan, Ben McGowan and Ali Pockley, who all stepped down from the committee recently due to increasing responsibilities with Indigo Power and other community groups. Thanks also go to Denis Ginnivan who chose not to stand for the Vice President position again but who remains on the committee to provide us with his wisdom and enthusiasm for all things community.

TRY has also recently welcomed three new members to the committee, with Chris Glanville, James Jenkins and Ben Haslett joining and bringing fresh ideas and enthusiasm to help out in the areas of the DGR subcommittee, projects and general support, along with Simone Engdahl who joined earlier in the year.

As 2022 starts to loom on our horizon, and with several very exciting projects underway or about to be completed, we look forward to 2021 bringing us ever closer to our goal: 100% renewable energy and increased resilience for the community of Yackandandah!

TRY Committee for 2021

President
Juliette Milbank

Secretary/Public Officer
Kim McConchie

 

Vice President
Matthew Charles-Jones

Treasurer
Bernard Wilson

General Committee
Denis Ginnivan, Donna Jones, Neil Padbury, Ron Boulton, Ben Gilbert, Simone Engdahl, Chris Glanville, James Jenkins, Ben Haslett

A Local Power Plan for the regions

TRY has been one of many community groups contributing to a detailed plan for bringing renewable energy benefits to regional and rural areas. The article below appeared in the October/November edition of Yackandandah’s bi-monthly paper, Yackity Yak.Local Power Plan logo

A few months ago in June I described how TRY and other local community energy stakeholders were participating in a community energy co-design process with the office of Dr Helen Haines MP. Over 8 weeks Dr Haines engaged with hundreds of people and received 99 submissions from all over Australia and all types of people and organisations, including farmers, investors, health organisations, training providers and community energy groups.

The purpose of the process was to ensure that regional Australia drives and benefits from the coming boom in renewable energy. As more large-scale solar and wind farms, and eventually storage facilities such as batteries and pumped hydro, pop up around the country, how do we make sure that regional Australia participates in the benefits that flow from them?

And when extreme weather events and bushfire disasters more frequently disrupt power supplies, as they did in Corryong and Walwa last summer, how can we make our towns and regions more resilient? How do we ensure that large (and small) projects are not done to the regions, but with the regions? These were the underlying questions that occupied the expert panel and the many submissions that Dr Haines received.

Over the last 6 years TRY has experienced many of the challenges and benefits of undertaking a 100% renewable energy transition and we are uniquely placed to identify things that would improve and accelerate the journey. We’re proud of our efforts and achievements that show the benefits and possibilities of a renewable energy transformation.

We participated in the consultation process, helping to formulate the discussion paper, and also made our own submission. It and the other 98 submissions were incorporated into the discussion paper and have become the Local Power Plan, a roadmap of initiatives to involve, benefit and empower local communities via renewable energy projects. The Plan suggests different levels of policy that will facilitate community and commercial projects and provide incentives for investment, regional development and resilience.

A screenshot from a Zoom session with TRY members
TRY participated in several Zoom sessions over five months, helping to formulate the discussion paper and giving feedback on successive drafts. Image: Juliette Milbank

Dr Haines commented that “for everyday people in regional Australia, if we do renewables right, it means lower bills, stronger energy security, and new jobs and industries”. Along with reducing emissions, this is what TRY has been working towards since we started our journey, with a focus on making sure that initiatives benefit all levels of the community, not just those that can afford to make changes. It’s about equity, resilience and community.

The Local Power Plan is now complete and was launched online on the 23 September as well as being presented to the energy minister, Angus Taylor MP – you can look at the final version here.

We’re incredibly proud to have been part of this process and we and many others will be watching to see what happens. In the mean time we continue working on a 100% renewable transition for our town, making local power a reality.

                                                                                                                                            –– Juliette Milbank

Supersizing a community battery

TRY and Indigo Power were on the PRIME7 News with the announcement of grant funding from the Victorian Government for our first community-scale battery storage facility, Yack01.

Image of the PRIME7 News video

We were very excited to learn on Wednesday that we had been successful with our application for $171,000 from the Victorian government’s New Energy Jobs Fund. TRY and Indigo Power have been hard at work since mid-2019 raising around $250,000 to bring a 136 kWh storage battery to fruition, but with the announcement of the additional funding the battery can now be increased to 274 kWh.

The storage battery facility (named Yack01 in anticipation of much more storage to come!) will be one of the first of its kind in Australia and will be installed alongside 70 kW of solar panels that are also part of the project. It will enable solar energy generated during the day to be stored and then used by Indigo Power customers during the evening. The larger battery will enable it to power up to 40 average-size households overnight.

Yack01 will be located at the property of Ben Gilbert’s Agency of Sculpture business, which is the site of the old Yackandandah sawmill and has a necessary transformer already on site. The battery is situated ‘behind the meter’ but will sell electricity into the National Electricity Market (NEM) for use by local residents. 

The tracking and sharing of local energy is made possible by an energy-sharing widget developed by Mondo (a subsidiary of AusNet Services) so that Indigo Power customers with this device form a mini-grid.

The state government funding is a vital step to getting the town of Yackandandah to reach its 100% renewable energy target. We know that we not only need more renewable energy generation, but we also need storage to ensure the community has access to clean energy at all times. The Yack01 battery is a small but crucial step in the 5-stage road map to reach our target, and is the precursor to the masterplan for community-scale storage and generation being developed by our federally funded feasibility study.

We are stoked that the extra funding has allowed us to increase the battery size and really looking forward to some community-scale storage coming online in the next few months!

The TRY logo

  

The Indigo Power logo

2020 Annual General Meeting

Matt Grogan, former TRY Chairperson, gives his parting speech at the 2019 AGM. Photo: Ben Gilbert

The 2020 TRY Inc. AGM will be held on
Wednesday, October 21st, at 7.30pm

[Edit: The AGM Agenda is available here]

This will be an on-line meeting, via Zoom, in line with the current COVID-19 restrictions on public meetings.

All members of TRY Inc are invited to attend, and anyone wishing to become members will be welcome to join the meeting.

The positions of President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary/Public Officer will be declared vacant, and a vote will be taken to fill those positions for the next 12 months.

If you wish to nominate a person for one of these positions, and/or are unable to join the meeting but wish to vote by proxy, please use the following forms to participate:

Nomination Form                         Proxy Form

These should be completed and emailed to [email protected] by October 19.

PLEASE NOTE: in order to co-ordinate the meeting, an RSVP is required in all instances by email to [email protected] The link to the meeting, along with an agenda, will be provided by return email.

It is anticipated this meeting will conclude at 9.00 pm. If you have not used Zoom for online meetings previously, and need help to set up the meeting on your computer or phone, please let us know and we will endeavour to help.

Please send RSVPs, forms and any enquiries to TRY Inc by October 19

[email protected]u