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Community Power

Living Lightly

By Lauren Salathiel, Totally Renewable Yackandandah

Since hosting the Indigo Shire’s first community energy forum earlier this year, some residents in Yackandandah have set an ambitious goal – to achieve “energy sovereignty” and go 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2022.

A lofty pursuit it may be, but the town’s community renewable energy group, Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) is following in the footsteps of dozens of communities, worldwide, that have unleashed the power of ‘community-owned’ renewable energy projects.

Whether its the Bavarian village of Wildpoldsried, which now generates 300 per cent of its energy needs using renewable energy technology, or the German town of Schleswig-Holstein, which is on track to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy this year, Yackandandah doesn’t have to look very hard for inspiration.

TRY spokesman Matt Grogan said his group was comprised of locals with a keen interest in both radically reducing the town’s energy consumption, and eliminating the consumption of coal by sourcing renewable energy.

“We aim to achieve this by facilitating audits of local households, businesses and public buildings, and developing a suite of documents, resources and workshops to improve energy efficiency,” he said.

“But we then want to take this one step further than just focusing on energy efficiency. Our name says it all – we want to go totally renewable electricity.”

“For us, this means looking into the merits of photovoltaic cells, concentrated solar thermal and biomass to tailor an energy system that produces no greenhouse gases and steers us away from a reliance on finite resources and the production of harmful by-products.”

The group is still investigating models that create ‘positive feedback loops’ by providing a financial return to investors as well as the community. But already members have shared its plans and networked with related groups at the first Australia Community Energy Congress in Canberra.

“We strongly believe in the power of sharing knowledge and stories in order to forge connections, find inspiration, and workshop new methods of engaging the community.  All this by implementing renewable energy systems and building a culture of adaptation,” Mr Grogan said.

“Ultimately, we want this project to have a strong social and cultural focus to it, building financial vitality, community cohesion and resilience by forging stronger ties among groups and individuals in Yackandandah and its surrounds.”

“Then we will have achieved a true expression of community power.”