The future is a yack! Renewables are a big hit in this town.

Indigo Shire had just held a forum on community energy.

The ten residents, inspired and excited by the event, gathered on a chilly night in 2014 to discuss ways to increase the town’s use of renewable energy.

As they started talking, a new idea began to form. They set an ambitious goal and decided to be ambitious. By 2022, they wanted to power their area of northeast Victoria with 100 percent renewable energy.

The Renewable Yackandandah (or TRY) was born.

Matthew Charles-Jones – the Executive Officer of Totally Renewable Yackandandah – who hosted that evening, described this decision as being driven more by an emotional reaction than a plan.

Charles-Jones: “At the moment we set the goal, we had no idea how to achieve it.”

“This was a heartfelt statement, not a bureaucratic or government- or organizational dispassionate one.

It was more of a spontaneous decision than a deliberate process.

The first step was to have informal discussions, then information sessions with friends and neighbors.

Facebook, the local newspaper, stalls in the farmer’s markets, information tables outside the newsagent on Saturdays, and interviews with community leaders were used to familiarize people with the concept.

It was planned to use an “intense” strategy to promote energy efficiency by creating a dense population of homes and businesses that used rooftop solar panels and storage batteries.

Solar hot water systems will also be installed on a large scale. Upgrades to LED lighting for community halls are being offered. A fund to support energy-efficient community projects has been set up.

Mr. Charles-Jones stated that by the end of November 2017, over 40% of the households in the town would have a rooftop solar system (the figure for the country is about half of this).

He said, “We work on the basis that we receive about 90 percent or more of support in Yackandandah.”

“But we also are really aware and respectful that some people are not interested in our work, and there is no reason why we cannot achieve the 100%.”

Mr. Charles-Jones stated that the group intends to generate more electricity using renewable energy than is needed to operate the town.

A mini-grid, a community retailer, and a microcomputer called Mondo Ubi are also in the works. These will allow townspeople to trade and share energy. A small solar grove, a collection of solar panels, would supply the remaining power.

Cathy McGowan is the Independent Member for Indi, advocating Yackandandah’s renewable energy project.

She said that “everyone has a role to fulfill [in order to meet renewable energy targets].”

“Yackandandah shows what a community can be when involved and active.” It’s taking responsibility.”

She said it was essential to acknowledge the importance of communities like Yackandandah in the grid and tell them: “You might be small, but you are significant, and we would love to support you.”

Donna and Nigel Jones, along with their three children Finbar (12), Maeve (9), and Lenny (5) moved to the town seven years ago.

Ms. Jones stated that what attracted her to the town was living in “a good community” where “kids will know the majority of people they pass on the street.”

When TRY became a reality, the family installed a solar roof system and a lithium-ion battery.

Ms. Jones, however, said that the decision was based on something other than finances as they lived in an environmentally friendly building.

She said, “We made a deliberate choice to build the house so that we would have a low energy consumption.”

It’s that sense of belonging and the knowledge that we are not the only ones in our town with solar panels. It is essential to realize that we are driving towards a common goal.

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