When we moved to our 15 acres in Palerang from Canberra four years ago, our intention was to go off-grid. In the interests of cost comparison, however, I phoned (what was then) Country Energy and asked what it would cost to put on the power from the power line that ran across the bottom of our property.
The person I spoke to found the property on his map and quoted some ludicrous amount to me, which included a power pole and transformer and whatever else. I thanked him and said that he had just confirmed our decision to go off-grid. His next comment left me gobsmacked: “It’s not practical. There wouldn’t be more than about 20 homes in Australia that are totally off-grid.”
What? I told him that I could name at least 20 people in my district alone who live with off-grid solar or solar-wind hybrid systems. Clearly he didn’t believe me and it didn’t matter anyway. As intended, we installed a solar PV system and I haven’t paid a power bill since.
What that conversation did tell me, however, was that the energy companies are blinkered to the reality of renewable energy growth.
Despite the current federal government’s love affair with the coal mining industry, the renewable energy sector continues to grow. Not just individual households, but entire communities and towns are leaving the grid and becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy.
Could it happen here?
The town of Uralla, on the New England Tableland, used to be known as the main stamping ground, and now burial place, of the bushranger, Fred ‘Thunderbolt’ Ward. In recent years Uralla has become known for something else: it is a leading town in two key areas of sustainability: waste reduction and renewable energy.
With a population of around 3000, Uralla is showing towns like Bungendore and Braidwood how it can be done.
With uncertainty surrounding the future of the councils in this region, it may be time for local communities to take the initiative themselves in setting their future directions. Uralla began its transition to 100% renewables in 2012 under the NSW government’s Renewable Energy Action Plan.
Last year it was selected by the NSW government as the state’s first Zero Net Energy town. Since then, town residents have been working on a Z-net Blueprint to plan and chart their transition.
Could Palerang villages go 100% renewable?
With Uralla moving steadily towards the goal of energy independence, the NSW government is inviting other towns in the state to get involved via the Zero Net Energy website: z-net.org.au
Despite the unwillingness of the energy companies to acknowledge it, more and more homes in this region are opting for their own power systems. And why not? The technology is improving and the cost is getting lower.
There are several ways in which towns can become 100% renewable, but with the state government offering assistance directly to communities, this is an opportunity to get on board without waiting for council to catch up.