This is what can happen when a passionate group of locals pull together to reframe energy generation, use and storage.
I am a member of community energy group, Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) in north-east Victoria. We set ourselves a target of 100 per cent renewable energy for the town by 2022.
This transition includes ongoing support for solar generation and energy storage, as well as the dramatic reduction of energy use.
The potential of rooftop solar generation is already well understood. Indeed, over 2 million Australian households have grasped that opportunity.
But to help people use less power and be less vulnerable to price increases, TRY is working with local trades people, community energy retailer Indigo Power and 13 other community energy groups to progressively replace inefficient electric storage hot water systems.
By using high-efficiency CO2 heat pumps or evacuated tube solar hot-water systems, households can emphatically reduce their electricity demand for daily hot water needs, often lowering energy usage by up to 80 per cent compared with electric storage systems.
Electric heat pumps and solar hot water are favoured over LPG or natural gas systems given the likelihood for continuing increases in gas prices. Moreover, household gas is difficult to produce renewably or with minimal impact on the land or oceans.
Cost savings can be even greater for people with solar photovoltaic systems. Many people with rooftop generation have an excess of power during the day - often when they are away from home. Heating hot water can make use of this excess daytime supply.
This shift to daytime hot water heating can also improve the stability of local electricity networks. By efficiently putting excess solar generation to work, we can reduce daytime network voltage peaks.
For the utility provider this may avoid millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades, while communities get a more affordable electricity supply.
To use a more efficient appliance at a time of day when renewable energy is plentiful is such a simple change yet offers a profound impact. It's a three-way win: cheaper bills for households, cleaner power for the planet and the potential to reduce the need for electricity network upgrades.
Is it time for you to meet the collective energy and climate challenge? Go ahead, start at home and if you need help, go searching for your friendly local community energy enthusiasts or other trusted energy experts!
Juliette Milbank, Totally Renewable Yackandandah
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