New solar bulk buy program brings power to the people

Famous for Ned Kelly and Black Caviar, Strathbogie Shire in north-east Victoria is now becoming celebrated for something not commonly associated with an unassuming rural community.

Many Strathbogie residents experience energy poverty and stress, so this winter’s cold snap saw our seniors living in older housing stock reluctant to turn on the heating. To counter skyrocketing energy bills, the council launched a bulk buy program to bring solar power to the people.

Bogie Bulk Buy, as it’s known locally, combines independent solar energy information with bulk cost, quality-vetted solar systems, specially designed for a rural farming community. Council partnered with not-for-profit energy experts Yarra Energy Foundation and solar provider Cherry Energy Solutions.

Coming into its eighth week, Bogie Bulk Buy topped 150kW of solar power purchased by residents, preventing 7100 tonnes of greenhouse gas being released into our atmosphere and saving $67,000 in household energy costs.

There has been enormous enthusiasm for the program, with many residents now interested in going off-grid and experiencing energy freedom. Predictions from Yarra Energy Foundation show that the program looks set to become one of Victoria’s more successful solar bulk buys.

A common misconception is that successful renewable energy programs are the provenance of larger city councils. Small shires such as Strathbogie are playing an important role in the climate solution – and, importantly, renewable energy will put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into our rural economy, instead of into the pockets of decentralized non-renewable, high emissions energy corporations.

And because we’re the lungs and lunchbox to the cities of Australia, that can only be a good thing for everyone.

Cr Amanda McLaren is Strathbogie Shire mayor.

This article first appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 25 September 2017

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