Regional communities like mine — Victoria’s Hepburn Shire — are on the climate change frontline. Our experience battling bushfires in February, at the end of Australia’s hottest summer on record, shows what a precarious position we’re in. And it’s set to get worse unless we take urgent, decisive action.
That’s why we’re taking matters into our own hands with a comprehensive plan to drive down greenhouse gas emissions across our entire community — the Z-NET Community Transition Plan. We’ve recognised the importance of starting to build “emissions literacy” in our community so that we can develop local solutions.
Hepburn aims to be Australia’s first zero-net emissions community within 10 years. This means going beyond drawing all our power from renewable sources such as solar and wind. We’re also driving down emissions from transport and agriculture and recognising the important forests in our region that act as carbon sinks.
Hepburn is a community of creative thinkers, farmers and tree-changers, with a vibrant tourist trade and strong agricultural roots. Daylesford, one of Victoria’s iconic tourist destinations, is already Australia’s first zero-net energy town, with the nearby community-owned Hepburn Wind farm generating more energy annually than the town uses. A solar bulk-buy scheme to help local residents purchase solar and battery storage systems was launched recently at a cheaper rate than buying retail.
We have plans for mid-scale renewable energy and storage projects to ensure that all of our community has access to clean, cheap, reliable power. We’re working with residents to change the way they live and work in our shire. This includes phasing out natural gas use in homes, and shifting to sustainable transport such as electric vehicles, public transport, cycling and walking. This work will prevent about 260,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution from entering the atmosphere annually by 2030 — the equivalent of removing more than 60,000 petrol cars from the road.
Our vision for Hepburn Shire is for day-to-day activities of residents’ lives, from commuting to work through to cooking dinner, to be powered by clean energy. Communities are being bold and ambitious when it comes to emissions. We are aiming for zero by 2030. Later this year, the Victorian government will be deliberating on targets for the state. We call on all levels of government to follow our community’s lead and match our ambitions.
Taryn Lane is manager of the community-owned Hepburn Wind.