Uralla was successful in being selected to be the Z-NET Case Study Town, in particular because of its demonstrated track record in working on sustainability and the very strong support shown by its local community, business and government to pursue 100% renewable energy.
The Z-NET Blueprint was developed at the same time as creating a plan for Uralla to ground-truth the model and highlight how Z-NET could be applied in a practical sense (even though the context, options, preferences and plan for each town and village will be slightly different).
Both Uralla’s Plan and the Z-NET Blueprint were funded by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.
Z-NET Case Study ~ Uralla’s Plan & Business Case
Uralla’s Z-NET Plan and Business Case highlights that a current spend of approximately $12M per year (on stationary energy and excluding transport fuel). This stationary energy use comprises electricity (49%), firewood (45%) and LPG gas (6%).
The majority of electricity is imported from Australia’s electricity grid and is largely non-renewable due to the current reliance on coal-fired power. At the local level 10% of households and a number of businesses in Uralla have rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Firewood is used extensively across the Uralla region for residential heating and is predominantly sourced from fallen timber on farming land. Wood is potentially a renewable resource, however, existing on-ground reserves in the region are becoming depleted.
Z-NET identifies that there is a substantial business case for taking small-scale actions which together can achieve a large impact. Cost-effective energy efficiency actions, replacement of hot water units and residential solar PV alone could decrease demand in Uralla by almost 20%. These actions present the potential to save $2.2M per year and would allow participating households to save up to $1,000 per year (and businesses to save up to $3,000).
Better managing Uralla’s firewood use presents a significant opportunity to become a Z-NET. Energy efficiency actions such as improving thermal fabric by draught sealing and insulation should reduce wood use by approximately 15% and improve comfort during winter. Firewood can be a renewable resource, but more research is required to understand how firewood collection and resource management practices in Uralla will need to change.
The plan sets out a two-stage approach for Uralla to achieve the Z-NET goal
- Stage 1 is about immediate practical action: using less energy and opportunities to generate renewable energy locally or nearby that have a positive business case relative to the cost of importing renewable energy. Combined, this cost effective action could reduce overall energy use by 15% and deliver between 40 to 70% of the goal within ten years.
- Stage 2 provides a framework for developing partnerships and joining policy and advocacy initiatives to remove barriers and establish a viable context for large-scale renewable electricity generation. For firewood, Stage 2 represents the culmination of local efforts to create a renewable firewood supply within a regional context.
By implementing this plan, Uralla will be investing in the long-term interests of its own community and providing an example for other communities across Australia to follow.
Z-NET Uralla first formed to support the development of the Blueprint.
Since the completion of that work, Z-Net Uralla have taken on the leadership and coordination of implementing the Uralla Blueprint. Their first official meeting was in March 2016 where a governance charter was adopted. Z-NET Uralla are auspiced by the Uralla Neighbourhood Centre Inc.
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