About Z-NET

The overall purpose of Zero Net Energy Town (ZNET) is to create Australia’s first town which satisfies all of its own energy needs from renewable energy sources in a way which is competitive with its current system of energy (in terms of price, quality, reliability, security of supply and so on).

The purpose of this current stage of work is to prepare a Blueprint and Business Case for Uralla, which may potentially become Australia’s first ZNET. This work is being led by the Project Team.

The purpose of this current stage of work is to prepare a Blueprint and Business Case for Uralla

By blueprint is meant a plan for the implementation and creation of the Z-NET, which is anticipated to require several stages of work and some 5-10 years to achieve in full. The Blueprint is intended to provide a platform and framework for Uralla as well as for other regional villages and towns to assess their own viability of becoming a Z-NET.

By business case is meant a holistic rationale which quantifies the costs, benefits, opportunities and risks of Uralla becoming a Z-NET.

Z-NET is led by a Consortium in collaboration with Starfish Initiatives and is funded by the NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage Regional Clean Energy Program, together with significant contributions of pro-bono and voluntary time and expertise.

Z-NET is funded by the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage

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Strategic Context

The emergence of competitive distributed renewable energy offers a genuine sustainable development opportunity for regional towns to satisfy energy needs at a local level and in turn create employment, economic, social and environmental dividends.
A rural town of 5,000 population spends some $20-40m on energy costs in total each year. Z-NET provides a potentially profound opportunity to transform energy from being a cost, into the basis for a sustainable economic model through revenue, industry, business and employment.
A Z-NET could:

  • Address rising energy costs and associated business competitiveness and living costs
  • Transform the economic leakage of energy costs into new local economic activity
  • Diversify the economy and create new industry development/attraction
  • Attract highly skilled/paid jobs and create new job skills
  • Turn around population decline and hollowing out through loss of youth
  • Utilise clean and renewable energy sources rather than harmful fossil fuel systems, addressing water security, climate change, biodiversity loss, food and soil security
  • Create synergies with the Northern Inland region’s major industry ~ agriculture ~ through the use of agricultural residues
  • Reduce reliance on commodity-like fossil fuels, international supply/demand and price volatility

There are now hundreds of operating ‘energy towns’ around the world, with the most well recognised examples being in Germany. These energy towns are at the forefront of what has been coined the ‘third industrial’ revolution ~ the meshing of information technology, energy generation and distribution.

Examples

Feldheim

Wilpoldsried

Dharnai village, State of Bihar, INDIA ~ India village claims a first – 100% solar, storage micro-grid | REneweconomy

There is also an entire state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany, which now produces 120% of their electricity needs from renewable energy.

While hundreds of examples exist globally, there is however a need to prototype and prove the viability of this model in Australia.

The innovation of Z-NET will be the integration and demonstration of the effectiveness and benefits of this model, by collaborating with and enhancing the existing electricity system as well as using existing, commercially proven and available technologies. To be clear it is envisaged that Z-NET is on-grid (i.e. not off-grid) though probably with the capability of being “islandable” to provide continuity of local energy supply in situations where the main electricity network is offline.