What is Renewable Newstead?
Renewable Newstead is a project to supply Newstead with 100 per cent renewable energy, i.e. energy that’s generated from non-fossil fuels. Renewable energy includes the wind, the sun, biomass (burning sustainably grown wood & waste products), hydro (moving water) and more. Most likely we will use sun or solar to start with to generate and supply energy locally. Solar panels would be installed on rooftops or in open space near the town and the energy will travel via our existing poles and wires to houses, businesses, and properties. We are talking about our stationary energy. This phase of our project does not necessarily address transport energy, the energy we use in our cars, although we hope we can address this too in the future. This project is being developed and managed by Newstead 2021 Inc, by volunteers.
How did the project start and what happens next?
There have been many phases to this project, and there are a few more to go. (Click here
to learn how it got started and what’s been done to date).
This current phase is working out how we can get to 100% renewable energy in a way that most benefits our community. To do this, we are creating a plan. That plan includes how to fund this project and fund it viably, sustainably, without any further government grants and so it generates other benefits for our community. The plan will also identify our best renewable energy options, what they cost, how much we can save, and who we might need to partner with to make the project happen, and where that renewable energy might be installed.
This plan will be developed with input from the community. Once we believe we have a plan with broad community interest and support, we will start to develop the plan in more detail, including bringing in project partners if necessary.
Will the energy be locally generated?
Yes, although we cannot rule out having to buy in some energy to top up our supplies sometimes. That, too, will come from renewable sources if it is needed. We hope we can generate and store enough electricity locally to supply most of our needs most of the time.
How will the energy be generated?
Using solar panels to generate electricity is the most likely option. Our business plan will assess the most viable option.
Are we going to be a solar town?
If you mean, that all our power in Newstead comes from the sun, then, yes, that would be an option. Some households or businesses may not wish to buy renewable energy so we cannot say for sure, but we hope to make renewable energy more affordable than buying energy from the open market.
What happens when the sun doesn’t shine? Will Newstead still have electricity?
Yes. Powercor is an important stakeholder in our project and with RN, will ensure Newstead has power even when the sun doesn’t shine. Our intention is to make the best use of the existing electricity grid, however, battery storage may help achieve secure, reliable power in the future, as it becomes more affordable.
What is the electricity grid?
The electricity grid includes huge transmission lines and towers, smaller distribution lines and the poles and wires that deliver electricity across Victoria and interstate. Our electricity is mostly generated from burning coal in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley which adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and has health impacts on our community. Up to 20 percent of that generated electricity can be lost as it travels along the way to customers. Generating electricity locally can help reduce some of those losses.
So is Newstead staying connected to the electricity grid under RN’s proposal?
Yes. Newstead will need to stay connected to deliver the electricity and to sell any excess power we have onto other users beyond our town. There is no plan to ‘cut the wires’ & take Newstead off the electricity grid.
What about storing power in batteries. Will Newstead do that?
Yes. It is quite likely we will do that as the cost of batteries comes down. Let’s see what our investigations reveal is the best way for Newstead to ensure power supply 24/7.
Can I buy my neighbour’s excess electricity?
Quite likely, although you may not know which of your neighbours generated it. One of our main goals is to create an energy supply that is fair for everyone, whether they are generating excess electricity, or buying it from their neighbours.
What does behind the meter mean?
Here’s an imaginary exercise. Draw a square around Newstead. Inside it, are houses, businesses, and properties. Then imagine a single line delivering electricity into that square and another line taking out the excess. Imagine a big electricity meter at the point it enters the town, measuring all the electricity coming into the houses, businesses and properties inside that square. Then imagine lots of solar panels inside that square generating energy.
Then imagine another meter measuring electricity output at the out-point where the electricity leaves the square. The difference will be what comes out minus what goes in. It’s the power used and generated behind the Newstead town meter.
Who is driving this? Is it a council project or a government project?
A local group of people interested in doing good stuff for our community is driving this. Click on the ‘People & Partners’ tab to check out the Renewable Newstead team. It’s not a council project. It’s auspiced by Newstead 2021 Inc. The Victorian State Government provided $200,000 for this current ‘investigative’ phase. Thank you Victoria for your support.
What will happen once this phase is completed?
That’s when things really get exciting. This is the planning phase. The next phase is the doing phase. In the doing phase, we will have more information about what the plan is, what the benefits to the town could be, and how we can make it happen. Even better, we will be making it happen with your support!
When does the doing phase start?
To be honest, it’s hard to tell, but as soon as this is known, Newstead will be the first to know. The Renewable Newstead team & our partners in this project have to get all our ducks lined up first. We hope the doing phase will start no later than early 2017, but this is quite a complex project that hasn’t been done in Victoria or Australia before. So we are expecting the unexpected.
How will Newstead households be affected by this project?
They will have the opportunity to be part of a new way of supporting their community, simply by deciding where they buy their power from. One option might be to buy it from a community-owned renewable energy generating source located right here in Newstead. Our main aim is to ensure that local people, can buy locally generated renewable energy, and save money on their bills, without any compromise to the reliability or quality of power.
How will pensioners and concession card holders be affected?
Our project must ensure that concessions offered on power bills match those offered by other companies.
How will Newstead businesses be affected?
In the same way as householders, we hope that local businesses can buy local renewables and save money on bills at the same time. Together as a community we can create a business that supports where we live.
But I’m happy with my current supply. Why would I bother to switch?
With our plan you will still be able to buy your power from another source, say a big retailer whose shareholders live far away and are very pleased, indeed, to receive profits their retail company makes from you via your power bill. Or you could say, to heck with that, I want to buy from a Newstead-based organisation and I want to see the profits from my power bill returned to my local community. It’s a bit too soon to do anything just yet anyway. RN will present our model and explain how it can be viable and deliver benefits to Newstead before we ask you to do anything.
I’m planning to install solar on my roof soon. Should I wait to see RN’s proposal before I take action? When will RN’s final business case and model be presented?
That’s great. Right now you might want to pause and wait to see RN’s proposed business case and model which we expect to present to Newstead within six to 12 months. Naturally the timing decision is all yours.
Got further questions?
Click here to email your question/s to Renewable Newstead or call Gen Barlow at Renewable Newstead on 0427 762633.