This article originally featured on the The Courier on October 15 2019, written by Hayley Elg.
Hepburn Shire’s Z-NET project – a road map to how the community can become the first zero-net emission shire in Australia – has been awarded the Premier’s Sustainability Award in the 2019 community category.
The plan to transition the whole community to renewable energy and offset all carbon emissions within 10 years was developed by Renew in collaboration with a number of established sustainability groups, community members, Hepburn Wind, Hepburn Shire Council and Sustainability Victoria who are all working to reduce the environmental footprint.
Renew, which has been working in sustainability for over 35 years, was presented the award. It led the collaboration with 30 project partners in developing the plan and ensured the project’s outcomes would be accessible to other communities to draw on.
There are three steps to the implementation of the plan across the areas of household and business energy use and generation, sustainable agriculture, sustainable firewood, land use and green transport. The first step is to transition to renewable energy, then reach zero net energy by 2025 (including transport) and then reach zero net emissions by 2030.
Hepburn Wind’s Taryn Lane was heavily involved with the development of the project and said she was “really grateful” the project was recognised.
She said the project was an example of a community going above and beyond in terms of sustainability and climate change mitigation.
“Governments are adhering to the 2050 target (of net zero emissions) but we think it is important to reach no more than 1.5 degrees in the next decade,” she said.
“If we can do as much as we can at a grassroots level that means governments can be more ambitious.”
Mayor, Cr Don Henderson, said it was great for the region to be recognised for its sustainability efforts.
“We have very active and passionate communities within the Hepburn Shire, which positions us well to continue supporting great projects,” he said.
“As Council, we can also support community through programs such as Solar Savers, where we buy solar PV systems on behalf of pensioners and low-income households, to be paid back through rates. There is a need for an equal, inclusive and just transition.”
The full Z-NET project can be viewed here.