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100 per cent renewable: a Small-Town’s Big Goal


“About 60 per cent of the town has solar panels with almost every community building – from the post office to the health services and aged care – also having solar.”


Victorian State Emergency Service Unit Controller Jackie Ashman.

Yackandandah, a small Victorian town better known to locals as Yack, is not the place you think of as on the frontline in the battle against the consequences of global climate change.


But in recent years the town of 2,000 people, best known as a cycling destination, has been witness to some of the worst bushfires the state has experienced.


Scientists say such threats will only increase as the impacts of human-induced climate change worsen.

But the resilient residents of Yack were not just content to contemplate the disasters as they emerge. Since 2014, they have decided to make their own positive contribution to the global problem.


Today the town has become known for their goal of becoming a 100 per cent renewable town by 2024.

About 60 per cent of the town has solar panels with almost every community building – from the post office to the health services and aged care – also having solar.


The local State Emergency Service workers are the latest to charge up with a solar and battery system, helped by a $20,000 ANZ Community Foundation grant.


The initiative is led by the Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) Project, an ambitious volunteer-run community group.

The TRY project was awarded the grant in 2020 in an effort to install a new energy system for the local Victorian State Emergency Service unit. The project also includes a generator for an extra layer of energy redundancy.

Victorian State Emergency Service Unit Controller Jackie Ashman with the new solar generator.


The system will allow the VICSES unit to operate at full capacity during a power-outage, protecting the residents of Yack during extreme weather conditions. This system complements a similar system installed in a neighbouring CFA fire station, boosting the energy capability of both emergency services.


VICSES Unit Controller Jackie Ashman said the installation of the new energy system provided volunteers with a “huge boost as the unit can now focus solely on callouts during power-outages. 


The system will automatically switch to the battery for power and the generator will intervene when the stored power drops below a pre-determined threshold in the event of a mains failure during an extended outage, emergency or volunteer call out.

Ashman said the new energy system will also significantly reduce the unit’s electricity bill, meaning funds can used for other purchases to “magnify” the services provided by the unit.


A further benefit of the energy system has been reduced pressure on the local electricity grid, often with all demand being eliminated. The sizing of the system allows for daytime generation from solar panels to cover the site load and charge the battery. In the evening, the battery steps up and has the added advantage of dramatically reducing the carbon impost of the facility.


Installation of the new system was completed in October 2022, with TRY’s Vice President Matthew Charles-Jones thanking the ANZ Community Foundation for their “flexible and responsive support” throughout the process. 


Since the installation, TRY continues to examine which buildings are critical during emergencies and then works to protect its power supply.  Central to TRY’s work is the crucial question of how do communities everywhere prepare for extreme weather events – and recover effectively?


This exploration is also coupled with a whole range of energy innovations across town including mail being delivered with electric bikes, a solar / battery powered sculptural works, a cemetery that has replaced all its petrol garden maintenance equipment with superior battery powered replacements. There is even a second-hand Electric Vehicle sales start up.


The Community Foundation is funded by ANZ employees, and for every dollar they contribute through the workplace giving program, the bank matches it with an additional two dollars.


Chair of the ANZ Community Foundation, Christine Linden said this was a great example of the impact the grants can have on local communities.


“A grant like this can be a real game-changer for community organisations who are doing tireless work,” she said.


“Victoria State Emergency Service Units are manned by volunteers, so it’s really powerful that together with TRY we can help to ensure they can spend as much of this time helping others.”


ANZ’s Community Foundation program is inviting charitable organisations around Australia to apply for grants of up to $30,000.


The ANZ Community Foundation, in partnership with local organisations, uses regular matched donations of ANZ Staff to provide grants to small yet impactful charities. These projects support financial wellbeing, housing, environmental sustainability and other initiatives that support communities to thrive.


In 2022, $389,450 was granted to 19 community organisations. Now in its 36th year, the program has distributed more than $6.3 million to 920 community organisations across Australia.


Applications for 2023 round are open and close midnight on 11 April 2023.

If you know of a community organisation that could benefit, please encourage them to apply!

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