THE town of Newstead might be small in population, but it is big in community effort.Despite having double the state unemployment average and an ageing population, the town of 487 aims to be the first in Australia to run off 100 per cent renewable energy.The town is trying to reduce its energy demand, with 160 houses in the town so far undergoing home energy assessments, paid for by Central Victoria Solar City.Newstead resident and organiser Genevieve Barlow said the Renewable Newstead campaign was initially uncertain which direction it would take when it started in 2008.
View Larger Map“People expressed a desire for Newstead to address our energy needs,” she said. “Since then we’ve done two surveys. One asking people about their attitude to renewable energy, the other was much more detailed and asked peoople how much they would be willing to invest to address their energy needs.”Fellow organiser Geoff Park said the community campaign was different to other renewable energy projects happening around central Victoria.“Renew Newstead is a community project with a focus on renewable energy rather than an energy project that drags the community along behind,” he said.“Community wellbeing is at the heart of what we do.”The next step after assessments would be finding a renewable power project to invest in to provide energy to the town. Ms Barlow said Bendigo had the potential to do the same if it wanted.“What we’ve learnt and what we understand is that community projects are really about regional development,” she said.“Bendigo is in a perfect position to rollout these community-owned renewable energy projects.“If you could find a developer in Bendigo to establish a micro-grid that would set a powerful precedent.”