In the mid ‘90s, a plumber in Natimuk Victoria became the state distributor for Solahart hot water systems. Being a plumber, he knew about the benefits of solar hot water before most Australians, and persuaded lots of townspeople to switch their hot water to solar.
Solar made sense in Natimuk. Small towns tend to be resource conscious anyway, with utilities not as readily accessible. They don’t tend to be extravagant either – if they can save a bob they will.
For instance, Natimuk townspeople wouldn’t just take old things to the tip. Or throw stuff out. They’d find a way to fix things, or give them away. Before the council tip closed in Natimuk, people used to leave useful bits and pieces there, so other residents might find something they needed.
Also, Natimuk was becoming more diverse. Climbers visiting nearby Mt Arapiles settled in town, bringing their energy and passion for the environment. Local artists started up Natimuk’s biennial art festival, supported by enthusiastic volunteers. Over time, the vibrant, friendly community blossomed.
Fast forward to 2007 and the local council had a meeting to discuss priorities. 100 attendees agreed on the town’s number one goal: 100% waste free with zero emissions by 2030!
With the waste-free mandate in place, the town’s community energy committee did their first solar bulk buy in 2009, so residents could get solar more easily and cheaply. Soon, 30% of homes were powered by solar energy.
When Natimuk applied for a Powershop community energy grant in 2016, they were one of 10 renewable energy projects to receive $10,000. For Natimuk Community Energy – a small organisation within a tiny community, $10,000 was massive! Especially since power prices have more than doubled in the past 10 years.
The Powershop grant helped install solar panels on the roof of Natimuk’s showground pavilion. Over time, a percentage of those energy-cost savings will go into a shared community pot, to fund the next batch of solar panels for another non-profit building in Natimuk. And so on. A grant that keeps on giving!
“Thanks Powershop customers!” Powershop’s Your Community Energy grants are funded by Powershop customers who voluntarily pay a small premium on top of their electricity bill, with that money used to fund community energy projects.
Powershop customers helped Natimuk get closer to their 2030 goal of zero waste and zero emissions, which should inspire us all to be a little greener. Not that the locals would call themselves “greenies” or blow their own trumpet. They just get on with it.
It shows how a group of retirees, farmers, artists, climbers and regular folk can band with their neighbours and devote time to projects they believe in… saving money, the environment and benefitting the whole community.
Meanwhile, if you ever visit Natimuk, watch for a solar farm being built on the edge of town. One day in the not-too-distant future, that farm will be producing enough energy to power the entire town, 24/7. 100% renewable energy for Natimuk by 2030, we got this!