Latrobe Valley’s community power hub officially launches

As a third-generation power worker, Morwell local Chris Barfoot had, in his words, “a soul stained as brown as lignite.” Now he is part of a radical initiative to help his community transition to renewable energy.

Chris has taken on the role of project officer at the recently launched Latrobe Valley Community Power Hub. The hub is a response to global changes in energy sources and power use, and one of three being trialled in Victoria over the next two years, with support from Sustainability Victoria.

Community energy is literally about giving power back to the people. The growth of renewables is expected to have a positive impact on the Latrobe Valley, with the potential to unite the community while supporting and creating investment opportunities for local businesses.

The first major project initiated by the hub is a bulk-buy program for solar-powered hot water units, to be managed by the Yarra Energy Foundation over the next year. The hot water units will be made at Morwell’s worker-owned Earthworker Co-operative, resulting in new manufacturing jobs.

“The bulk buy will also help local solar installation businesses expand,” says Chris. “We have the opportunity to conduct two different microgrid trials too, and a wide range of other community projects are coming to the fore.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Chris was feeling less certain about the future of the region he loves. It was a meeting with Danish renewable energy advocate Soren Hermansen that gave him cause for optimism.

“He showed me that there were other ways forward that could change the future. The opportunity to lead the community power hub was an ideal vehicle to try and start to implement these changes.”

Lessons learnt from the three pilot community power hubs, which include Ballarat and Bendigo, will be shared across the state, Australia and around the world.  In the meantime, it will be these communities leading the charge.

“The future is looking sunnier,” says Chris “And there are patches of green on my soul.”

To find out more and get involved, go to Local renewable energy projects help reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. You can too by completing your TAKE2 actions.