by: Giselle Wilkinson, Earth Co-operative

Co-ops taking action, influencing direction and demonstrating leadership is the lifeblood of our Program. The empowerment factor within co-ops can’t be under-estimated either and it is uplifting to achieve something significant to the benefit of all, especially in these pandemic times. 

Earth Co-op established Murundaka Cohousing community ten years ago in 2011. In 2014 the co-op started working on an Energy Freedom plan. Full credit to the original initiators of this project – the Murundaka Cohousing Energy Independence Team: Heidi Lee, Greg Foyster, Jude Edwards and Matthew Walker and those who have helped along the way. 

Link to CEHL's climate ready plan

This is what we did:

2014

Set Goals

  • Reduce energy use across all 20 Earth CERC properties
  • Reduce the cost of our energy bills
  • Switch to 100% renewable energy
  • Undertake thorough analysis

Set Strategy

We employed energy experts ‘Energy for The People’ to produce a very comprehensive report analysing how we were using energy, assessing our best options through their Energy Options Analysis (Technologies) and devising the roll out plan providing ongoing technical review and support for a solar installation.

2015

Raise funds

Earth self-funded the first steps of our Energy Freedom using the crowd-funding campaign model of The People’s Solar – running a Solar Festival Fundraiser at Murundaka.

Implement

  • Saving $ by self-auditing – co-op members collected data and managed the project
  • Running community energy efficiency education and workshops on saving energy in Murundaka Cohousing homes and common spaces
  • Changing lights in Common House and all Common Areas to LEDs
  • Installing a communal 17kW ‘grid connected’ solar panel system

2021

Reassess 

We estimated that:

  • We use around 25% less energy
  • Our bills are about 50% less
  • Grid-connected, our overall annual impact is much reduced – i.e. not yet neutral however we are exporting a lot of energy to the grid.

We know:

  • Our habits have been slipping and we need to update the data
  • Some individuals have moved to electric cars and bikes
  • Some individuals refrain from using gas for heating, and some also for cooking
  • Having our own energy source protects us from the energy market’s price hikes and inflation

Reactivate

Earth Co-op approved a proposal to:

  • Install underfloor insulation on one property
    • Install reverse cycle split system air conditions in six properties
    • Remove gas heaters in six properties

    Support for this work was astounding enabling full implementation by the end of June.

    • Victorian Government –Solar Victoria” helped with great rebates from the “Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades” program for not-for-profit community housing organisations. The rebate received was $7,900.
    • Banyule City Council through their Better Score Energy Efficiency Upgrade Program rebated a dollar-for-dollar contribution of $10,800 (nb. *EOFY funds)
    • Green Moves – providing totally independent energy efficiency and sustainability advice and guidance to residential and commercial sectors, went out of their way to squeeze us in before the end of the financial year and coordinate with co-op members harmoniously. This cost was covered in the BCC grant.
    • Suppliers and installers – also went out of their way to squeeze us in before the end of the financial year and coordinate with the community harmoniously
    • Common Equity Housing –Asset Management Team went out of its way to get the necessary approvals through in time.

    Next steps

    Earth co-op is committed to continue to progress the Energy Freedom Plan in the 21/22 financial year working with CEHL, our local network, local council, state government and other sources of support to develop the next detailed steps.

    • solar installation to match our gas free increased demand for electricity
    • installation of 6 more reverse cycle air conditions
    • removal of remaining 12 gas heaters
    • Installation of induction cooktops (up to 20)
    • replacing communal gas hot water tanks with commercial scale heat pump (hot water accounts for around 25% of our energy use)
    • investigating battery installation, a community battery program and a micro-grid

    A thorough re-evaluation of current energy and resource use is also slated so that behaviour change to lighten our collective footprint can be revitalised.

    We’re all in this together

    When the Plan is complete it will not only give us the ability to use electricity when it’s cheap but also eliminate all fossil fuel dependent energy sources at Murundaka Cohousing, helping us significantly reduce our individual and collective greenhouse gas emissions, in recognition of the climate emergency.

    To reverse global warming, getting off gas and onto 100% renewables A.S.A.P. is not only a top priority it is also, now, so supported and much easier to do. 

    We’re keen to share what we’ve learnt with other CERCs, cohousing groups and Climate Emergency Housing Cooperatives.

    Contact: Giselle Wilkinson giselle@earth.org.au

    Earth Common Equity Rental Housing Cooperative since 1986

    @ Murundaka Cohousing Community since 2011  

    info@murundakacohousing.org.au


    Read more about Banyule Clean Energy Group.

    Read more about CEHL plans making properties energy efficient and climate ready.