Junee Community Power Inc were nominated for the 2019 Junee Volunteer Team of the Year Award as part of the town’s Australia Day activities.
At a ceremony held, on January 26, 2019, at the Junee Junction Recreational & Aquatic Centre, Junee’s Australia Day Ambassador, Mr Mark Warren, announced that Junee Community Power Inc were the winners for Junee Volunteer Team of the Year Award 2019.
Junee Community Power Incorporated (JCP) was formed in July 2017. The founding members saw a need to promote energy efficiency in the Junee community and also to assist in the transition to a more sustainable electricity usage (Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) roof panels and ultimately including batteries) for both residents and businesses. The volunteer committee comprises members from business, local government, the education sector as well as interested citizens and retirees.
2. In what role(s) or area(s) has the Nominee excelled or made a significant contribution?
JCP has been and continues to inform and empower residents to better manage their energy usage and therefore reduce their energy costs. This is an important part of the group’s goals as according to a recent St Vincent de Paul report, Junee has the fifth highest rate of electricity disconnections in N.S.W. mainly due to energy poverty.
As well as achieving in this area, JCP is working to provide electricity savings for local not-for-profit organisations. The strategies developed to raise public awareness include providing free, reputable advice to citizens at events (including Christmas on Broadway), as well as the development of a JCP website and Facebook page to enable ease of communication.
JCP has provided educational, technical and financial support to The Empower Project, initially conducted by a Junee High School Stage 5 class in Term 2, 2018. The students responded to the following question –- “To what extent can teenagers influence the Junee community to become more energy efficient?”
JCP successfully gained financial support from the Junee Shire Council, Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to acquire a Retrotec Blower Door Air Leakage Testing kit and two infrared camera’s plus additional resources which were used to make simple repairs to homes and premises after completion of the initial test. Members of JCP assisted students in the correct use of the blower door to find air leaks. Once an air leak was found, students sealed the gaps and thus resolved some of the major air leakage problems. The JCP volunteers and students then returned at a later date to re-test, which found that major air leaks had been well managed by the students. The Empower Project have so far air leak tested over 15 buildings in Junee.
Following on from the initial school Empower Project, JCP members partnered again with Junee High in a ‘School to Work’ project. The goal was to train a new team of blower door testers who would then work with Junee Public (Primary) School students to test their own classrooms. This group of students were trained in specific roles and could be ready to test within ten minutes of unpacking the technical equipment. With the success of the classroom testing, the students from Junee High and Junee Public then tested the Junee Community Centre. The Junee High students and JCP volunteers then tested residential buildings at CSU. The students’ testing had an immediate impact on the CSU members present as they were not aware of how leaky the residential buildings were and how simple measures would resolve the issues found. Working with adult members of the community was rewarding for students and adults alike, reinforcing that learning extends beyond school. Also, having high school and primary school students work together was considered to be very beneficial.
3. How has the nominee’s contribution and/or service benefited the Junee community?
The blower door testing using cutting edge technology was an initiative of JCP and definitely empowered residents and community members to become more proactive in managing their energy usage. The most notable beneficiaries are the members and other users of the Senior Citizens Hall in Lisgar Street. The Senior Citizens Hall was the first building chosen for the Empower Project due the size and area.
The initial air leak test came in at 32 air changes per hour (ACH) which is a noticeably leaky space. The students used infrared cameras that highlighted gaps in interior wall boards, gaps between cornices and ceilings and ill-fitting doors as some of the areas needing improvement. The senior citizens reported that previous heating and cooling costs were always high and that they had always found the hall to be particularly cold and uninviting in winter and that they could feel constant draughts flowing through the building.
The students initially made some repairs, using No More Gaps and fitting door seals. The second blower door test showed a much reduced measure of 17 ACH. This improvement inspired the Senior Citizens to continue the refurbishment of their hall. They employed a local tradesman to install new cornices, to fully seal all gaps, re-fit a leaky window and to paint the entire space. The final test revealed a further leakage reduction to 7.44 ACH. This is a remarkable result, putting the Senior Citizens Hall under the 8.0 ACH mark which is deemed the recommended level for Australian buildings. This demonstrates how JCP supports local community groups to proactively manage their energy efficiency. Prior to the repairs, the Senior Citizens set their heater at 23C, now the setting is 17-18C. The Senior Citizen’s accepted JCP advice to remove the gas heater and replace with a split system air conditioner, thus removing the supply charge for having the gas on during the warmer months when not being used, saving them around $240 per year.
Junee High School Empower Project team offered a community session where students assisted health card and other pension holders to apply online for subsidies to enable them to successfully purchase energy efficient fridges and TV’s. This funding was available via the NSW Department of Environment & Heritage. In relation to this event, JCP has developed new initiatives with the Junee Community Centre. The centre has now taken on the role of assisting the online application process for residents, as well as the distribution of up to 120 Save Power Kits which were provided to JCP through the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 25 of these Save Power kits were given to Lawson House and installed using the Junee Community Centre’s handy man. These further developments demonstrate how JCP supports both local organisations and individual residents to learn about their energy usage and manage it more effectively. The achievements noted here are reported in detail in the Renew magazine article discussed in Point 5 below.
4. Does the nominee have any other achievements or contributions?
At the time of this application, JCP is investigating the installation of micro-grids for Junee. A similar sized town in Victoria – Yackandandah, has three micro grids. These grids would serve to help Junee better manage the solar power it produces to benefit the whole community and add to grid security. JCP is launching a perpetual (circular) fund to enable the installation of solar panels, and to establish monitoring stations on both the Junee Community Centre Lorne St building and the Junee Senior Citizens building in Lisgar Street. Solar energy will power these buildings and also feed back into the grid. Students at Junee High will be able to monitor this energy usage from the school, via the monitoring stations attached to these buildings. JCP strongly believes that deepening the knowledge of the young people of this community toward sustainable practices will benefit the next generation and the town of Junee generally.
The relationship between Junee Community Power and the Junee Community Centre has continued to evolve. High school students enrolled in the VET subject ‘Skills for Work and Vocational Training’ will assist the JCC to make improvements to their Lorne Street facility through blower door testing, making small repairs and calculating power usage patterns and possible savings.
5. Has the nominee’s contribution been recognised elsewhere? If so, in what way?
A national magazine, ‘Renew’ ran a three page story in its October edition on The Empower Project. The Governor of New South Wales and his wife met with students and JCP members to discuss this project during his October visit to the region. The Southern Cross, Wagga Weekly and Daily Advertiser have published a series of articles highlighting the scope of the blower door project. WIN and Southern Cross TV have both showcased stories on the project and the ABC has aired three podcasts. The NSW Dept of Education featured the blower door project in an Education Week video focussing on innovative education practices in five NSW schools. As such, Junee is coming to the attention of other communities and this contention is supported by feedback to JCP members at state and national sustainability conferences. For example, JCP and Junee High School recently received a request from a northern Tasmanian sustainability group requesting help in running a similar program with school students there.