Converting a home to 100% renewable energy can be a big job. But that’s not stopping Uralla in regional New South Wales. Not only do they want to convert their homes – they want to convert their entire town!

Z-NET stands for zero net energy town. It’s a global movement, and Uralla joined in 2014 with support from the NSW Government. Uralla is the first town in Australia to have signed up. When Z-NET was first introduced to the town, Sandra Eady and a core group of volunteers were inspired, and they got to work getting the rest of the community involved.

Z-NET is a community-led initiative that helps communities reach their sustainability goals in a range of ways. The initiative helps people install sensors in their homes and businesses, so they can see where energy is being used. Then they can look for ways to reduce that energy use. To make sustainability affordable, Z-NET helps people find actions that will make the biggest energy saving or have the lowest cost. These actions are practical and easy, so people can sustain these changes.

With Z-NET, Uralla is finding its own ways to become more energy efficient and engage the community at all levels.

At home, the people of Uralla are putting in energy-saving light bulbs, installing solar panels and monitoring their firewood use in winter. Home owners, landlords and tenants are working together and finding ways to save money and cut their energy use by installing curtains and under-floor insulation. They film and share their tips and tricks on YouTube.

Local businesses are also joining the renewable revolution. Business energy reviews and consultation with the Z-NET team are helping many businesses find simple changes that lead to huge differences in their energy use and running costs.

Z-NET is also involved with the Elephant in the Woodlands project, which makes sure that people are getting sustainably sourced firewood. With around 75% of homes in Uralla using firewood for heat, sustainable sources of heating are vital for a renewable future.

Why it's important

Australia makes most of its electricity from non-renewable sources such as coal and gas (known as fossil fuels). When these are burned to make energy, they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which increases climate change. By switching to renewable energy, we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being produced. This is good news for both people and the environment!

Are you working together in your community to make a change? Tell us your story. Discover more stories about enterprising Australians.

[intro music begins as Rebecca starts talking]

[Rebecca and her son Connor are standing in front of their house]

Rebecca: I’m Rebecca Tobler

[Jarra is sitting on a couch in a café]

Jarra: My name is Jarra Hicks

[Michael is standing in front of a ‘ZNET Uralla Shire’ banner]

Michael: My name’s Michael Pierce

[Trish is sitting in front of a Z-NET banner]

Trish: My name’s Trish Rasmussen

[Teresa is sitting in front of a workbench that has many plans and laser cut objects on it]

Teresa: My name’s Teresa French

[Sandra is standing in front of a homestead]

Sandra: I’m Sandra from Z-NET

[A man is standing in the middle of town]

Man 1: Uralla

[Teresa is standing in front of her workbench]

Teresa: Uralla

[Man 2 is standing in front of the homestead]

Man 2: Uralla

[Connor is standing in front of his house]

Connor: Uralla Shire is using Z-NET

[Jarra is sitting on the couch at a café]

Jarra: Z-NET

[Rebecca is standing in front of her house]

Rebecca: Z-NET

[Man 3 is standing in front of some trees and woodland]

Man 3: Z-NET

[Sandra is standing in front of the homestead]

Sandra: Z-NET

[Michael is standing in front of a Z-NET banner]

Michael Z-NET to become 100% renewable

[Michael gives a thumbs up]

[Music swells and becomes louder]

[An aerial image of the town of Uralla appear with the words ‘ Uralla – A community striving to become 100% renewable.’ randomly animating on screen]

[The words disappear and the aerial view of Uralla zooms out from the town to Australia to the globe of the world]

[The ‘Enterprising Australians’ logo appears on screen]

Sandra: We’re having a whole revolution in the way energy’s produced in Australia.

[Zooming in from the Earth into Uralla]

We wanted our town and people in our community feel comfortable about renewables and that they could actually be part of that revolution rather than just letting it happen to them. That was why we thought Z-NET was important. Our goal is to get our shire, the Uralla Shire to 100 per cent renewable energy.

We’re just a small shire, the smallest shire in New South Wales. Our approach has been not just to look at renewable generation which you can do through rooftop solar but also look at energy efficiency because actually reducing energy use is a really important first step.

Michael: The community’s response has been fantastic. We’re actually not only known across the state, it’s actually known across Australia. The word’s got out cause the say “Oh you’re the Mayor of Uralla, of Z-NET”.

So it’s all out there, it’s bubbling along very well.

Jarra: Uralla’s done a really great job through the Z-NET project of reaching out to a really broad cross section of the community, helping them to understand their energy issues and understand how to reduce their energy costs and the importance and the role renewable energy can play in doing that.

Rebecca: My son Connor brought a note home from school asking for any families who were willing to take part in an energy review by Z-NET and that it involved putting some sensors around the house and seeing how the heat distribution worked and how the fire actually impacted upon the heat levels in the house.

If you get the home energy review, you can get a holistic understanding of what is good for your home and your wallet.

Teresa: I would definitely recommend other businesses getting an energy review cause there’s lots of things that they can do which are quite simple and cheap which make quite a big difference.

We found that our lights were the biggest culprit in our energy loss and as soon as we swapped over all our lights, we lost a third of our power bill. It made a huge difference.

Trish: Being involved in this initiative, for me personally, gives me a great sense of satisfaction, a great sense of learning something new, new skills, and just being part of our community.

If other towns were wanting to become Z-NET energy towns, our advice mainly is get some funding first and then off you go and we can help them from there.

Sandra: I think there is an increasing awareness of the importance of us moving to a renewable energy mix and a number of towns and regions are looking at that from a commercial scale solar point of view but also from the community effort point of view. That’s equally important whether it’s a small regional place like Uralla or whether you’re in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne and you’ve got a community that wants to take some action to become more sustainable.

[Zooming out from Uralla to the Earth]

[Enterprising Australians Logo]