In regional New South Wales, just off the New England Highway, is the Shire of Uralla. With a population of about 6000 people, it’s a small place with big dreams. The families, business, landholders and the entire community want to go 100% renewable.

Z-NET is a community-led initiative that helps communities reach their sustainability goals. Firstly, the initiative helps to install sensors in homes and businesses to identify where the energy they are using is going, before trying to come up with individualised alternatives. They use ‘least cost logic’; finding actions that will have the highest benefit or the lowest cost to individuals and businesses, and are practical for the community and can continue long into the future.

With local council and state government support, combined with a community already passionate about renewable energy, Uralla won a bid to become a zero net energy town (Z-NET) in 2014. It was at a meeting where Z-NET was introduced that galvanised Sandra Eady and a core group of volunteers into action. The Uralla Shire is “a community that wants to take some action to become more sustainable” to achieve their goal. Roughly 73% of all electricity used in Australia is being generated by coal and Uralla are pioneers of action and the energy revolution. With Z-NET, the Uralla Shire are tailoring how they can become more energy efficient and engaging 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 usage in the winter. Homeowners, landlords and tenants are working together and finding ways to save money and cut their energy use by installing curtains and under-floor insulation, and filming and sharing their tips on YouTube.

Local businesses are also joining the renewable revolution. Business energy reviews and consultation with the Z-NET team are helping many businesses are 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' program, which works with property owners to ensure consumers are getting sustainably sourced fire wood. With around 75% of homes in Uralla using fire wood for heat, the need for sustainable sources of heating is crucial.

Z-NET is a global movement and Uralla is the first town in Australia to have signed up. They lead the way in which Australians source their energy on a large scale, with already more than 80 communities approaching Z-NET to become 100% renewable energy towns. The Hepburn Shire in Victoria have recently signed up to become the second community to take on the challenge, expanding their targets to include zero net emissions. Keep a look out for Z-NET as more towns are likely to sign up soon.

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