Developing a ZNET town

Donna Luckman • 11 June 2020

Z-NET is Zero-Net Emission Transition, an open-source pathway for a local community to set targets and achieve zero-net emissions..

The first Z-NET program in Australia was in Uralla, New South Wales and stood for Zero-Net Energy Town. The Uralla Z-NET team focussed on building a framework for addressing stationary energy. Additionally, as there were no existing sustainability groups in Uralla at the time, the team needed to engage the local community and build energy literacy.

The second project was with the Hepburn Shire in Victoria which has a demonstrated track record in community energy with the Hepburn Wind project and the strong support shown by the Hepburn Shire Council, local community and business to pursue 100% renewable energy.

Hepburn Z-NET therefore had a significantly different starting point. The acronym was adjusted for Hepburn to represent the broader scope of the second Z-NET program to instead mean Zero-Net Emission Transition. The Z-NET project team, under this new definition, has developed a detailed roadmap for transition to renewable energy and a high level strategy for emissions.

The Z-NET Blueprint has evolved to encompass a wider carbon emissions inventory than stationary energy. It also considers transport, agriculture, waste and land use. Due to the significant tourism sector in the Hepburn Shire,the tourism profile has also been communicated to bring awareness to how significant the impact this sector has. 

The purpose of this project was two fold. Firstly, to provide an expanded blueprint for how rural communities can firstly satisfy all of their own energy needs at all times from renewable energy sources in a way which is competitive with the current system of energy (in terms of price, quality, reliability, security of supply and so on).

Secondly, to create a holistic masterplan – The Hepburn Community Transition Plan (CTP). The project was conducted from February through to October 2018. It is the most in-depth, place-based carbon emissions profile yet created in Australia. It is also the first local government area CTP for zero-net energy and zero-net emissions. This CTP has been co-developed with the local community and is written for them, as well as stakeholders from important sectors to engage on the journey, all levels of government, technical experts and industry. 

The CTP applied a social justice lens to better enable fair distribution of benefits and mitigate potential burdens on vulnerable community members. Such an assessment is important to bring awareness of who benefits , and who is burdened, by the particular transition path taken. Energy choices must be justified not only in terms of how they will help mitigate climate change, but also in terms of their fairness to those already disadvantaged.

In this sense, addressing questions of justice is essential, and ought to play a central role in planning climate mitigation. Moreover, such an assessment can play a key role in determining social acceptance of transition plans. The most appropriate infrastructure and technologies have been assessed to ensure that the needs of all community members, and especially those who are vulnerable, were considered.

This combined focus is key to achieving a fair sharing of the benefits occur from climate mitigation. Climate mitigation involves significant changes to the generation and delivery of energy, the organisation of infrastructure and social practices (lifestyles) of communities. More specifically, social justice considerations were integrated into the project assessments and CAP engagement.

The outputs of the project are:

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