Community energy project co-led by Wattwatchers wins prestigious award

Energy Globe award handover by Australian Consul for MyTown Microgrid Heyfield project

MyTown Microgrid, a groundbreaking local energy project hosted by the historic Victorian timber town of Heyfield, has been named as Australia’s national winner in the 23rd Energy Globe Awards, billed as the world’s most prestigious environmental awards. The project, running 2020-2023, was co-led by Heyfield Community Resource Centre, UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, and Wattwatchers Digital Energy. The award was formally presented (22 February) to Dr Scott Dwyer from UTS ISF (centre) and Murray Hogarth from Wattwatchers by Sydney-based Austrian Consul and Trade Commissioner, Ulrike Straka, with an Advantage Austria team aiming to visit the Heyfield community later in 2024.

When the town of Heyfield in country Victoria takes on a sustainability challenge, it seems that international recognition is bound to follow.

The Heyfield Community Resource Centre (HCRC) and the MyTown Microgrid project have clinched the national winner slot for Australia in the 23rd international Energy Globe Awards, billed as ‘the most important award for sustainability worldwide’.

Over a decade ago in 2011, when the HCRC created and ran an innovative local sustainability program with its community, it won a World Environment Day Award from the United Nations Association of Australia.

Now it has another sustainability award to add to its tally, and it’s a beauty! The Energy Globe Awards – which held its annual world awards ceremony in Trondheim, Norway, on 25 January, 2024 – describes itself thus: 

The Energy Globe Award is the world’s most prestigious environmental award, which is annually awarded in over 180 countries by the nonprofit Energy Globe Organization based in Austria. Projects focused on energy efficiency, sustainability, and the use of renewable energies are honoured. The goal of the organisation is to showcase solutions to environmental problems.  

The ‘Julie factor’

The common factor in these sustainability awards, 12 years apart, is HCRC stalwart Julie Bryer, who has been a driving force for both community initiatives. She said:

This international recognition from Energy Globe is a wonderful endorsement for the efforts of many people and organisations, but above all it’s another win for Heyfield. Once again the Heyfield community is being awarded for its passion and hard work on sustainability. It’s very much a “from little things big things grow” approach, with a blend of vision, innovation and sheer persistence. The award-winning MyTown project lives on in Heyfield as the MyTown Energy committee, continuing to work on local energy solutions, and beyond Heyfield as a guiding beacon for other communities.

Julie Bryer speaking at at Heyfield ‘town hall’ event for the MyTown Microgrid project.

Late Christmas present

The community liaison officer during the MyTown project, Emma Birchall, was advised of the win just after Christmas 2023 by Advantage Austria, the official Austrian trade promotion organisation, which is a key sponsor of the annual Energy Globe awards founded in 2000.

The Sydney-based Austrian Trade Commissioner and Consul, Ulrike Straka, told the Heyfield team that:

Both the quality and the diversity of the submitted projects are overwhelming, which made it very difficult to choose the very best project. That is why I am excited and proud to congratulate you and your team behind the MyTown Microgrid Project at the Heyfield Community Resource Centre on winning the NATIONAL ENERGY GLOBE AWARD 2023 in Australia!

What the judges said

The Energy Globe selection jury described the Australian winner thus:

MyTown Microgrid is an innovative, community-driven project in Heyfield, Australia, focused on exploring microgrid and local energy solutions for rural areas. With approximately $AUD2 million in funding from the Australian Federal and Victorian State governments, the Heyfield Community Resource Centre collaborated with researchers and tech companies to address the town’s energy challenges. They installed real-time energy monitoring devices across homes, businesses, and schools, offering insights on energy consumption and sustainability. Heyfield’s proactive approach in harnessing local renewable energy solutions stemmed from community surveys indicating a strong preference for locally produced power. The project spanned three years, involving research, technical assessments, and the development of a Decision Support Tool. MyTown prioritised community engagement, job creation, and inclusive decision-making, resulting in a free online tool to benefit other communities. Through its holistic approach, MyTown serves as a model for sustainable energy solutions in rural areas.

The MyTown Energy decision support tool for other communities is a key output from the Heyfield project.

Project partners

UTS ISF Research Director, Dr Scott Dwyer, said:

It’s great to see the MyTown Microgrid project recognised with a National Energy Globe Award. It was an honour to partner with the Heyfield community to support them in furthering their sustainable energy journey and to pave the way for other communities to do the same. The project was a fantastic opportunity for us as researchers to see how our work could support real-world action, and how collaborations between research institutes, industry bodies, businesses and communities can make real impact.

Wattwatchers CEO Gavin Dietz welcomed Heyfield’s latest award and thanked everyone involved in the success of the MyTown project, now amplified by another award win for the Heyfield community and its longstanding sustainability ambitions. He said:

The Wattwatchers team is very proud to have played our part in MyTown, but the credit overwhelmingly belongs with the Heyfield community itself. Community energy projects are hard work. Heyfield’s MyTown journey between 2020 and 2023, and its community-based sustainability program success a decade earlier, show a community that rolls up its collective sleeves and gets real results. Lessons learnt from Heyfield are now helping to guide the town’s next steps, and also other communities exploring their own local energy solution options.

Wattwatchers’ Murray Hogarth (left) and Tim McCoy (right), with the MyTown project’s community liaison officer Emma Birchall.

Leading by examples

The aim of the Energy Globe Award is to create awareness and show that everyone can make a positive contribution. 

The Energy Globe winner projects serve as examples, which are presented worldwide on the website and in the Energy Globe database, which now includes around 30,000 projects from submissions made between 2000 to 2022.

With over 180 countries participating each year, and thousands of entries in 2023, the National Energy Globe Award recognises the best project from each country, selected from all of the entries in that country in a given year.

More about MyTown

Heyfield Community Resource Centre

UTS ISF

MyTown Energy (decision support tool for other communities)

Wattwatchers Heyfield videos

Enabling Australia’s ‘Energy Data Town’

Energy and Education for a Net Zero World

WATTWATCHERS PROJECTS: As well as the MyTown Microgrid project, dozens of Heyfield households also participated in another major Wattwatchers-led consumer energy data project, MyEnergy Marketplace. Approximately 100 Wattwatchers devices were installed in Heyfield under the MyTown project, including at 70 homes (about 10% of the town’s households), 15 businesses and 2 schools. A further 40+ households were installed in Heyfield as part of the MyEnergy Marketplace project with ARENA (see final public knowledge report here).