A community-led program to wean Natimuk off fossil fuels is a step closer to being realised.
On Monday, Victoria's Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio announced the state government would commit $339,000 to bring to market a 1.6 megawatt community solar farm on the outskirts of town.
"We're working with communities like Natimuk to help them achieve their goal of moving to 100 per cent renewable energy," she said. "Through this grant we are empowering the Natimuk community to fully harness the benefits of locally produced clean energy and cut their power prices."
A spokeswoman for the minister said the grant would assist the project to finalise the necessary approvals, connection studies. She said the money would also help to develop a detailed design and operational plans and develop a financial model and market prospectus to attract investment for the construction phase.
The project has been pursued by Natimuk Community Energy. The community group has the aim of generating 100 per cent of the town's power from renewable energy by 2030. NCE has estimated 30 per cent of Natimuk households have standalone solar system systems and 15 per cent have solar hot water.
Horsham Rural City mayor Mark Radford said council provided $5000 towards the project in its 2019/20 budget.
"Under the auspices of the Natimuk Agricultural and Pastoral Society, and with help from the Wimmera Mallee Sustainability Alliance, Natimuk Community Energy has been working to get the solar farm idea off the ground," he said.
"It's fair to say this is the next step in a long process, but all these things start with an idea. Council will also be interested to support them from an economic development point of view - NCE has set up a non-profit business."
Cr Radford said there were lessons for other small communities in Natimuk's success.
"It's a good example of locals getting together and garnering support from a large proportion of the community that makes for a good application. It does make a good story for the government to consider backing, and that's what's happened," he said.