December 2, 2020
December 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Australian Energy Foundation (AEF). Although our scope and activities have changed over these two decades, our purpose remains the same: our vision of leading the way to an equitable zero carbon society is the heart of everything we do.
Our beginnings as Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL)
We have come a long way since our establishment in 2000 by Moreland City Council, where we began as Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL). MEFL was born from the sale of the council-owned Coburg and Brunswick Electricity Supply Departments when Victoria’s electricity industry was privatised in the early 1990s.
Before the sale, the council-owned Electricity Supply Departments ran innovative programs that championed energy efficiency and renewable power to local residents during the 1980s. This wealth of knowledge was in danger of being lost in the privatisation of the electricity industry, so the Moreland community lobbied the newly formed Moreland City Council to create a community entity focused on wise energy use. This became known as the Moreland Energy Foundation Limited, founded in December 2000 with three staff members.
We pay tribute to Mike Hill: as Inaugural Chair of the Board, he was the “founding father” of MEFL. Our newly established Mike Hill Fellowship, in partnership with Moreland City Council, also honours this respected community leader, activist and visionary thinker, by building our next champion for climate change action.
In the early years, MEFL focused on local actions, supporting residents, businesses and council in the Moreland municipality to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, over the two decades, our scope of work has gradually grown and we began partnering with councils, community groups and government partners across Australia.
Taking our next step as the Australian Energy Foundation
As a result of the growth of our activities, we rebranded ourselves as the Australian Energy Foundation in 2019, to recognise our national reach and our expertise in creating and implementing innovative solutions to demonstrate clear pathways to the energy transition across Australia.
Despite the name change, our purpose remains the same over the twenty years – championing strategies and activities focused on carbon reduction in our quest towards an equitable zero carbon society. Some of our notable projects over the years include:
- Phoenix Fridges – One of MEFL’s first projects, aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of household refrigerators and reducing the amount of old, inefficient ‘second fridges’. We worked in partnership with Brotherhood of St Laurence to retrofit donated fridges to improve their energy and cost efficiency.
- EcoSmart Electricians – Development of a professional training and accreditation program for electricians, in partnership with Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action.
- Moreland Solar City – Funded by the federal government, this project represented a major scale-up of action and ambition and a significant opportunity for us to expand our expertise, reach and delivery models.
- Cooling Communities – In partnership with Aboriginal Housing Victoria, this program provided energy efficiency upgrades to social housing to improve residents health and comfort during the extreme heat of Australia’s summers.
- EnergySmart Public Housing Retrofits – We were responsible for delivering a variety of upgrades to 1,435 of Department of Health and Human Services public housing dwellings located across Victoria. The upgrades included appliance and thermal shell upgrades, behaviour initiatives and Victorian Residential Scorecard Assessments.
- Healthy Homes – In collaboration with Sustainability Victoria, this is the first randomised controlled research study of its kind. The program is designed to measure whether making a home warmer and drier during winter leads to improved health outcomes for people experiencing chronic illnesses. Under this program, we have retrofitted 1,000 homes to date in western Victoria and Goulburn Valley.
- Energy Advice Services (EAS) – Our energy advice helpline that supports local councils around Australia to transition their residents to cleaner and more efficient sources of energy. Previously known as Positive Charge, our EAS offering is now in its seventh year of operation.
Celebrating with our community over a virtual morning tea
We honour these proud achievements over our 20 year history and look towards the future with optimism in our celebratory morning tea on Wednesday 2 December 2020, with our AEF Board and AEF Team in attendance. Although we celebrated virtually, we still made it special for our team by designing special commemorative mugs and commissioning AEF-branded cookies from a local Melbourne bakery, which was then packaged in mini white tote bags and delivered to our team around Australia.
Our CEO Alison Rowe led the celebrations, opening with an Acknowledgement of Country, reflecting on our origins, our rebranding to AEF and what the future holds for us. “AEF is an inspiring organisation to work at and this is demonstrated through the high calibre of our team: past and present,” Alison remarks fondly. “We have always been a place where people can develop their careers and where we can trial new ideas.”
Commemorative Indigenous artwork created to honour our journey
As part of our 20 year milestone, we engaged Nicole Anne Harrison, Indigenous artist from Wonnarua land, to create an artwork that commemorates our connection to the environment and future. This beautiful piece was unveiled at our morning tea, with the physical artwork to be proudly displayed at our office in Brunswick.
In Nicole’s words, “[This artworks shows] communities and organisations uniting with the Australian Energy Foundation, taking care of the land and environment in which we are all a part of and working together to make a better planet.”
About the Artist
Nicole Anne Harrison is a Wonnarua woman, and a mother to four beautiful children (three boys and one girl) who has been married for 22 years. She was born in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie region of New South Wales, Australia in 1974.
Nicole works primarily in the education department at Windale Public School, supporting children in the local community to reach their learning goals as a Schools Learning Support Officer. She is also an active member of the local Minimbah Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.
She has been creating artwork for a variety of schools, individuals, and companies for the past 9 years. Her painting style reflects her relationship with the community, and her interpretations of the client’s desired outcomes. Through the range of commissions she has done over the years, she has expanded her knowledge and skillset with blended traditional and contemporary styles and distinctive fine line and dotting.
When Nicole is not working, she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends and has been known to have an open-door policy, welcoming everyone into her family.
Looking to our future
Looking forward, as 2021 unfolds we are excited to be launching many new initiatives and programs including the aforementioned Mike Hill Fellowship and the Moreland Energy Innovation Lab. We are incredibly proud to be working with such a wonderful and passionate team. On this, Alison says, “I am incredibly honoured to lead this organisation that continues with fierce and purpose-driven work each day.”
On behalf of the AEF community, we would like to thank our team, our board, our members and our partners for their hard work and continual support over the past twenty years and in the future, as we continue to tackle climate change and accelerate the transition to an equitable zero carbon society.