Nearby homes and community buildings should be able to reduce their power bills by trading energy without having to pay to be part of the full energy grid, a government committee has recommended.
The Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into community energy examined some of the renewable projects under way around the state, including Totally Renewable Yackandandah’s plan to be 100 per cent reliant on solar energy by 2022.
Its report, released this week, stated the Australian Energy Market Commission had previously rejected a proposed rule change which would credit people for using less of the grid because “it believed that it would increase costs for other consumers left to underwrite the grid”.
But the committee found “local energy trading” would help reduce power bills and recommended the government support a change in regulation as long as it could also protect vulnerable consumers.
TRY co-chair Matthew Charles-Jones gave evidence at one of the public hearings to explain the world-first “mini grid” the group was trialling in partnership with AusNet Services.
Some Yackandandah households have purchased a solar, battery and microcomputer package which will monitor and manage energy consumption, and allow trading energy, but the mini grid will remain connected to the wider energy grid to ensure reliability.
Speaking to The Border Mail, Mr Charles-Jones said he had not expected the Victorian government to pick up the mini grid idea.
“We got the sense during the inquiry, it’s probably not where the mainstream thinking is at the moment,” he said.
“There’s still very much a focus on bigger installs either on commercial buildings or community-owned buildings or solar farms.
“It appears to still be a bit of a niche - the prospect of a broader rollout of mini-grids.
“One of the particular strengths of the project we’re adopting is it won’t in any way impact the existing landscape, it will just go onto rooftops.
“In terms of changing land use, it’s quite low impact.”
The Victorian government had granted TRY $100,000 to fund the creation of a business case for community energy retailer.
“It’s an important part of the jigsaw puzzle for us with the mini grid to be able to have a retailer that facilitates the trading of power among individuals,” Mr Charles-Jones said.
Inquiry chair Nazih Elasmar acknowledged community energy groups faced barriers, but said they needed to work with local government or developers to reduce the risk of their projects.
He said he wanted to ensure energy security was protected as renewables continued to grow and have economic benefits.
“The uptake of renewable energy in Victoria may affect energy security and affordability, which could disadvantage vulnerable consumers,” he said.
“The vibrancy of the community energy sector in Victoria is impressive and the enthusiasm and dedication shown by local energy groups in both metropolitan and regional areas is commendable.”