The Western Australia town that was shifted, en masse, off the reticulated gas network and taken all-electric is now the focus of a new retail energy offer targeting households that are unable to install rooftop solar.
Horizon Power, which last year began the process of electrifying hundreds of homes and businesses in Esperance after the local gas supplier shut up shop, this week launched its Sunshine Saver product in the same coastal town.
Available for up to 500 eligible customers, the subscription service aims to share the benefits and savings of renewable energy with all – and in particular, those who can’t directly access it, such as rental households or those financially excluded from installed rooftop PV.
As a base, the $1 per day subscription fee gives customers five units of energy credited to their account daily, regardless of usage, working out to an average 11% reduction in energy bills or $186 a year.
Beyond that, households can save further by shifting the bulk of their energy use to between 6am and 6pm, when there is a 10% discount on power costs while excess solar is feeding onto the local grid.
“This is an important product that helps customers who are unable to access the benefits of solar to make genuine savings on their energy bills from renewable energy sources,” said WA energy minister Bill Johnston on Thursday.
“We recognise there are barriers to accessing renewable energy and not all customers are in a position to purchase solar panels or new electric vehicles.
“Sunshine Saver demonstrates the Cook government is committed to ensuring all Western Australians can benefit from the green energy transition.”
Sunshine Saver is being rolled out in Esperance initially, with additional towns to be added in the future.
Esperance might have looked as good a place as any to launch the offering, considering the engagement Horizon has already undertaken in the town due to the electrification project.
Esperance’s journey to electrification started in September of 2021, when the Esperance Gas Distribution Company revealed it could no longer commercially continue to supply gas and operate the reticulated gas network, and would cease operations in March 2022.
Horizon decided that quitting the reticulated gas supply, altogether, was the best way forward for customers and the broader community, with the least risks. It then negotiated a 12-month extension to give the town time to make the shift.
The process was then set in motion in early 2022, when the state government committed $10.5 million in financial support for 258 private residential and 41 business customers to quit gas.
The transition program offered financial assistance for existing gas customers to remove their gas appliances and replace them with new ‘like for like’ electric alternatives, including installation costs and electrical work.
Businesses were also offered free independent energy audits, with a grant scheme providing financial support for their chosen transition pathway.
Esperance is also at the leading edge in its grid supply of power, just under half of which comes from a mix of solar, wind and battery storage.
The integrated power system, developed in partnership between Horizon Power and Pacific Energy, combines 4MW of solar PV, 9MW of wind power (two 4.5MW turbines), a 4MW battery energy storage system, and a 22MW high-efficiency gas power station.
The solar and wind section of the microgrid, which has been dubbed the Shark Lake Renewables Hub, was officially launched in May 2022, with the intention to keep growing its generation capacity.
Pacific Energy chief, Jamie Cullen, said at the time that the Esperance power system was “future-focused” and would evolve using the latest technology – as it is, the two new wind turbines installed will generate 60% more energy than the old wind farms combined.