Victoria "Community Grid" grows, in bid to cut network costs by $30m

A Community Grid Project in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula region that is expected to save network operator United Energy tens of millions of dollars in avoided grid upgrades, has added a key new solar and storage system to its collection of behind the meter resources.
Melbourne smart energy start-up GreenSync, which is leading the project, said last week that 7kW of rooftop PV and a 14kWh Tesla Powerwall battery had been installed at the Sorrento Community Centre.
The solar and battery system, financed through a $554,886 grant from the state governments New Energy Jobs Fund, was the latest addition to the Community Grid, which was first announced in August 2016.
The five-year pilot project has been one to watch, not least because it features a traditional network company leveraging non-network solutions to fix an age-old problem that used to mean only one thing: more poles and wires.
It does this by offering households, small businesses and community organisations – from Safety Beach across to Point Leo, Flinders and Portsea – rebates and other incentives to help them reduce or shift their electricity use voluntarily or through the use of energy smart systems.
It’s a particularly clever solution for a place like the Mornington Peninsula, where electricity demand can experience massive peaks on just a handful of hot days in the holidays, when the population doubles and air-conditioners are switched on en masse.
As we reported here, at the time of the project’s conception, it was expected to save United Energy around $30 million in avoided network investment.
GreenSync COO Bruce Thompson said last week that the new Community Centre installation was not just another resource to draw on, but also an opportunity to educate locals and visitors about renewables technology and what their households can do to help lower operating costs for everyone.
“Community centres such as this are real ‘hubs’ for the local neighbourhood. It’s a great opportunity for people to be able to come and experience this new technology, see it in practical use and understand how they might apply that in their own home or businesses,” Thompson said.
“The centre can now store up the solar power they are generating and make it available for other times of the day when the sun isn’t shining.
“The connection through GreenSync allows it to connect to the grid and provide that stored energy back to the grid when it needs it, for example, during a heatwave when the grid is at high demand.
“The funding through the Victorian Government has enabled and supported this installation. It’s a great showcase of what that grant funding can deliver as it’s all about demonstrating technology and demonstrating the technologies that will provide jobs for Victorians in the future.”
Indeed, education is all-important – and not just for consumers, as the latest pricing update on solar tariffs from the NSW regulator, IPART, has clearly demonstrated.
As we reported here, IPART’s draft decision – which proposes to cut the state’s solar FiT almost in half – takes the line that solar exports are “not likely” to provide system-wide net benefits for networks.
That’s not United Energy’s experience, at least.
“The Community Grid will allow us to defer expensive upgrades to the network that would have catered for just a handful of peak days, supporting us to continue delivering affordable and reliable power to homes and businesses in the Mornington Peninsula region,” said the utility’s planning and strategy manager, Rodney Bray, last week.

And local businesses get the idea, too. As reported by the Southern Peninsula News in January, Rye Hotel’s Peter Houghton was among the first businesses in the area to sign up to the project.

“Programs like this allow the whole community to benefit without the worry of ongoing or increased costs of more infrastructure,” he told the paper. “I would certainly encourage everyone to get involved in the community grid project – it’s the way of the future.”

Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor and Nepean Ward Councillor Bryan Payne sees it as a win for local residents, as well.
“This initiative will help residents save money on their electricity in the long term and benefit their local community,” he said on Thursday.
“The Shire supports GreenSync and The Community Grid Project as it works towards assisting the community respond to climate change,” said Councillor Payne.

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