Victoria announces microgrid grant, to power Latrobe Valley shift from coal


Hot on the heels of its $1.2 billion pledge to dramatically boost rooftop solar uptake in the state, the Victorian Andrews government has launched a $3 million grant program to support the development of a renewables based microgrid project in the Latrobe Valley.
In a statement on Tuesday, energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced the Latrobe Valley Microgrid Grant Program, to help accelerate the uptake of renewable energy in a region that is best known for being Victoria’s centre for coal-fired power generation.
D’Ambrosio said the initiative aimed to lower the cost of energy for local businesses, encourage new investment in the region and support its transition to a low-carbon economy.
The minister said the successful microgrid project – which is described as a small network of electricity users with a local supply of power that can function independently of the electricity grid – could include virtual power plants and smart embedded networks, with renewable energy as the primary generation source.
“We’re ensuring businesses in the Latrobe Valley have access to cheap, clean, and reliable energy,” D’Ambrosio said. “This microgrid program will mean local businesses can save money and strengthen investment in the local economy.”
A contender for the grant could be the Latrobe Valley based “virtual micro-grid” being put together by Brooklyn-based company LO3 Energy, which as we reported here in April has already received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
That project aims to use locally generated solar, battery storage, smart appliances and blockchain technology to buy and sell locally produced renewable energy to up to 200 dairy farms, more than 100 households and 20 local businesses.
The Latrobe Valley has been a focus for the state Labor government of late, particularly since the March 2017 closure of the 46-year old 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired generator.
Last month, D’Ambrosio unveiled a list of 30 of the region’s public buildings in line for the free solar upgrades, including solar hot water and lighting. The state is also offering no-cost solar systems to 1000 low-income households across the region, as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.
Applications for the Microgrid Grant Program close on 17 September 2018. The successful microgrid project would need to be completed by mid-2022.

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