Over the last five to ten years the cost of renewable energy technologies, in particular solar photovoltaics (PV), has declined significantly. Solar PV is a modular technology, meaning it can be deployed at any scale, from smaller household systems commonly between 1 kW and 10 kW, through systems suitable for a local business, to large-scale ground-mounted systems that range from 100 kW to tens or even hundreds of MWs.
The suitability of PV for smaller systems has opened up opportunities for individuals and communities to generate their own electricity. More recently, the price of batteries has declined significantly, and there has been progress in the development of energy management systems, which allows PV, batteries and other technologies such as solar water heaters to be integrated into effective distributed energy systems.
Other renewable energy technologies such as wind, hydro, bioenergy, tidal and wave power have also seen advances, with wind and hydro available as smaller-scale options suitable for household and community distributed energy.
These technologies have a number of benefits beyond financial savings. They create local employment, which can occur directly when they are installed, as well as indirectly because less money leaves the community in the form of electricity bills – meaning that more money remains to circulate through the local economy, which creates additional indirect employment.
They can also provide local resilience, where the integration of batteries can provide support to the electricity network during times of peak demand, and maintain power supplies in the event of loss of the network. This is not only more convenient but can be critical in times of emergency response.
1.1. This Report
East Gippsland Shire Council has received funding through the Victorian Climate Change Grants 2015 and the New Energy Jobs Fund to run a Project that helps research options, engages with the community and develops practical proposals for renewable energy projects within East Gippsland. The energy setting in East Gippsland features unique, often edge of grid, regional communities with a variety of opportunities and constraints.
This Technical Study is the first of three stages of the overall Project, with the other two stages being Community Consultation and the Development of Detailed Business Cases. This Technical Study is being run in parallel with the Community Consultation stage, and so has benefited from consultation with AusNet, East Gippsland Water, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), large energy users, solar installers, and community groups (U3A, GELLEN, MSEG) and individuals.
This report is divided into the following Sections:
Section 2 (Current Electricity Grid, Usage & Solar) characterises the existing electricity grid and current or potential constraints which could be alleviated by renewable energy, or which may restrict the amount of renewable energy that can be connected. It also characterises the total amount of electricity used in East Gippsland Shire as well as the current renewable energy generation in the region.
Section 3 (High Level Issues) then discusses issues that should be taken into consideration regarding additionality to legislated targets, where the renewable energy should be built, and the nature of the ownership of these technologies.
Section 4 (Business models) then discusses the range of business models and other approaches which may be relevant for increasing renewable energy in East Gippsland. These range from ways to drive uptake at the household level through to larger-scale community-owned options.
Section 5 (What Can EGSC do?) then identifies specific actions that EGSC and the local community can undertake. After discussing how the provision of information can be used to drive uptake of both energy efficiency and renewable energy, it proposes some options to improve land use planning to help enable renewable energy uptake. Finally this section proposes some programs that can be used to enable uptake of renewable energy in the residential and commercial sectors in East Gippsland, as well as large-scale and end-of-grid systems, including opportunities for community ownership.
Section 6 (Renewable Energy Resources and Technology Options) builds on the preferred options identified through the community consultation and uses the region’s renewable energy potential to model different scenarios for increased uptake.
Section 7 (Discussion & Recommendations) then concludes the report by summarising the main outcomes and actions suggested for EGSC.
This report has been written in language that is as plain as possible, however some technical jargon and concepts are unavoidable. Rather than over simplifying, we hope it will help to provide the education that is necessary to significantly increase the amount of renewable energy in East Gippsland Shire.