1. Introduction

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.