Donald’s Energy Future Forum
The ‘Donald and Tarnagulla Energy Future Forums’ brought the residents, businesses owners and community groups together with the study partners on the second and third of March 2021. The forums hosted thirty attendees from Donald and ten attendees from Tarnagulla.
James Seymour CEO of C4NET, Rob Law Executive Officer of the CVGA, Brian Bird, New Markets Manager, Ovida and Amy Jaballah, Stakeholder & Engagement Manager, Powercor presented on how microgrids are becoming increasingly feasible as potential solutions for rural town’s electricity needs which was followed by a lively Q&A discussion.
The 3-year study, supported by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, will explore whether a microgrid could provide a solution that satisfies both the community’s needs and desires, and resolve challenges with the current electricity supply. The study is being approached objectively, without a specific solution in mind.
The study is being led by C4NET with major research elements conducted by academics from 5 leading universities. Residents and businesses have the opportunity to participate in the study, whether from informing the community’s needs, participating in solar and battery adoption or hosting electricity monitors.
Community members were particularly informed and engaged, being curious to learn about what a microgrid may be able to do, with questions such as: When and why they are used? What role does storage play? How can they input into the study? What would be the boundaries of the microgrid if it was adopted, and how this would impact properties that are downstream? There was interest in taking more control to manage their cost of electricity, from a farmer whose quarterly bill doubled to over $40,000 to a household facing up to $1000 a quarter, with both wondering how solar can assist them.
Reliability of electricity supply was a key issue for the communities who have previously experienced outages. The attendees reflected impacts such as a local food manufacturing site who had lost many thousand dollars’ worth of production, café owners who could not operate, and individuals who were unable to keep cool.
Attendees expressed frustration that not all community members can currently access solar in the same way with some unable to export solar back to the grid that was available from their system. The attendees also voiced uncertainty as to how to best benefit from the solar residents had already installed solar. Powercor provided an update on it’s considerable investment across the network to enable more sites to have some element of solar export.