Unplugging Australia From The Mains Grid

Regional towns and new housing estates in Australia have the potential to dump mains grid electricity supply quite soon according to a new report.

The document, prepared by  Energy for the People and the ATA might initially send shivers down the spine of Big Energy; one that is already quivering from the impact of the home solar revolution in Australia.

The report states many in Victoria could unplug from the grid by 2020; courtesy of renewable energy systems with battery storage.

This doesn’t necessarily mean households would be reliant on whatever solar panels they could fit on the roof. It could also involve “micro-grids” where communities buy back their local energy grid and invest in local energy generation and storage says Tosh Szatow, director of Energy for the People.

New housing estates could have stand-alone energy packages provided by professional energy services companies.

Existing communities buying back the grid has precedent – according to a post on Energy for the People,  the village of Schönau in Germany bought back its grid and established a clean energy cooperative through a process that began over 27 years ago.

This approach could mean an orderly exit from the mains grid in suitable areas.

“The stand-alone approach would give electricity network companies the opportunity to sell assets that they can no longer afford to maintain, and creates the potential to unwind cross-subsidies from urban to regional consumers,” says the ATA’s Damien Moyse.

Three locations were chosen for the analysis – Werribee, Bendigo and an inner-Melbourne suburb; which the paper says represents  a close to worst-case scenario for the concept.

“Considering our research focused on Victoria, which has low levels of sunlight compared to most other states and low electricity prices, stand-alone power would be even more attractive in other parts of the country.”

The summary paper “What Happens When we Un-Plug?” can be viewed in full here (PDF).