Victorian town eyes 100 per cent renewable energy as Coalition changes its tune

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg debates ACCC report and prepares for NEG meeting in August.Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. Image: Australian Government

A Victorian border town wants 100 per cent renewable energy by 2022 and the federal Coalition is offering surprise support.

Plans to build a Yackandandah minigrid, using solar energy stored in homes, were described as “fantasy” by then Resources Minister Matt Canavan back in February 2017.

Yet Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg described them as an “exciting” example of Australia’s transformed energy landscape when he dropped in to the north-east Victorian town this month.

Mr Frydenberg praised the town’s pilot intention to store and share solar energy between homes as more communities go off grid.

He added that microgrids, demand management, rooftop solar and battery storage are creating a once-in-a-lifetime change.

100 per cent renewable within reach

Meanwhile, plans to power the entire town with renewable energy are here to stay, according to the Border Mail.

Yackandandah wants to be 100 per cent renewable using solar minigrid and battery storage.

Yackandandah uses solar minigrid and battery storage to become 100 per cent renewable. Image: Chamber of Commerce.

Volunteer community group Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) has partnered with AusNet Services to roll out a minigrid over the next five years.

Because some residents are unable to install solar, the partners also want to build a local 10 MW solar plant.

Josh Frydenberg subsequently met with Indi MP Cathy McGowan and the Winton Wetlands management committee to talk about these projects. Apart from a possible solar plant, around $12.5 million in Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grants is also available to help communities seeking solar quotes.

Battery storage missing piece of energy puzzle

When Matt Canavan visited Wodonga last year, he called the Victorian government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target “mad”.

He told the Border Mail that renewable energy would not work for towns where the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Yet, as Josh Frydenberg now admits, solar storage batteries are transforming the energy landscape in regional towns.

“Unfortunately, in Australia this has been the missing piece of the energy jigsaw for some time,” he claims.

He said because more communities are going off grid, it’s essential they have backup of storage and supply, and that microgrids are “absolutely” part of the future.