Alternative power plans could move off the grid

ENVIRONMENTAL groups say a push for communities to become self-sufficient and "unplugged" from the electricity grid could soon become a reality.

Mount Alexander Sustainability Group chair Marg Rasa said she was buoyed by new research into renewable energy projects.

She said isolated regional towns across central Victoria were ideal candidates for standalone energy alternatives.

A report by social enterprise group Energy for the People said communities could be "unplugged" and powered by alternative energy sources by 2020.

It said some regions were already on their way toward a new energy model "by building their own community-owned power generation assets".

The research paper looked at electricity consumption in Bendigo as one of its three case studies. It found new housing developments had huge potential in standalone power projects and that the move toward new sources of renewable energy could be a "quick and dramatic transition".

Ms Rasa said she was confident solar and other renewable options were the answer.

And she said the plan to be entirely "unplugged" could be achieved sooner than we think.

“It won’t happen overnight," she said.

"But increasingly the technology is available and communities are interested. We're going to see radical shifts in the energy distribution system."

Bendigo Sustainability Group president Keith Reynard said there was strong community interest in emerging renewable technology.

He said it made economic sense for regional areas to consider looking at alternative energy models and "unplug" from the grid.

"Some small communities realise it’s an economic stimulus," he said. 

“I think it’s the way that we’re heading. 

“I can see a point in time where developers take it on as a matter of course."

Mr Reynard said solar panels would play an important part in moving away from a traditional energy supply, but he said they weren't the only option.

"It would need a diversity of energy sources and would need some sort of back-up system," he said. 

"The way I see it panning out is that people will access new technology but still be connected to the main grid for their back-up supply."

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