A small central Victorian community with ambitions to become the state’s first green-energy powered town will trial a new electricity tariff from July 1.
Negotiated with Powercor Australia, the new tariff will include a higher fixed fee to use grid energy, but, importantly, will have a lower peak consumption charge and no energy distribution fees.
Put simply, the trial, which is optional for all residents with a 3462 postcode, will allow residents to transfer energy between each other without charge, improving their flexibility and capacity to harness renewable energy.
For example, it could allow a group of residents to install a number of solar panels in a paddock, rather than having individual panels on their roofs, and transfer energy between one another at no additional cost.
Powercor Australia, whose earnings are regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator, said the project is price-neutral for them, meaning they will still recoup the same amount of money from the change in tariff, but the residents will receive the greatest benefit.
Newstead community member Don Culvenor said the tariff change would not save residents money in the short-term.
“It’s not about saving money,” he said.
The existing tariff system meant people with solar panels were subsidising others that didn’t have renewable energy sources, Mr Culvenor said.
“It means longer term we can make sensible investment decisions as a community as to where the (solar) panels are best put,” he said.
The changes could pave the way for community-owned solar farms, for example, an idea which has been championed by Bendigo-based renewable energy group, the Bendigo Sustainability Group.
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The Newstead residential tariff will be trialled for two years with an option to extend based on uptake.
It is currently unclear how many of the 800 residents will be involved in the trial.
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said the change was an exciting opportunity for the wider region to showcase what can be achieved in community-scale renewable energy.
“We have been working with Newstead 2021 to help progress this flagship initiative which we hop will pave the way for other towns in Victoria to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy,” she said.
In early 2016, the community group Newstead 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding with Powercor Australia to work on creating a renewable energy based power supply.
A year earlier, the state government provided the group with $200,000 to develop a 100 per cent renewable energy model.
“We’re getting pretty close to wrapping the project, if you like.”
Renewable Newstead spokesman Geoff Park’s triumphant words were tinged with a sense of relief on Tuesday, as he presented the town’s tariff trial partnership with Powercor Australia.
“There’s probably still 12 months of hard work ahead of us,” he added.
While the town’s population is small, its ambition is anything but.
The project – two years in the making – has the potential to direct community renewable energy models across the state.
The town, driven by a target of becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy community, may, in future years, be seen as a green energy trailblazer.
“We believe Newstead 2021 has the potential to pave the way for other communities looking to do very similar community energy models and in that sense Newstead should be very proud of the progress they have made to date,” Powercor Australia’s general manager of corporate affairs, Mel O’Neill, said during a presentation to community members at the Newstead Rural Transaction Centre.
Over the next five months, the group will work with the community, in an attempt to encourage as many participants in the two-year tariff trial as possible.
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