100 Phillip Island households to share renewables? by Zoë Geyer

Phillip Island Battery Site (Mondo)

Condensed version first published in the Bass Coast Post

WHAT is the future of renewable energy in the local community? How do we manage the transition to renewables without leaving any of our community behind? These questions are front of mind at Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI) as we start recruiting 100 households on Phillip Island to take part in a 12-month tariff trial using a community battery for virtual storage. Indeed, topical questions of these times, as the Australian Energy Market Operator hit the headlines this month with the unprecedented suspension of the national electricity market.

Back on the Island, the last few months have been busy with great bounds forward in two projects. Both projects are based on Phillip Island and are funded by the Victorian Government under the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Neighbourhood Battery Initiative. They explore neighbourhood batteries as a vehicle for community energy sharing, increased social equity and access to locally produced renewable energy.

TRPI and the Energy Innovation Co-operative has partnered with Mondo, a service provider in community mini-grids and regional energy, to lead an upcoming tariff trial using the Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System Big Battery at Wimbledon. The project is supported by Bass Coast Shire Council. The 5MW battery is currently under construction off site and will be commissioned later in 2022 at the council-owned Gap Road site near Wimbledon Heights.

The tariff trial will look at locally produced household renewable energy in a community-benefit sharing model for social equity. The participants will be involved in co-designing the trial structure with the project partners.

Who can participate? The trial is open to people with houses on Phillip Island (owners, renters, holiday home-owners), people without solar panels as well as people with solar panels, and people from all walks of life – we’re looking for diversity and to enhance social equity in the community’s access to renewable energy.

Earlier this year TRPI conducted a community survey where over 95 per cent of respondents said YES or MAYBE they would consider donating their excess solar to others in the community to increase social equity. Given the generosity shown by the community to date, we are very interested to see the results of the co-design process and outcomes of the trial.

The Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System (PICESS) will be a permanent installation on the island and will mainly address the need for peak supply during summer and improve the resilience of supply in summer while also being available at other times for other network, market, or community services. This can lead to an improvement in the consistency and reliability of the electricity on the Island. We also plan for this battery to enable new technologies and trials and increase the solar capacity on the island…

TRPI’s vision is for Phillip Island to be carbon neutral and 100 per cent renewable by 2030. These neighbourhood battery initiative projects are stepping stones to a thriving local renewable energy movement. This is an innovative project happening in our shire, with the community actively engaged to have a say in how this model will develop through the region.

Zoë Geyer is co-ordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI)