Phillip Island powers on

Phillip Island’s bold vision to become carbon neutral and fully renewable by 2030 is a step closer, with plans approved for a revolutionary community energy storage system

Republished from the Bass Coast Post

The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) has given planning approval for the installation of the 5MW/10MWh battery, affectionately dubbed the Big Battery by locals, on a council-owned site near Wimbledon Heights.

The Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System (PICESS) could potentially slash power bills, with residents able to use the grid to store their power. It will also offer greater reliability in electricity supply for the Island, especially during peak holiday periods.

Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI) and the Energy Innovation Co-operative (EI Coop) are working closely on the project with Bass Coast Shire Council and Mondo, a pioneer in community mini-grids and regional energy hubs. They are also working together on two other battery projects made possible by two Victorian Government grants of more than $500,000 from DELWP’s Neighbourhood Battery Initiative. The first grant will help determine the feasibility of a network of street level batteries on the Island to boost the ability of the electricity network to host larger volumes of renewable power on the grid.

The second grant will fund a 12-month trial of 100 participants of the PICESS battery once installation is complete. It will explore cutting-edge tariff arrangements to support ‘virtual storage’ for people on the Island. The initiative will assess whether the new system will result in cheaper electricity bills by storing renewable energy in a community battery rather than property owners having to purchase their own household batteries. Power generated from household solar systems would be shared through tariff trial structures with other Island residents who cannot currently access renewable energy, creating a local renewable energy production and shared resource.

TRPI Coordinator Zoe Geyer said what started as a concept five years ago was fast becoming a reality for the community. “The arrival of the Big Battery, alongside these two great explorations into community access to locally generated renewable energy and storage, pave the way for a just transition to a sustainable future that leaves no-one behind. This is a new energy future that benefits everyone on the Island and gives people ownership and a sense of pride. Our community has a strong vision to be totally renewable by 2030 – which is 20 years ahead of the Federal and State targets.” Ms Geyer credited the council with answering the community call and releasing a Climate Change Action Plan in 2020 to meet this target.

Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan said the project would not only reduce carbon emissions but also benefit households financially. “With cost of living front of mind, the ability for communities to harness natural resources to produce and store power will hopefully make a real difference to household bills. We know clean, green power is what people want, and I’m sure this project will help inspire similar schemes in other communities across Victoria.”