Community energy retailer the next step for Yackandandah

Establishing a community energy retailer will be the next step for Totally Renewable Yackandandah and AusNet Services in the town becoming fully sustainably powered by 2020. Australia’s first commercial mini grid, made possible through the partnership, was launched on Friday.

Mark Judd of Mondo Power, part of AusNet Services, said there were now 161 houses with energy controller systems called ‘Ubis’ installed. “Whilst the Ubi is their home energy monitoring system it’s much more powerful; it controls the solar and battery system and it tells the battery when to charge,” he said. “What we typically see is the battery will get charged by the end of the day, to then keep the house powered overnight. If it runs out, it draws a bit from the grid. It can send and exchange power, but until we put a retailer over the top, it’s really a micro-grid in a technical sense.”

Setting up a community energy retailer would allow electricity trading within the mini grid, and Mr Judd said it could be operating as soon as 2018. About 35 per cent of rooftops in the town have solar panels. TRY’s Matt Grogan said the launch of the mini-grid at Yackandandah Heights was momentous, but not the end goal.

“I think it’s something very impressive, but I think it’s something truly remarkable to be able to say this was Australia’s first mini-grid in Australia’s first 100 per cent renewable town,” he said. “A challenge goes out on behalf of TRY to AusNet and to the Yackandandah people to treat this as a starting point, because we’re not there yet.”

Another first was also celebrated at the launch, in the town’s water treatment plant going renewable. North East Water customer and community relations executive manager Ann Telford said the plant, also funded by the Intelligence Water Network, had begun operation under solar power in November. “We have installed a large set of solar panels out there and battery storage,” she said. “It’s the first treatment plant to go off gird and we’re really proud of that.”

Indigo Mayor Jenny O’Connor said Yackandandah was “leading the energy revolution”. “What is happening at the community level is now defying the kind of backward steps we’re seeing from governments all over the world, from Donald Trump to our own government, who do not embrace renewable energy in a way it needs to happen,” she said. “The community is saying ‘We’re going to do it anyway’, and when a community this size can do something as innovative as what we’re doing here, I feel enormous hope.”