Energy sharing incentives could lead to more clean power and consumer savings

Residents as well as businesses can look forward to better access to sustainable power and savings on their energy bills if a proposed electricity network rule change is put into action.

The Property Council, the City of Sydney and the Total Environment Centre have all come together to challenge high electricity network charges, reported They are disputing why they should have to pay such hefty charges to connect when the energy that they produce actually helps take the burden off the power grid.

They have asked the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to introduce an incentive called a Local Generation Network Credit (LGNC) to promote energy sharing on a precinct scale. The Total Environment Centre said that with a system of LGNCs, residents and businesses who generate excess power which then gets used locally, would get a credit for taking the strain off the network during peak periods.

Without such an incentive, generators might bypass the grid altogether, said Total Environment Centre's energy market advocate, Mark Byrne.

"Over the past 10 years we've built a hugely expensive electricity network and users are going to be paying for that for the next 30 years so we want to extract the maximum benefit from it that we can," he said.

To give an example, with the LGNC scheme, large scale energy generators like the Central Park residential and shopping precinct in Sydney could earn credits. Central Park is one of the city’s greenest developments and generates power through a tri-generation plant. Its neighbour, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), wants to use some of Central Park's power so it can meet its own renewable energy targets.

"We actually found we can't meet that commitment with opportunities just like energy efficiency and solar, so we're looking at transitioning to low carbon precinct tri-generation," Ed Langham from UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures said.

However, what UTS found is that as soon as the energy goes through Central Park's power metre, it attracts a heavy network charge.

UTS has even looked at building its own power lines to avoid the network charges, but Mr Langham said that was not a good outcome.

"We should be utilising the existing grid that we already have, that we have already invested so heavily in over the past five to 10 years," he said.

Heavy network charges are also one of the main reasons the City of Sydney had to let go of its half-billion-dollar tri-generation project in 2013.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said: "For years the city has been pushing for a system that makes it easier for residents and businesses to access clean power that is generated and used locally."

The AEMC's decision on the energy network rule change proposal is expected to take approximately a year.

If this proposal is accepted, it could revolutionise the way power is generated and transmitted as it would reduce network maintenance and infrastructure costs. Ultimately, these savings on network maintenance and infrastructure could be passed on to residents and businesses as reduced power bills. Householders with rooftop solar systems who sell their electricity to local aggregators could also get a better price for their power.

In the meanwhile, if you’re looking for electricity plans in Sydney that can help you save money, head over to Mozo’s energy comparison tool to compare the cheapest plans in your area.


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