Victorian government invests in Melbourne microgrid project

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Victoria’s Andrews Government appears to be putting its money where its mouth is. As part of its Microgrid Demonstration Initiative announced in December 2017, the government is providing around a half of the funding needed for a solar+storage project, which will help cut energy costs for 650 households and businesses in three multi-tenanted buildings in Melbourne.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio announced the $980,000 grant towards the Ovida Community Energy Hub project, which is expected to generate 5000 kWh of solar energy and support 11,000 kWh of energy storage.

“This initiative will allow more households and businesses in multi-tenanted buildings to take control of their energy bills,” she said.

The $2 million project will be executed by Ovida, an Australian energy company that provides both solar energy solutions and private energy infrastructure, in cooperation with Moreland Energy Foundation, RMIT University, Allume Energy, an Australian startup specializing in bringing solar to multi-metered buildings, and distribution company Jemena.

“This trial also tackles energy affordability head-on. By providing the panels, battery and infrastructure free of charge to customers so there are no up-front costs,” said Ovida spokesperson, Paul Adams, in a comment this week.

“This removes inequality in the market place and by trialling the microgrid technology, we can explore how companies can viably supply such solutions – again, with no financial commitment required from homeowners.”

The Ovida trial program is funded as part of the Labor Government’s statewide Microgrid Demonstration Initiative, the goal of which is to provide $10 million to support eight state-wide microgrid projects totaling over $37 million in value.

“Microgrid projects are part of our plan to drive down energy prices, reduce emissions and create a pipeline of investment in renewable energy,” D’Ambrossio said.

The initiative, was launched last year as part of the Labor Government’s $146 million Renewable Energy Action Plan, with an eye on the state’s ambitious Renewable Energy Targets of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025.

The microgrid trial funding announcement comes hot on the heels of the government’s ambitious $1.24 billion solar pledge – the Solar Homes program, which has seen an immediate investment of $68 million.

With the goal to add 2.6 GW of rooftop PV to Victorian households addressing upfront capital challenges, the program is offering grants of up to $2,225 for a 4kW system – with interest free loans to be provided from mid-2019. It will only be available for homeowners with an annual income below $180,000 and with a home value below $3 million.

The agency to administer the solar program – Solar Victoria –  will be established in the Latrobe Valley and bring up to 50 additional jobs to the region.

Last week, the government announced a separate $3 million competitive grant program to support the development of a microgrid project in the Latrobe Valley, the center of Victoria’s coal industry, and thus help accelerate the uptake of renewable energy in the region. 

Launched in addition to the Government’s Microgrid Demonstration Program, the Latrobe Valley program is open to all applications for eligible project types, including microgrids, virtual power plants and smart embedded networks which have renewable energy as the primary energy source.

According to the government announcement, applications will close on September 17 and the successful microgrid project will need to be completed by mid-2022.