A path for microgrids in edge-of-grid towns in Australia

By Dr Scott Dwyer
Tuesday, 24 May, 2022

A path for microgrids in edge-of-grid towns in Australia

More and more communities are looking to make energy work better for them, spurred by a desire to use their local resources more sustainably for the greater benefit of those who live there.

While there is already substantial momentum building with local energy projects, determining a viable path is challenging. What resources can be developed? Which technologies and partners should they choose? What business models will be financially viable? How can the benefits be equally shared among the community?

MyTown Microgrid aims to answer these questions for the Victorian town of Heyfield, while also seeking to develop a replicable model that can also bring benefits to the surrounding region, as well as other edge-of-grid towns around Australia.

Over the next three years, MyTown will test the viability of microgrids as a local energy solution for Heyfield.

A ‘microgrid’ can be defined as a group of homes or businesses that generate, use and share electricity. With the ability to be controlled as a single entity, microgrids are able to connect and disconnect from the main electricity grid as required.

Microgrids have the potential to enhance the integration of renewable energy, draw on local resources, drive deep carbon reductions and overcome local grid constraints. They can also support the decarbonisation of the wider energy system while also improving overall system resilience.

However, there are many options for communities looking to understand whether a microgrid makes sense for them and determining a viable path can be difficult to navigate.

The Heyfield community

Heyfield is a town of around 2000 people located in Wellington Shire, Victoria. With a long track record in sustainability initiatives and considerable potential for low-cost and local energy, Heyfield is an ideal location to pilot a new approach with a community at the helm.

Using Heyfield as the model community, the project will bring together progressive industry, community and research partners to pilot an innovative microgrid approach.

As well as understanding the feasibility of a microgrid for Heyfield, the project will also develop the knowledge and tools to make it faster, easier and cheaper for other fringe-of-grid towns in regional Australia to do the same for their communities.

Dr Scott Dwyer will be speaking further about MyTown Microgrid Heyfield at the upcoming Energy Next free-to-attend B2B exhibition, which is showcasing the latest clean energy innovation and technologies. The event is being held alongside Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Sydney from 19–20 July.

For more information about how to register for the event, visit www.energynext.com.au.

*Dr Scott Dwyer is a Research Director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney, working on issues relating to the transitioning energy system. His research interests revolve around the opportunities and challenges posed by disruption in the energy sector, especially those linked to customers, technologies, policy, markets and business models. Dwyer has over 15 years’ experience of leading transdisciplinary teams as part of complex, energy-related research projects for the public and private sectors. Over this time he has worked closely with a range of international organisations, including many of the world's leading energy utilities and energy product manufacturers, start-ups, industry associations and governments. He leads the institute’s work on customer energy innovation and advises on a wide range of sustainable energy technologies, including solar, storage, microgrids, fuel cell, hydrogen and electric vehicles.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/petovarga

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