Ballarat community group looks at ‘microgrid model on steroids’ to power city

The Ballarat Energy Network is on track to decentralise the regional city’s electricity network with a long-term view to supply the Victorian community’s 120,000 residents with 100% renewable energy generated by local distributed energy resources.

The Ballarat Energy Network (BEN), together with more than 20 of the Victorian community’s largest businesses and industries, will commence a project that could see Ballarat become Australia’s first regional city to be powered by 100% locally generated renewable energy.

In partnership with Victorian network operator AusNet[2], BEN will oversee an approximately 12-month Stage 1 energy use and efficiencies assessment of 22 local commercial and industrial businesses. The businesses are some of the city’s largest energy consumers and located in the Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ).

“The BWEZ is an industrial precinct, and we think we can model for the rest of Ballarat what a distributed network might look like, if we’ve got a really strong data set that sits around our biggest consumers,” Committee for Ballarat, which oversees BEN, Chief Executive Officer Michael Poulton said.

BEN’s vision is to aggregate, optimise, and manage local renewable generation through the many distributed assets available in the region, and sees itself as a net exporter of renewable energy.

Existing renewable energy sources include industrial and rooftop solar and battery energy storage systems[3] while future resources would include electric vehicles (EVs), thermal solar, wind, and bioenergy.

Poulton said the project aims to orchestrate the generation, distribution, storage and sharing of local renewable energy, and then trade it on the National Energy Market (NEM).

“Local generation, local distribution, local sharing, then trading because we’ll inevitably be able to generate more electricity than we need,” he said.

Pointing to the microgrid[4] model, which operates in smaller communities like Yackandandah[5], Poulton said the purpose of BEN is to see what’s possible at scale.

“What BEN was designed to do from day one was take that microgrid model and put it on steroids to ask, does it stack up technically, feasibly, and commercially for a community of 100,000 plus people,” he said.

Ballarat Energy Network’s distribution energy resources model.

Image: Committee for Ballarat

Poulton said the initiative is about ensuring that the local community captures the potential of locally generated renewable energy and benefits from the clean energy transition.

“BEN was always about how do we maximise the opportunity that we have for renewable generation in this region directly,” he said.

“The views of regional communities are such that the benefits of the renewable energy transition are being felt more directly in big cities whereas the infrastructure and impact of the renewable transition is being hosted in regional areas without those same benefits.”

“Residents can see the transmission towers[6] and the turbines spinning from their kitchen windows, but know their power goes out[7] three times a month, and that’s what BEN is really trying to solve.”

“Giving ownership and agency to regional communities, in our context, to Ballarat, we think we’ll help deliver greater acceptance of the renewable transmission and the capacity for us to host infrastructure when we know there are direct benefits coming into our community as a result of that.”

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  1. ^ Posts by Ev Foley (
  2. ^ AusNet (
  3. ^ battery energy storage systems (
  4. ^ microgrid (
  5. ^ Yackandandah (
  6. ^ transmission towers (
  7. ^ power goes out (
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