By Romy Stephens
A handful of eastern suburbs in the Dandenong Ranges are set to receive a renewable energy boost, with a new Community Energy Hub on its way.
The energy hub will serve residents of Emerald, Avonsleigh, Cockatoo and Gembrook, and essentially will see the community work together to create and share electricity.
The project is being powered by the Dandenong Ranges Renewable Energy Association (DRREA) in partnership with Indigo Power.
Indigo Power is a community energy company that allows customers to generate electricity and share it with their neighbours.
The company also builds larger solar and battery projects to supply communities with top-up power.
Indigo Power’s managing director Ben McGowan said the idea was to ensure everyone in small communities could access clean, affordable power.
“Individual households with solar are great but we want to work at a community level. We want everyone to come together to be able to share energy,” he said.
“We’re also a certified social enterprise, so 50 per cent of profits go back into communities for our purpose which is basically renewables and community development.”
Community energy hubs have already been rolled out across north east Victoria and south east New South Wales, with towns like Yackandandah already having 60 per cent of power supplied by solar.
Residents involved in the energy hub have a widget that shows the pathway for electricity generation and supply.
Electricity can either come from or go to neighbours in the hub with solar panels, scaled generation and storage, for example a solar system and battery storage in a warehouse, and carbon offset power from the grid.
This means energy hubs remain connected to the Australian electricity networks and customers always have power.
Mr McGowan said apart from protecting the environment with clean energy, one of the major advantages of the hub was the financial benefits for locals.
“The nice thing about the hub is that hopefully, as we get better at this, people who are renting, for instance, can join the hub. They won’t have solar on their roof but they can see on their screen they’re getting a portion of their power supplied by their neighbours,” he said.
“As we get better and as we work with the DRREA perhaps it’s also coming from some of those scaled generation and storage spots in town.
“The more energy you are generating in your town…the more dollars you’re keeping in your town as well.”
DRREA and Indigo Power will host an information webinar about the Community Energy Hub at 7.30pm on 23 September.
To find out more or register your interest, visit https://indigopower.com.au/drrea_webinar/.