Plans for community battery in Southbank

Plans for community battery in Southbank
Sean Car

Federal Member for our local seat of Macnamara Josh Burns has announced that a victorious Labor Government would provide Southbankers with direct access to renewable energy through the installation of a new community battery.

As Australia’s most densely-populated suburb, 98 per cent of Southbank residents live in apartments or flats and the area is home to one of Australia’s largest proportion of renters, meaning most can’t install solar panels at their homes.

The Macnamara MP made the announcement at Melbourne Square on Kavanagh St on March 7 alongside Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, as well as Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne Nicholas Reece.

Mr Burns said the initiative, which was his “very first election commitment for Macnamara”, would allow households to draw from excess energy stored in the battery to “expand the renewables revolution to more people in Southbank”.

Local households who do have solar, but not batteries due to their cost, will be able to feed into the shared battery during the day and draw from it at night, which Mr Burns said would help cut electricity bills, reduce emissions and ease pressure on the grid.

Should Labor win government at the upcoming May election, it would work in partnership with the City of Melbourne as part of its Power Melbourne program to identify an appropriate location for the battery.

While community batteries usually work “like a sponge” to absorb excess renewable energy, Southbank has very low uptake in in solar panels. Implementing a battery would require a variety of appropriate locations to be identified locally for an array of solar to be installed, as well as other forms of remote energy generation.

While other exciting forms of renewable energy technologies such as solar tiles and solar cladding could also provide Southbankers with further options in the future, most currently have little to no means of accessing clean energy at present.

Representatives from the Yarra Energy Foundation, which is in the process of installing some of Victoria’s first community batteries in Tarneit, Phillip Island and North Fitzroy in partnership with the Victorian Government, were also present at the announcement.

Mr Burns said the initiative for a community battery in Southbank formed part of Federal Labor’s Powering Australia Plan, which has been backed by a national industry community battery working group.

Mr Bowen said community batteries “responded to local conditions” and were a vital tool in the pursuit of net-zero.

“If we come first [at the federal election], the [Anthony] Albanese Labor Government would install a community battery here in Southbank,” he said.

“Almost everybody wants to participate in the renewable energy revolution, so in Australia, we need to, for a range of reasons, massively upgrade our storage of renewable energy to get the maximum benefits of the households.”

“Also, [there are benefits] for the country in reducing emissions and to stabilise the grid so that we are storing renewable energy for when we need it most and not overloading the grid when we’re not using it but we’re saving it for when we do need it in the evening.”

Mr Bowen said while one in four Australian households now had solar panels on their roofs, which represented the best figure in the world, only one in 60 had a battery.

“Those families without a battery are missing out on savings and more emissions reductions,” he said.

“The community battery would enable those households with solar panels to feed in and feed out, and also, for those households without solar panels to participate. They might find it hard to generate the energy during the day, but they can use some of that energy at night and participate in the renewable energy revolution even in just a small way.”

Mr Bowen said the Tesla battery unit, which was “about the size of a car”, would be installed in partnership with the City of Melbourne and “genuine community consultation” would take place to determine its most suitable location.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the council’s ambition of achieving zero emissions by 2030 would only be possible through an increase in community distributed power.

“We’re standing in Australia’s most densely populated suburb and it’s a suburb that has a lot of forward-thinking people who live here and I know they will embrace this initiative,” he said.

“We know that the future of our energy system is renewable power, and we know that a big part of the rollout of a renewable energy system is community distributed power and that’s what batteries deliver.”

“Having a battery here in Southbank, we’ll be able to help Southbank transition to clean, renewable, reliable and cheaper power than the fossil fuel alternatives that exist.”

While the announcement hinges on a successful election result for the Labor Government, it’s understood that initial feasibility studies for the installation of a battery in Southbank have been provided in partnership with the City of Melbourne •


L-R: Yarra Energy Foundation’s David Anstee and Tim Shue, Member for Southern Metropolitan Nina Taylor, Southbank Residents’ Association’s Dan O’Keeffe, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, Yarra Energy Foundation’s community battery program manager Chris Wallin, Port Phillip Emergency Climate Action Network’s Deborah Sykes, Macnamara MP Josh Burns, City of Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Louise Crawford, Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne Nicholas Reece, Southbank Sustainability Group’s Artemis Pattichi and Southbank3006 committee member Trisha Avery.

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