Closing Hazelwood is good for the Victorian Latrobe Valley

In my previous article I returned to a now familiar theme. Australian politicians need to allow ‘The Standards’ to define policy. Nothing demonstrates this further then the ‘Energy Efficiency Policy’ outlined last week. The current IEEE standards for high efficiency domestic and commercial white goods and appliances can easily reduce international carbon emissions by half. In Australia’s case, a policy shift towards a 12 volt / low energy and high efficiency white goods and appliance phase out by 2030, can spawn an entirely new manufacturing sector.

Let us now look at why the closure of Hazelwood is good for Victoria and the Latrobe Valley. Once again I will not stray far from the basic theme of ‘Standards’. I will assume that policy makers and experts reading my ‘Saturday Night Brain Dumps’ are sufficiently familiar with IEEE, EU US and UN standards and procedures as well as industry trends to follow the conversation.

Some basic facts:

The previous owner of the Hazelwood coal fired power station was a company called Engie. Prior to closing Hazelwood, Engie announced its intention to concentrate on solar energy. Engie also purchased a controlling stake in a Californian company called Green Charge. Green Charge is a major manufacturer of DER technologies, Controllers, Battery storage and TAG-e technologies for community owned micro-grids / smart-grids. Tag- e devices record transactions in a ‘Blockchain’. Prosumers in a micro-grid are connected to each other.  This is what a block chain connection is. The software controllers negotiate demand and supply between all block chain customers in real time. The software also allows Prosumers to interactively participate in the energy market outside the micro-grid in real time. This is typically done through a mobile app. Transactional behaviour can also be pre-programmed ( set to automatic) using user defined rules based engagement principles.

There are several advantages to DER and Tag-e integrated technology deployment and community micro-grid / smart-grid integration.

  • Both DER and Tag-e technologies minimize the risk of load shedding whilst optimizing renewable integration both at the local as well as the transmission grid level.
  • As Utilities revise their business model they are looking closely at hybrid technologies that lower their own costs and business risks whilst offering scalability in the form of community micro-grid clusters. Recent announcements by AGL, Origin, AusNet and others stand in evidence of this. In fact, AusNet has indicated a $400 million grid upgrade and expansion program for Victoria. (Make a mental note of this!)
  • Unfortunately Australia has a political policy and regulatory framework that fails everyone in the value chain. It particularly fails consumers and prosumers, workers and business owners as they are treated like dumb cash cows. (How about some recognition and some respect for the common man, please!)

I am not certain whether the Victorian government has put these dots together. However, as Engie is grappling with the money it needs to spend on the Hazelwood closure, there is a very clear and present opportunity for the Andrews government to turn the Latrobe Valley into an international energy technology ‘Hot Zone’. What do I mean?

Well! Has anyone wondered what the impact of a series of community owned micro-grids / smart-grids stretching from Moe to Sale will do for the economic, jobs and growth potential of Gippsland? We know the Victorian government is trying to revitalize the region. We also know that we have a lot of manpower with electrical and technical training and experience in Gippsland. In addition, we have 2 energy companies indicating a future business direction and articulating strategic future business plans for their industry.

I am not sure whether anyone at the La Trobe Valley Authority recently sat down and had a good chat with Engie, AusNet and Lily de Ambrosio? However, it seems to me that the stars are aligning in a symphony of opportunities for the La Trobe Valley that we should not ignore. So let’s get Engie, AusNet and the Victorian government to the same table. A series of autonomous community owned smart-grids / micro-grids from Moe to Sale can do a lot for the Victorian manufacturing sector. They can also unlock lucrative export, research and training markets in the Asia Pacific. But hell, why am I telling you guys this? You already know this! Right! That’s why the Victorian government has its ‘Energy policy framework’ and the ‘Future of the La Trobe Valley’ glossy brochures printed and ready for distribution. 🙂

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