City of Sydney buys into Ausgrid network’s push for more solar

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The City of Sydney is injecting $750,000 towards an innovative campaign by network owner Ausgrid  to encourage more rooftop solar in the council area, along with other demand management initiatives that could avoid costly grid upgrades.

Sydney’s decision will lift the money available to subsidise rooftop solar and other initiatives by 50 per cent – to a total of $2.25 million.

As we reported last November, the decision by Ausgrid to seek more solar in its local network turns many of the arguments against solar subsidies on their head.

While they are invariably branded by conservative think tanks like the Grattan Institute as a cost burden – and it was at it again this week in both the Guardian, and the ABC – Ausgrid insists that the benefits from avoided network upgrades will vastly outweighs the costs.

A similar conclusion has been reached from the contribution of rooftop solar to reducing and delaying the peaks in heatwaves in Queensland, where AEMO noted its key role in “remarkable” circumstances, as well as NSW, South Australia and West Australia, and for making a huge dent in wholesale pricing peaks at the same time.

Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross says the network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers in the country, with just 7 per cent of customers having solar – due mostly to the high number of apartments and businesses.

This initiative is designed to encourage those building owners to install solar on apartment blocks and commercial sites. It will help Ausgrid lower demand on the grid and reduce the need for Ausgrid to replace ageing infrastructure.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Ausgrid customers to be part of an innovative program that will help reduce electricity use, make the grid more sustainable, improve affordability and benefit the environment,” Gross says.

“Our network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers due to the high number of apartments and businesses in our footprint, but this project could realise a solution that would possibly increase the number of solar installations on apartment buildings and leased commercial properties.”

The grant program is available for rooftop solar installations, as well as LED lighting, variable speed pumps and smart building control systems.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the initiative would help the City of Sydney reach its targets to reduce emissions by 70 per cent and source half of the electricity supply in our area from renewables.

“We’re covering as many of our own buildings with solar PV as we can, but we can’t control the buildings we don’t own. Initiatives like this encourage building owners across the city to invest in renewables and energy efficiency measures.”

The initiative offered incentives of $250 per kilowatt installed on rooftops of warehouses and other industrial and commercial facilities in Sydney suburbs such as Auburn, Erskineville, Alexandria, Redfern, Randwick, Waterloo and Kingsford Smith.

It is understood that the list of suburbs may have been adjusted since that time. Four service providers have been shortlisted as a result of that tender.

The $2.25 million provided by Ausgrid and City of Sydney cited in their release relates to the suburbs within that city council area. Suburbs in other councils will presumably access the remainder of the $500,000 funding outlined by Ausgrid in its original tender document.

Rooftop solar is being targeted because it will coincide with the actual demand from the business activities that take place under the rooftop. And it may lead the way to more innovative solutions such as peer-to-peer trading and local micro-grids.  

  • john

    This makes perfect sense put PV on your roof reduce your daytime usage of power.
    Is there a second option?
    Yes put in LED lights and energy efficient AC.
    This is a total no brainer it is obvious that the Sydney area business owners do not understand the benefits of these simple salutations.
    So the local Metropolitan Authority has to point it out to them because they are too myopic to see the benefits.
    Lets see how many actually make an effort.
    Mind i bet they will do nothing because they are happy to just take the rent regardless of the cost to the renters.
    Perhaps some will and more will move to more proactive knowable providers of rental space.

  • Chris Fraser

    It’s good that Ausgrid refutes Grattan. Really, they should try to talk to each other before mouthing off. If the network congestion issue has, or will ever have, any currency, I think Ausgrid should be improving the network with step change transformers to allow even more PV in reticulation areas.

  • Ray Miller

    Ausgrid has been part of the club with a long and loud history of trying to frighten everyone about the none benefits and all the problems that PV’s on the grid will cause. This has been going on for neigh on two decades now, Ausgrid’s incentive for this project is at least an order of magnitude too low probably two. They need to be held to account for the damage done and pay for it!
    Plus they need to pay for a marketing campaign encouraging renewables. The city of Sydney should not be paying a cent, but only assisting in encouraging Ausgrid make recompense.

  • MaxG

    More public funding to fill private coffers! First we see the public grid for pennies; then we endure price rises, then gold-plating, and now they need help to get more solar on board? This stinks!

    • Geoff James

      Maybe you’re right in some respects, but having a network say that solar helps, and putting money behind those words, is worth it’s weight in gold (plating) in the present political context. And the slow uptake of tenanted and commercial buildings is a significant problem. So I think overall this is very good news.