Garnaut heads energy company willing to take consumers, communities off grid

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ZEN Energy, chaired by Ross Garnuat, says its focus is to help take Australian households, business, communities off-grid.

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A new Australian energy company whose main focus will be to help take households, businesses and whole communities off grid using renewable energy and storage technology has been launched in South Australia.

The company, called ZEN Energy, was launched on Tuesday in Adelaide by leading Australian economist – and author of Australia’s Climate Change Review – Ross Garnaut, who has also been named as chairman of the new company.

Described as Australia’s first dedicated community renewable energy provider, the company has formed out of an zen-energy-systemsexisting Adelaide group called Zen Industries, a solar and storage company headquartered at SA’s Tonsley innovation precinct – a former car manufacturing facility converted into a cleantech hub, which also hosts one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar installations.

Through it’s original business, ZEN Energy is already providing commercial and domestic on-grid renewable energy applications as well as off-grid applications for metropolitan, rural and regional areas, ranging from rooftop solar to powering entire communities with off-grid systems with advanced energy storage capabilities.

Moving forward, however, the new company says it will integrate a variety of other renewable resources when suitable, including wind, hydro and biomass, to provide bespoke energy solutions.

“All Australians, no matter where they live, should have the opportunity to harness affordable and clean renewable energy,” Professor Garnaut said in a statement accompanying the company’s launch on Tuesday.

“ZEN Energy represents a new and unique model of sustainable power generation, storage, delivery and retailing, and one for which the Australian consumer and the community as a whole stands to benefit.

Economist and ZEN Energy chairman, Ross Garnaut

“Households, businesses and entire communities can now become genuinely self-powered completely or substantially depending on their circumstances and preference. Australia’s energy transformation has begun.”

As mentioned above, one of the new company’s primary focuses will be to work with communities to “take ownership” of their energy demand and supply.

According to the release, the company’s ZEN Communities model will allow whole communities, shires and townships to source renewable energy for 100 per cent of their power needs, either via distributed community power networks or direct into homes and businesses.

“We are working with Australians to build a society in which renewable energy makes energy even more important to Australian living standards and development in the low-carbon world economy of the future,” Garnaut said.

“In many Australian locations and circumstances, renewable energy and storage can lower the cost of energy to households and business as well as provide protection from volatile energy prices.

“We live in a country with lower cost renewable energy resources than in any other developed or major developing country. There are no practical limits on the extent of those resources. ZEN Energy has been established to work with Australians to take advantage of this great opportunity.”

Indeed, on Monday, we reported that a new International Energy Agency report named Australia as having the cheapest rooftop solar in the world, in terms of the cost to install the technology. And many believe that the cost of storage will take a similar path to solar PV, and over a similar timeframe.

“Australian and world energy will go through massive changes over coming years. ZEN Energy has been built for agility and innovation to stay abreast of rapidly changing opportunity,” said Garnet.

According to the founder Richard Turner, ZEN Energy’s Director of Innovation and Business Development, and the founder of the company’s first iteration, ZEN Technologies in 2004, the Australian energy sector is undergoing a shift of power.

“Our team has pioneered energy storage in Australia, placing us at the global forefront of this technology and able to deliver affordable and clean renewable energy solutions now,” Turner said.

“We have a proven track record, having earned a high reputation for quality and service in delivery of energy storage systems of various sizes across Australia. Our American sister company, Greensmith, last year delivered one third of the total energy storage market in the United States. Today’s announcement takes ZEN Energy to the next level.”

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13 Comments
  1. barrie harrop 3 years ago

    An exciting new era for Zen.

  2. Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

    “Cutting the cord” or going off-grid is not good solution for the environment. Consumers should continue to be connected to the grid as it gives them the opportunity to export surplus solar energy if its not used and it allows them to import clean wind energy during the night for example. Electricity companies must be made to increase the component of renewable energy in their supply offers by at least 2.5 % per year. Any market restrictions and anti-competitive behaviour by power companies must become illegal.(for example trying to charge higher connection fees to solar households).

    • Jacob 3 years ago

      The grid is welcome to cut power prices but even after the Powerwall launch, the grid has not cut power prices.

      So we have no choice but to go off grid.

      • Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

        Yes, the current policies of trying to punish people with solar is a disgusting attempt by small minded managers to exploit their monopoly power. The Government made unfair bank charges illegal and unjustified connection fees are also “not in the public interest”. It is time unfair practices are made illegal and the full force of the law is applied to enforce fairness.

    • gawtech 3 years ago

      But grid connection fees go up every year, and the amount the companies pay for power generated goes down. Paying the person who generates the power 5 cents, and charging the consumer who lives two houses down 33 cents is a sick joke. At some point we will be paying to give them power to resell.

      • Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

        Yes, it is a sick joke and I wonder why ACCC does not look into one of the worst abuse of monopoly power in Australia, the power industry.

    • Ian 3 years ago

      Sorry to butt in, ‘cutting the cord ‘ is not necessarily a permanent thing. It can be a very useful incentive to the network operators to reanalyse their business model and make themselves competitive again. The only way for a developed electricity supply to shut down FF generators is to make them economically unviable, if that means a mass exodus from the grid then so be it.

      There is a scenario which is worrisome in a way and that is were distributed solar and storage becomes so cheap and so widely adopted that no other form of bulk storage like pumped hydro or large scale generation, like hydro or wind can compete. Is that what you mean by ‘going off-grid is not good solution for the environment’ ? Battery storage is is the next piece in the renewables puzzle and this is tantalisingly just around the corner. If the networks help to achieve adoption of this with their retrograde and punitive tariffs then kudos to them!

      There are two types of batteries that show promise in the solar plus storage market and these are lithium batteries and redox flow batteries. lithium is energy dense and has high cranking power suitable for transportation. Flow batteries can have huge storage capacities, insensitive to depth of discharge, ambient temperature, quality of charging current and have phenomenal life spans eminently suitable for solar storage. There’s an Aussie Battler trying to make Zinc Bromide flow batteries and there is a new WA mine sitting on 1/2 million tonnes of vanadium just ready to supply this rare element to the vanadium flow battery market. My wish is that our government with its newly discovered renewables love get firmly behind these Australian developments and do a China on flow battery storage. Perhaps Zen can B2B Redflow and yellow rock resources.

      • Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

        Yes, in a modern power distribution system we will; need energy storage such as batteries, pumped storage, compressed air etc. to maximise the usefulness of renewable energy. I suggest before we wave the white flag and give up, we should lobby our politicians to ensure that laws apply to enforce the public interest, competition and fairness . We don’t need more taxes, but fair laws and innovation.

    • Ken Fabian 3 years ago

      I agree – the grid remains a very useful asset that could greatly assist the decarbonising of our economy. But equitable means to allow the grid to move low emissions energy around between production, consumption and storage is needed. Ultimately we may see large scale storage achieve economies of scale that make it the best way for most solar fitted homes and businesses to deal with intermittency; whether is solar, solar and onsite or community storage, or local connections between solar abundance and the solar disadvantaged, the grid can be very useful. It should not be run to preserve the business models of the biggest players even if there are bound to be issues with commercial viability during the (probably several serial) transitions.

      I think that the whole way the grid and market operates is up for revolutionary change. What about solar and storage owners buying and selling directly and bypassing the retailers entirely? Smart software and supply/demand forecasting could see periods of excess storage as well as excess solar production sold to the electricity market – maximising their potential value to owners. Predicted periods of overcast conditions can allow pre-purchasing of off peak power to charge batteries ahead of time and outside peak demand periods. Batteries can be allowed to run down during predicted high solar production/low consumption periods. Going on holidays? Storage can be allowed to run lower, selling at the times of highest demand and highest prices automatically. If backup power during extended overcast conditions evenings goes very high in price – so be it; that may be the price we have to pay for realistic energy pricing. But clever systems should be able to deal with most of it. I’d like to think the storage technologies will keep getting better.

      And if retailers can offer storage/backup at better value so be that as well; I think sometimes that storage and distribution even more than generation, will be the core activities of future energy companies.

      • Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

        The biggest threat to innovation and fairness is dirty old greed by narrow minded people. Some electricity distribution and retail companies are trying to charge solar households a higher connection fee. If you look at the management of these companies, you will find they are run by narrow minded people. Companies with a forward looking progressive management is helping its customers to adopt renewable energy. If all homes invest in solar and battery storage, massive investments can be delayed or avoided. Only the stupid are trying to fight the future.

  3. Andrew Woodroffe 3 years ago

    Size, peoples. There is a big difference in storing a few hours of midday solar energy for use later in the day to going off the grid- particularly if you are in Tasmania and not northern Queensland. A few thousands of dollars versus a few tens of thousands of dollars. Optimum size,here is not maximum.

    We already have the grid, modest sized behind the meter storage will allow existing PV owners to get better value from their panels – another 21c/kWh if you are on a flat rate in WA – even more if you are a business. It also allows grid operators to get better value from their grid – urban infill need not require upgrades if sufficient customers get such battery systems. Of course, the real benefit is getting those on the edge of the grid, on single 11kV wires, off it. Just the savings in maintenance – and all those upline will enjoy less voltage fluctuations.

    Mind you, the current behaviour of grid operators suggests they are not there, yet.

  4. Les Johnston 3 years ago

    There is an even greater need for the red tape supporting the status quo is removed together with the subsidies which taxpayers fund. Innovation is being stifled by regulation endorsed by those with most to loose at the expense of the public and the environment. It is time externalities were addressed by internalising the costs. We will all have cleaner air.

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