While home owners in regional locations often make a choice to go off grid, particularly those who have to pay a high connection fee for new homes, it is becoming increasingly clear that taking some towns and villages off the grid may also be a better solution.
That possibility has even been raised by the network owners themselves. They face the choice of having to either upgrade extended networks of poles and wires, or help the local community to cut the wire altogether, or at least reduce its size. In South Australia, the local network owner says it would make sense for many communities to look after their own energy needs – perhaps with a “thin” connection as an emergency back-up.
Nic Jacobson, a renewable energy engineer with consulting group IT Power, says it is clear that many communities are already considering their options, and the falling cost of battery storage is making this possible.
He notes that communities in the Northern Rivers region of NSW are looking at creating community-owned retailers, which could conceivably include owning the poles and wires. The city of Lismore, for instance, has already declared a goal to be zero net energy within a decade.
Ergon Energy, meanwhile, says it may install “hundreds” of battery storage units across its network – so avoiding costly upgrades of poles and wires that have few customers. As the cost of battery storage falls, and many think that will happen quickly in a short time, then battery storage may be able to replace the wires altogether.