Scott Morrison
Image credit: Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed a $36 million microgrid pilot programme to test the feasibility of microgrids in remote and poorly served regions of the country.

The Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund would award funding to up to 50 feasibility studies, which will test how microgrids can improve grid resilience and reliability in these areas, most of which rely on diesel generation, whilst also generating cost savings and emission reductions.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said that as off-grid electricity becomes cheaper, it will be more cost efficient to provide off-grid power, rather than building transmission infrastructure. Citing the Daintee microgrid, one of the find’s initial projects, as an example of public and private partnerships that would be eligible for funding. The Daintree project, if successful, will be Australia’s first 100% renewables-powered microgrid.

The project includes a solar power-to-hydrogen microgrid in a rain forest which is accredited as a World Heritage site. Project participants with rooftop solar systems will feed excess power back into the grid. The energy will then be used to produce hydrogen to fuel grid-scale generators.

 “Australia is a very large country and we are rapidly approaching a tipping point where it’s cheaper to install solar-storage and or microgrids in regional areas than it is to maintain network infrastructure over large distances,” said Dave Martin, managing director of Power Ledger, an Australian energy blockchain trading solutions company “However, there are still elements of the regulatory governance framework that incentivize network providers to maintain under-utilized and expensive networks. I think once these incentives begin to be wound back and the model for the alternative becomes clear, we will see an uptake in off-grid solutions, particularly in regional Australia.”

Are you interested in how Australia is adopting distributed energy resources at the grid's edge? You'll enjoy this two-minute read.