BEN is Taking Shape
The Ballarat Energy Network (BEN) aims to test the capability of a multi-stakeholder approach to our region’s renewable energy future. In collaboration and partnership with business, industry, government and the community, the BEN’s vision is to power the region with 100% locally generated renewable energy.
Whilst regional Victoria will continue to host the major infrastructure that generates and delivers renewable energy for many in regional and rural areas, the full benefits of the renewable transition have not been fully realised – at least not YET!
The lack of Social Licence and Social Value is a critical problem in regional areas and is perhaps the most significant impediment to our transition to renewable energy.
BEN done well, may just demonstrated how community energy, at scale, can overcome the very low levels of social licence and build significant social value in regional areas.
The work currently being led by Committee for Ballarat, together with its members and key partners includes:
- Assessing the feasibility of a technical model that maximises local generation and distribution of renewable energy, then exports to the grid
- Exploring the commercial model and associated governance requirements that will deliver maximum community value.
Throughout 2024, a series of feasibility studies and business cases will be undertaken as part of the BWEZ commercial and industrial (C&I) precinct to establish a ‘proof of concept’. Should this prove successful, the plan is to extend this work to broader C&I customers and residential precincts including low income, new and rental markets.
A successful ‘proof of concept’ will show the model can deliver the agency and autonomy required to overcome the challenges of social licence and social value. It should also deliver reduced energy costs, greater energy resilience, innovation and new jobs and importantly reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Distribute Energy Resources (DER) such as rooftop solar, behind-the-meter systems, household and community batteries, demand response management, energy management systems, bioenergy, EVs and more, will play an increasingly important role in our energy transition. When they are orchestrated and aggregated they will help meet our power needs, supporting supply and firming of the grid. As a local distributed energy network, BEN has the potential to do this for a regional city with a population of more than 120,000.
We are confident that a successful BEN will attract ‘green’ business and industries, promote investment, stimulate the visitor economy and further enhance the liveability of our region. We are also confident it will be a model for distributed energy, replicable in other regional cities around the country and help accelerate our transition to a renewable energy future.