100% renewables cheaper than grid connection for Kangaroo island: ISF

South Australia’s Kangaroo Island would likely find it cheaper to go 100 per cent renewable, with its own resources, rather than stay connected to the main grid, according to a detailed study led by the Institute of Sustainable Futures.

The study shows that the direct and indirect costs of going it alone with the island’s wind, solar and biomass resources, along with battery storage, would be about the same as the cost of upgrading the link to the mainland and paying for fuel.

But while that may be good news for the island off the coast of Adelaide, it is likely that the main electricity provider, SA Power Networks, will go for the main grid option, unless enough community support can be gathered to force its hand.

The ISF report into the situation in Kangaroo Island highlights a fascinating but important conundrum facing many communities, and many power providers: should millions be spent upgrading or replacing ageing poles and wires, or in this case submarine cables? Or should they be spent in new technologies that offer independence, greater security of supply, clean energy, and local jobs?

Sounds like a no-brainer, but because of the regulatory structure governing the country’s network providers, it is not.

In South Australia, it’s not entirely clear that SAPN is as excited about the idea of cutting the link to Kangaroo Island, and to some extent it is a test of its willingness to change. It was, however, SAPN that asked if there were any alternatives to simply laying a new cable.

It has to be said that some in the local community are also cautious. But the mayor, Peter Clements, is interested, and wants to test the community response.

“Kangaroo Island has a wealth of wind, solar and biomass resources,” he says. “Developing a mini-grid to take advantage of these natural assets and produce reliable, affordable power is a win-win for the island’s residents and businesses.”

A meeting will be held next week (September 22), where the findings of the report will be presented. The response will be crucial for what avenues are then pursued.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson