Storage & community energy eyed as possible solutions to projected electricity demand growth in Mandurah, WA

WA network operator Western Power says it is seeking non-network solutions, that could include solar and storage and community energy, to try to avoid spending $30 million in a high-growth area of its network.

The state government-owned network operator says it is looking for expressions of interest from businesses and community groups for proposals to manage electricity demand in the Mandurah region, south of Perth.

Mandurah has one of the highest rates of population growth in the country, and over the next five years demand is forecast to place pressure on electricity infrastructure in the region. It also has among the highest rates of solar penetration in the country. Western Power’s head of asset management Seán Mc Goldrick, says more than $30 million of network investment would be required by 2020/21 under current design protocols to meet demand.

But this cost could be avoided if other solutions, such as combining solar and storage, could meet that demand more cost effectively.

“Our current forecasts show a steady increase in electricity demand as the Mandurah region continues to grow and normally Western Power would install extra network capacity to keep pace with that demand,” McGoldrick said in a statement.

“However, non-network solutions, such as communities better managing or reducing energy consumption or that involve solar systems and battery storage, may be more cost efficient and provide greater flexibility over the long-term.”

McGoldrick says the challenge of meeting a community’s power needs was no longer a job for a central planning group. Indeed, last month, McGoldrick unveiled a vision where networks such as Western Power are broken up into “modular” units, where some towns and communities operate as micro-grids.

“We are embracing opportunities, such as which exists in the Mandurah region, to test alternative methods and technologies to reduce peak demand and provide more cost effective ways to deliver electricity to our customers.”

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson