What will the Alice Springs Future Grid team consider “success” to look...
Ultimately success will mean increased generation and consumption of renewable energy in Alice Springs, and decreased reliance upon fossil fuel sources, possibly leading to the operation of the town on 100% renewable energy from time to time.
Success will also be evident through an informed community, able to hold future leaders to account on the continued journey towards 50% renewable energy and beyond.
However, it is important to recognise that the barriers the project is identifying and overcoming illustrate significant progress, even if success isn’t particularly tangible from a public perspective. A good example of this is the creation of the Northern Territory’s first residential Virtual Power Plant. Aligning the key participants, designing technical solutions, and finding the correct contractors to implement them; then educating the community and encouraging residents’ participation are all major undertakings that need to be addressed somewhat concurrently by a reasonably limited delivery team. The project team is regularly reminded that if these goals were easy, they would already have been achieved.
Therefore, success in the Future Grid project can look like identifying and addressing barriers to enable future expansion of renewable energy generation and consumption opportunities. These barriers are currently evident in the regular curtailment of Uterne Solar Power Station.
Success can be seen indirectly through changes in government policy, which may have been influenced by the Future Grid project. The relationship between the activities of Future Grid and changes in Government policy is symbiotic. One may or may not have led to the other, but Future Grid is always required to respond to changes. A good example was the grandfathering of the 1:1 solar feed-in tariff in April 2020, and its replacement with grants to support the installation of household batteries (the NTG HBBS program). The community’s reluctance to invest in batteries owing to the lucrative nature of the feed-in tariff was a significant barrier to the development of DER in Alice Springs. Following the partial removal of that barrier, the Future Grid team had to reconfigure the way the VPP had been designed. Rather than installing batteries as part of the project – which was the original idea - the team were now able to leverage existing batteries in Alice Springs and expand the reach of the VPP.