Ballarat could be a national leader in developing its own community power grid, and the big movers and shakers in town are lining up to see how they can help.
Following massive investments in renewable energy and behind-the-meter infrastructure at the Mars-Wrigley and McCain factories in Ballarat, as well as increased take-up of residential and commercial solar, plus the development of massive wind farms across the region, a new kind of decentralised grid could come together, complementing the current national grid.
That would not only mean removing carbon from the atmosphere and helping to save the planet, but increased profitability for businesses and more jobs.
That was the focus of a seminar hosted by Beyond Zero Emissions, in partnership with the National Australia Bank and Committee for Ballarat.
Ballarat was used as a case study for checking out how exactly the city produces emissions - the majority are in electricity use, and through industry - and what can be done to reduce them.
The work McCain has put in was showcased, as well as the company's plans to further cut its emissions and lessen its reliance on natural gas.
The keys will be diversifying sources of energy - both electricity and gas - for industry, and promoting a collaborative approach between businesses, the community, and all levels of government.
In Ballarat, that includes not just big business, but institutions like Federation University, Ballarat Health Services, Central Highlands Water, and the City of Ballarat, among dozens of others.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton, who also spoke, said a more localised grid could be achievable on a larger scale.
"The significance is really the sense of the community energy hub, a move towards a decentralised market - AEMO (the Australian Energy Market Operator) acknowledged that the national energy grid is no longer fit for purpose, and will take many years and millions to upgrade, but the solutions are in localised capacity for generation and distribution," he said.
"That's the model tried and tested on a small scale - what we're trying to do is prove the model on a large scale, and a shift in the balance, to combine a centralised and decentralised market, that has to be where the future lies."
The data also revealed about $250 million is spent in Ballarat on electricity each year, and an estimated $180m on gas.
"That's a huge amount of money," Mr Poulton said.
"If you've got an appetite from business and the community to look at ways to invest that in a different solution, $250m gives you an opportunity to do a lot.
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"When you reduce the cost in industry, you allow them to unlock the investment for growth in other areas - that's good for Ballarat."
While Ballarat is the case study, it's hoped the findings from the study can lead to a "replicable" model for other cities to pursue, helping to create a more decentralised electricity grid system that's achievable.
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