Winner winner chicken dinner

The Clean Energy Council has just announced its 2020 award winners. Back in the day an energy industry association would have focussed its awards on engineering excellence – “best turbine” or similar. In a sign of the times, three of the four CEC awards are essentially for communication of the benefits of renewables.

Let’s start with the one technology winner. Allume Energy won the innovation award for their SolShare module, which enables the power generated from a single rooftop solar system to be shared between multiple apartments or businesses within the same building. By optimising the use of the solar power among the different occupants, depending on their usage at the time, Allume claims the solar share can deliver higher savings than a typical standalone residential rooftop PV installation. No doubt the next step will be to put a battery into this mix.

The marketing and communications award went to Future Energy Skills and Ellis Jones for their Know Your Battery campaign (now complete). This campaign was designed to improve consumer knowledge and understanding of the importance of hiring an appropriately qualified electrician to install a home battery system. The fact that two of the awards relate to distributed energy resources is a clear indication of the ongoing importance of this part of the energy system.

The Know Your Battery campaign is part of the industry’s largely successful efforts at self-regulation and accreditation. However, there are signs that this may be under question, with Commonwealth Energy Minister Angus Taylor ordering an inquiry into the rooftop solar sector following allegations of dodgy sales talk and shonky installations.

Kiwi-owned Tilt renewables won the community engagement award for its Dundonnell wind farm. It’s a key part of the energy infrastructure development playbook to win over the local community and mute the NIMBYs by ensuring there are direct local benefits. In the case of Dundonnell, this included a mini-grid, a road safety fund, a major contribution towards safe housing for women fleeing domestic violence and education funding for residents. This is an area that renewables developers appear to be pretty good at, in contrast perhaps to the onshore gas industry who set themselves back several years by getting a reputation for fairly high-handed dealings with local landowners. This resulted in the Lock the Gate campaign bringing together locals and national climate activists. With the possible exception of the Waubra foundation, the renewables sector has not had to deal with national campaigns against it, so has been able to focus on winning over local communities.

Of course, the renewables sector didn’t invent the community benefits model. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, each new French nuclear plant won over their neighbours with free electricity for several years after commissioning. Unfortunately, at current Australian electricity prices, no developer can afford that kind of largesse!

Finally, the Outstanding Contribution to Industry Award. This “carriage clock” award would in the past have gone to some grizzled power station engineer or linesman. But the pen is mightier than the wrench these days, so the recipient is Giles Parkinson, founder of RenewEconomy. Giles is an inspiration to NEM Risk Bulletin for having shown it’s possible to make a living writing about the abstruse topic of the Australian energy industry.

NEM Risk Bulletin congratulates the winners and the finalists on their achievements.

Image credit: Photo 117125786 © Vchalup | Dreamstime.com