Member for Mackay Julianne Gilbert (left), Mackay Regional Council Mayor Deirdre Comerford and Ergon Executive General Manager Network Optimisation David Edmunds announce details of council's involvement in Ergon's Empower Mackay program

Ergon’s innovative demand management initiative, the Mackay Empower program, has begun providing benefits to both Ergon Energy and its customers with the recent announcement that Mackay Regional Council (MRC) has formalised a Network Support Agreement to participate in the program.

Under the terms of the agreement, MRC will synchronise three of their diesel generators located at their Paget and Bakers Creek facilities to provide power into Ergon’s network when required during peak usage times. In the first instance the generators will be configured to generate internally to take the site load off the grid and later in the year they will be configured to export into the grid.

The move follows Council providing a letter of intent last year to market aggregator (Velocity Energy) to participate in the program.

Executive General Manager Network Optimisation David Edmunds said the Empower Mackay program provides business customers in Mackay – and in particular those in the high-growth area of Paget – incentives to optimise their electricity use during peak periods while helping defer costly network augmentation.

The Empower Mackay program is part of a suite of initiatives being undertaken by Ergon where, by deferring expenditure on high-cost infrastructure, the company can help put downward pressure on rising electricity prices.

“Rather than looking at the traditional poles and wires solution to load growth and demand, we actively seek alternatives and examine how demand-side management options, where it is appropriate, can address customer requirements.

The Paget area with a predominantly heavy industrial load with a peak period of between 10am and 2pm (as opposed to the normal residential morning and evening peaks) is an ideal location to conduct this program” he said.

A key aspect of Empower Mackay is enabling private sector businesses to deliver products and services to our customers to manage their electricity needs.  To foster this we have established a Trade Ally Network, which identifies load-saving opportunities, and negotiates directly with customers under the criteria of the Empower Mackay program.

The products considered in the incentives based program include Solar PV, conversion to efficient lighting, making commercial sites more efficient through the use of technology including Building Management Systems, and the use of standby power generators which are already installed in some locations for emergency applications.

“Velocity Energy (Trade Ally Network Aggregator) has now entered into a contract with the Mackay Regional Council (MRC) to run three of their generators in the focus area for network support. This represents a significant milestone in the project delivery and will ensure that we achieve the 2015/16 financial year load saving targets.”

Empower Mackay has now managed the load constraints in South Mackay and Rosella zone substations which in turn relates to two years of expenditure deferral of the proposed Ooralea zone substation, a project that comes with a $25 million price tag.

By employing alternative solutions to traditional network augmentation, costly upgrades can be deferred. This strategy also provides Ergon and its customers with the opportunity to employ other energy saving technologies as they emerge. Potentially some proposed network augmentation could be permanently deferred through the use of alternate solutions.

“Coupled with that, the agreement with Mackay Regional Council takes around 2.5MW off the network which equates to enough electricity to power around 500 homes at a time when the network might otherwise be constrained” Mr Edmunds said.

With the Mackay Regional Council agreement and a number of other organisations coming on board the program to date has overall delivered network savings of around 3.2 MW’s which is enough to power roughly 600 homes.

Ergon will continue to invest in the maintenance and operation of its network but it will also be making prudent investment decisions about how to manage network solutions. It’s vital that we deliver the most cost effective, safe and reliable service to address affordability issues for customers.

Mackay Regional Council Mayor, Deirdre Comerford, said the Empower Mackay project had synergies with goals of the current council.

“Our new budget, which had a zero per cent change in the average general residential rate, was focused on not adding to the financial burden on rate payers in the current economic climate and this project aims to help keep household electricity costs down,” Cr Comerford said.

“By partnering with Ergon it assists them to defer network augmentation and reduce the company’s capital costs, which in turn eases pressure on electricity costs,’ she said.

“This project alone is also expected to save council about $40,000 a year.”

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