On 28th September, it will be 12 months since Geni.Energy opened its shopfront doors in Narrabri. Like all births, there was plenty of lead up – we had spent about 18 months prior, planning for the new baby.
And like all new babies, the first year has been a rollercoaster of emotions; exhausting, with a massive learning curve and glimmers of joy and achievement that make it all worthwhile!
Trying to envision a new future, in an industry that is constantly and rapidly changing and in a region that is traditionally underserviced, with almost non-existent resources, using technologies still being developed and with people still grappling with the urgency of the climate situation, has been hugely challenging!
Our vision is to create new jobs and investment from renewable energy. We want to help the northwest NSW region with the inevitable transition away from a reliance on coal and gas to remain prosperous and with plenty of opportunities for future generations. Most importantly, we want to ensure that the knowledge, capacity and benefits gained from this transition remain local and are not shipped off to the coast, cities or overseas.
To do that means we simply must get involved, pull our seat up to the table, ask the silly questions and find help and support. We must also have in mind what our future vision is.
Timing is everything and Australia is experiencing sustained and significant growth in renewables across the National Electricity Market, to a point where there are now more renewables servicing the grid than natural gas and brown coal. Renewables (in the green line in the graph below) is the only fuel type actually on the rise!
The plan for our social enterprise at Geni.Energy from the beginning was to sell solar and battery systems to households, farms and businesses, including a little piece of magic called an Energy Management System (EMS). These sales would give us locally-based knowledge and credibility in the industry as well as some cash-flow to allow us to achieve our bigger picture goals of transitioning the region.
We could not have made it this far without some incredible support from our board members; Michael Bange, Therese Cochrane, Melissa Tym and Rohan Boehm (pictured here at a rare face-to-face board meeting in April), my family, our customers, our Geni.Mates and our volunteers – Thank you!
In our first year of operation, in cooperation with our partners Dawso Electrical, Enopte and Planet Ark Power, we have installed a total of 16 systems across the region, totalling 319kW of solar and 115.2kWh of battery storage for homes, businesses and community organisations.
Some of these projects were hugely satisfying, such as helping Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service adorn three of their buildings with 143kW of rooftop solar. The annual savings they will make, will employ a new nurse, plus massively reduce their carbon emissions!
We have unleashed many families, retirees, farms, organisations and businesses who want to reduce their emissions and are prepared to put their own money where their mouth is. They see inaction from our politicians but are not afraid to take action themselves and do their bit to reduce the reliance on coal and become energy independent. We thank our customers for taking this step and we hope they continue to learn more about their energy use and generation and begin to think about how this can benefit the region as a whole.
Whilst just installing more renewables helps with our energy sustainability goals, we will not stop there! Once we have at least 100 systems connected up across the region, we can unleash more advantages for each individual, and the community as a whole.
Batteries are crucial to the future of the grid and offer loads of opportunities for collaborative marketing of energy; without batteries our excess energy is only available when the grid doesn’t need it – in the middle of the day. So we’re making sure our region is part of the nation-wide transformation in battery systems that you can see in the graphic below.
We have had a strong start this year, and we are proud of our achievements to date. It means each of those homes, farms and businesses now provide their own solar during the day for free, and their stored solar gets used up during the night. These “behind-the-meter” savings, mean you don’t have to incur any grid costs, fulfilling the majority of your own needs first and foremost. This is what gives us individual energy independence.
However, here at Geni.Energy we have a bigger picture in mind, about creating region-wide and community-wide benefits, beyond the individual, through collaboration and cooperation of our energy.
The EMS and solar + battery systems we already have in place are the first step. Next we need to achieve scale! It is crucial that we have a fleet >100 systems with solar generation and battery storage and our EMS, installed across the region.
Once we get to this point, we will start to be able to have serious conversations with energy retailers and grid operators. At that stage, we can offer reliability and stability services to the grid which is hugely beneficial to them. For locals, we will be able to establish a cooperative buying group that secures a better tariff for our stored energy if sold at peak times. It will also give us the ability for locals to sell their excess to other locals, slashing the ~$150 Million per annum that we export out of our region to buy in electricity from the Hunter. This is when we will see even more benefits.
The year ahead is looking really exciting as we move towards a region-wide visioning project. In conjunction with the University of Technology Sydney, on our first birthday we are launching “Renew Northwest”.
We want to hear from you!
We will undertake a multi-pronged approach to find out where locals see the renewable energy opportunities for the Northwest region.
If you are a coffee lover, we invite you to fill out our on-line survey for your chance to win a $250 voucher from the fantastic Yield café in Narrabri. Make yourself a cuppa and sit down to do the survey and you could find yourself with a free coffee every week for a year!
If you are keen to get more engaged in this process, you have two more options:
email us to be part of one-on-one phone interviews
be one of our 'town ambassadors' involved in a more detailed vision mapping process – stay tuned!
We are looking forward to understanding how you think we can all benefit from renewables and what community energy projects would work best in our beautiful, northwest NSW. This will help guide the future direction of Geni.Energy for many more years to come.
So pull up your chair to the Geni.Energy table and together, lets create a positive, renewable and prosperous future for the Northwest.
(Use your phone camera to click on this QR code and it will take you to the survey)