Labor's Plan For Solar Schools

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A Shorten Labor Government will help Australian schools cut their energy bills and access cleaner energy by establishing a Solar Schools program to help schools access solar panels and battery storage.

The Solar Schools program will not only help schools cut their energy costs, but also deliver energy back to the grid through Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) - driving down electricity bills for households and businesses.

Schools are an excellent location for solar investment and the creation of VPPs, because they often don’t use energy at times of peak demand and through a large portion of summer. Schools are largely vacant for more than 150 days per year.  Often demand for energy is highest when kids are not at school.

This makes schools perfect locations for solar and battery powered VPPs, to support grid reliability and lower power prices for Australian families and businesses.
 

LABOR’S PLAN

Labor's Solar Schools program will allocate up to $1 billion from our expanded Clean Energy Finance Corporation capital to establish the program - supporting the creation of VPPs through virtually linked solar and battery systems installed at schools, to deliver electricity and other services to the electricity system.  Financing will be provided through concessional loans, available for the purchase of both solar panels and battery systems, either by schools or VPP project developers.

Schools with existing solar panels and batteries will be able to use the program to upgrade to a newer or larger system that would be better for self-consumption and participation in a VPP.   In addition to financial benefits, participation will also provide teaching opportunities for schools about renewable energy and storage technology, and modern energy systems.

Labor will allow industry and schools to develop different VPP models, fostering competition and innovation in VPP design and delivery.  This provides choice for school systems and encourages a competitive market to provide the best portfolio of VPP offers to customers.

The program will first be rolled out in trial form, with two to three VPPs across different regions. The full rollout will see school VPPs established in every jurisdiction, ultimately benefitting up to 4,000 schools, supporting up to 364MW of VPP capacity, and cutting over 390,000 tonnes of pollution a year.

Like all Labor solar and battery programs, we’ll have strict requirements about product, installer and maintenance standards that will need to be met.

All installations will be undertaken by certified installers, in compliance with the National Construction Code and the Clean Energy Council installation guide. All batteries installed will have to meet both the strict Australian Standard and the Clean Energy Council’s best practice guide, which requires certification against a range of international product standards.

 

Benefits to schools

Schools will be able to save money on electricity bills by accessing cheap solar power and, depending on the specific VPP model they have participated in, will also be able to earn a revenue stream from selling power and other services to the grid.  Estimated electricity bill savings for schools, based on Clean Energy Council analysis, are presented in the table below.  These estimates do not include potential additional revenue from the sale of power and other services to the grid.

$/p.a.

Reduction in energy bills for Large Schools

Reduction in energy bills for Small Schools

Victoria

$94,000

$7,000

New South Wales

$89,000

$15,000

Queensland

$120,000

$9,000

South Australia

$90,000

$15,000

 

Benefits for the energy grid

By providing additional energy as well as system security and reliability services into the grid, Labor’s Solar Schools VPPs will have significant reliability and stability benefits for the grid as a whole, especially over December and January when system reliability is under pressure due to demand spikes and unscheduled unit outages at ageing plants.

Additional services supplied to the grid by school VPPs to support system functionality include frequency control services; voltage regulation and power factor control services; and back-up functionality in case of grid outages.

In assessing the benefits of VPPs for the electricity system, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said:

“As we transition to a more decentralised energy system, VPPs have an important role to play in harnessing the collective potential of consumer owned energy assets like rooftop solar, batteries, smart appliances and electric vehicle charging. VPPs could see vast improvements in the reliability of the network and an increase in market competition which will ultimately benefit all customers,”

The program will contribute to Labor’s commitment to modernise Australia’s electricity system; deliver 50 per cent of generation from renewable energy sources by 2030; and help achieve Labor’s emissions reduction targets.

There will also be significant employment benefits from the program, ranging from installation and system management, to providing a boost to local battery manufacturing.

Labor has a vision and a plan for a clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy future for Australia, and our Solar Schools program is just one part of that plan.

The Liberals have a plan to further delay action on climate change, stifle renewable energy investment, and spend taxpayer money on new coal plants.