A pioneering South Island school is at the forefront of a global $1.3 trillion energy system transformation. While others debate how to share local green power, Waitati School, with assistance from the Blueskin Energy Network (BEN), has made decentralised and decarbonised power a reality.
The school has, with funding support from the Harper Collins Trust, installed a solar array which is connected to BEN. When the school produces more energy that it needs the surplus is shared - peer to peer -with families at the school who have also joined the Blueskin Energy Network.
Green MP Gareth Hughes officially opened this exciting new community solar initiative, on October 18th.
“This pioneering project is yet another innovation from the community of Blueskin and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust in collaboration with the school and partners. The Blueskin model should inspire others to be bold as innovators and change makers and motivate government to do more”, says Gareth Hughes MP.
Principal Stacey Honey says she loves this sharing component “the school community can now benefit from the school ‘power station’ – we’re educators and a power generator!”.
Scott Willis, Manager of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust and representing the Blueskin Energy Network understands the power of example.
He says “We began work to change our ‘energy culture’ a decade ago. Now Blueskin Bay has the highest penetration of PV installations and EV ownership in the whole country, and high levels of energy literacy. But with the school joining BEN we have a further paradigm shift – to the sharing energy community”.
Kiwi technology provider emhTrade – a World Energy Council ranked Top 100 Clean Energy Transition start up – is behind the platform that makes BEN function, in partnership with the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust.
“Our mission is to enable a better power society and it is exciting to see our technology combined with local solar generation and community innovation to deliver cleaner and fairer power choice open to all” says Jamie Silk, emhTrade’s Chief Commercial Officer
First, the Blueskin Energy Network provides a way for solar to be installed where it is most cost effective or efficient to be located (such as large school roof spaces) and where it will often be efficiently used (as kids are at school during the day).
Second, it means that anyone can now buy local green power in this community – regardless of whether they can afford panels themselves or own their own homes. They can now subscribe to join the school’s peer to peer scheme and get cheaper local power when there is a surplus such as in the holidays, in the weekends or when the school day ends – ideal times for hard pressed families who need affordable power.
All with the benefit of also supporting the school by buying the school’s power.
Third, consumers joining BEN access an app that tells them the best time to use power to meet their personal goals – helping those who want to make a climate impact change to use more cleaner, cheaper, local power – and then rewarding them from the savings made. Whether it is simply using the timer for the laundry or charging the electric car when the school has surplus power, people are able to make effective choices – and get discounts on their bills too.
There has been much concern expressed by the existing electricity industry that solar power may be unfair, favouring only those who can afford it – including by the industry experts appointed by the government to complete the Electricity Pricing Review. Waitati School and BEN show a different, better future that with a little imagination we can all share in. A future where we all tap into the sharing economy and people’s desire for better outcomes to provide a cleaner and fairer power system benefitting all.