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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Rural Electrification fact sheet cover

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Rural Electrification

Australian Greenhouse Office
Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources

PDF file

The Goal

To provide rural communities in Australia access to reliable, renewable energy systems, thereby reducing greenhouse emissions and improving quality of life.

The Challenge

New rural electrification technologies encounter more severe barriers than conventional energy supply options. These barriers include a lack of knowledge of the technology, a lack of adequately trained personnel to service the equipment and support infrastructure (eg. repair facilities/spare parts), lack of standards relating to product design, quality and installation; lack of access to finance at rates comparable to conventional energy options; and a lack of social acceptance. The situation is particularly acute for many emerging renewable energy technologies (eg. solar-based electricity) when they are used in small scale applications in remote areas.

This case study

There are many parts of rural Australia for which connection to a major electricity grid is not a viable option. Over the past two decades, Australian federal and state government and businesses have introduced several initiatives to facilitate the adoption of new rural electrification technology, particularly renewable energy technologies. The aims of the initiatives were to address the barriers to the introduction of new technologies, resulting in greater access to reliable electricity in rural communities and providing economic, social and environmental benefits.

How did we make it happen?

The Australian government and industries undertook the following initiatives in order to facilitate the adoption of new renewable energy technologies by rural communities:

How far have we come?

Government and industry initiatives have led to the supply of renewable energy power supply systems to 8000 remote households for lighting, entertainment and refrigeration, whilst the telecommunications industry has successfully provided 10,000 remote households with a solar powered, microwave based telephone system.

What have we learnt?

Several lessons have been learnt from these initiatives which need to be addressed if these new electrification technologies are to become a mainstream source of electricity in rural areas. First, it is essential that there is adequate training for designers and installers of alternative rural electrification technologies. Second, where cross-subsidies remain for social reasons, it is important that these cross-subsidies are delivered in a form which does not disadvantage alternative technologies. Third, ensuring that these technologies are financed and maintained on a similar basis to conventional rural electricity options should go a long way to facilitating widespread adoption of alternative rural electrification technologies.

The lessons that Australia has learnt from the successful deployment of renewable energy technologies in locations remote from infrastructure support is of relevance to many developing countries. However the specific approaches to dealing with the impediments to alternative approaches to rural electrification will inevitably need to vary from country to country, taking into consideration national circumstances.

Since the late 1990s, the Australian renewable energy industry, through the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), has been providing training to other countries in the design and installation of renewable energy power supplies. The training has been based on training courses in Australia, but modified to suit the local conditions existing in the country in question. To help ensure that the training activities deliver wide-ranging and long-term benefits, the courses are now focussed on a ‘train the trainer’ approach.

For more information on these initiatives please visit:
http://www.bcse.org.au
http://www.greenhouse.gov.au