MERC Newsletter – June 2023


Delegates, here is the MERC June Newsletter, please circulate the Newsletter to your fellow Councillors and senior staff this week, so they can appreciate and understand the excellent work the Association and you are doing on behalf of your Council and community, with regard to mining and energy related matters.  

Resources, Energy, Industry & Innovation Forum in Dubbo 6th – 9th June

MERC partnered with RDA Orana to run the Resources, Energy, Industry & Innovation Forum in Dubbo during the period 6-9th June 2023. This was a change from the earlier mooted dates of 23rd-26th May 2023, due to the clash with other events affecting the attendance of delegates and the unavailability of venues to accommodate the needs of our conference. This late advice of the need to change plus slowness of speaker confirmations caused a delay in the marketing of the event and member attendances.

All Councils, Councillors, Joint Organisations of Councils, General Managers throughout NSW were invited to attend individually, as well as stakeholders from industry and government agencies who were enticed with marketing material via social media and email etc., to ensure state wide coverage of this very important and often missunderstood topic with decision makers having to strive for –“ zero emissions” Federally by 2050 and less in some states.

On this basis, using the expertise of our event partners at RDA Orana  and our input, a lot of questions were asked, answered and the impacts on our communities clarified and undertsood at the conference so Councils could adjust accordingly.

Attached is a list of speakers with links to their presentations where provided. A full report on the event will be presented to members when completed. Here’re the speakers’ presentations

Next Meetings of Association The next Ordinary meeting will be in Sydney on Thursday morning commencing at 9am on 3rd August 2023 at NSW Parliament House in Jubilee Room. This is during parliamentary sitting times, zoom will not be available. The AGM meeting will be held in November at a location/date to be confirmed. The Executive Committee met on 28th June (by teleconference) and confirmed the date/location of the next MERC meeting.

Future 2024 Forum (REIIF) The REIIF date slots have been temporarily booked for next year in the week 5-7th June 2024 only over 3 days. Subject to Executive Committee concurrence, the conference will be run in partnership with RDA Orana with MERC’s Ordinary meeting being held on first day 5th June 2023, followed by site visits, networking dinner day before conference day for councils and experts and having non members and potentially new members attend as observers, then business day on 7th June 2023. More later when de-brief report from RDA Orana is received.

COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC – In 2023 MERC will be resuming its’ meeting cycle activities in the normal manner. What this means for MERC delegates is that 2023 will have quarterly meetings as “face to face” meetings with use of zoom in exceptional circumstances. Executive Committee meetings will be by zoom means as determined. A lot of value is gleaned from being at a meeting in person and this can be lost when delegates attend by zoom. The focus will always be on giving delegates an opportunity to attend meetings. However, delegates must be present to vote for the AGM in view of the voting system in the constitution.

Speakers for Next Meeting in Sydney – The Ministers for Natural Resources, Planning, Climate Change, Energy & Local Government will be approached to speak on 3rd August whilst in Jubliee Room, NSW Parliament House.

Inland NSW Growth Alliance (INGA) (formerly Orana Opportunity Network – O2N) – MERC is trialling as a Bronze Member of INGA for 12 months. Their Newsletters are available on their website on  

CRC Transformation in Mining Economies (CRCTiME) Post Mining – MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They provide quarterly updates on progress with an opportunity for members to join webinars, workshops, surveys etc. See Website

Life Membership to be Bestowed on Owen Hasler Arrangements are underway to organise a suitable date and time for MERC to present Life Membership to Owen Hasler. Unfortunately, Covid got in the way of him attending the presentation in Dubbo on 9th June 2023.

Executive Officer Replacement The Executive Officer has given notice that his contract expires on 11th September 2023 . The Executive Committee has commenced the replacement process utilising LGNSW Management Solutions.


Mining & Renewable Energy articles

Bowen kicks off Capacity Investment Scheme with doubling of NSW battery tender to replace Coal” Renew Economy, Giles Parkinson 29th June 2023 writes” The Federal Labor government has begun the roll-out of the new Capacity Investment Scheme, starting with the state of NSW where a tender for battery storage and other “firm” technologies has been more than doubled to fill a gap created by planned coal plant closures.

The federal and NSW Labor governments have decided to increase a tender of “firm capacity” from 380MW to 930MW and should have no shortage of takers given that more than 3.3GW of proposals – mostly for big batteries – were received in the first stage of the tender. The funds for the additional capacity will come from the federal government.

Federal energy and climate change minister Chris Bowen also revealed on Thursday that the states of Victoria and South Australia will hold their first auctions under the Capacity Investment Mechanism in October. Bowen expects the scheme to unlock 6GW of firm capacity, and up to $10 billion of new investment, to help fill the gaps of coal and gas closures across the country’s main grid.

The Wallgrove battery. Photo supplied.

The auctions will be available for any project that have reached Final Investment Decision since the CIS was initially announced in December 2022, to avoid any delay in investment.

Bowen says the deal with the NSW government will eliminate the forecast shortfall in 2028/29 flagged by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) following the anticipated closures of Eraring in 2025 and Vales Point in 2028/9. “Today’s announcement will drastically improve energy security with large-scale batteries and other zero-emission technology that can quickly dispatch cleaner, cheaper renewable energy when it’s needed, like when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing,” Bowen said in a statement.

The announcement came on the same day as the Clean Energy Finance Corp invested $100 million in the $1 billion Waratah Super Battery being built by global funds giant BlackRock at the shuttered Munmorah coal plant and which will act as a sort of giant “shock absorber” for the grid. The NSW tender for at least 380MW of two hours firming capacity was expected to be dominated by battery storage and demand management, which was included in a major auction for the first time. Fossil fuels were eliminated by strict emissions criteria.

“The large number of proponents wanting to invest in NSW is a clear indication that we can transform our energy system and that any risks around grid reliability can be resolved by accelerating the development of a clean, reliable, consumer-focused energy system,” state energy minister Penny Sharpe said:

Shortlisted bidders in the NSW tender will be asked to submit a financial value bid in coming weeks, with the result of the expanded tender to be announced by the end of September. The

tender for short term firming to help fill the gap created by the closure of Eraring in 2025 and other coal generators was held in addition to the tenders for new wind, solar and long duration storage as part of the NSW infrastructure roadmap.

The first of those tenders has already selected 1.3GW of new wind and solar capacity, and the country’s first eight hour battery to be built in western NSW by German energy giant RWE.

second auction for another 1GW of wind and solar capacity, and a further 550MW of long duration storage (at least eight hours) has begun.”

Origin to trial 12-hour redox flow battery at site of Australia’s biggest coal generatorRenew

Economy, Giles Parkinson, 28th June 2023 writes “Australian energy utility Origin Energy says it is going to trial a long duration redox flow battery technology at the site of its Eraring coal generator and has also spent $4 million buying a five per cent stake in the Newcastle-based technology developer, Allegro Energy.

Origin says that because Allegro’s redox flow battery (RFB) is water based, it is safer and more environmentally friendly than other battery technologies. It also contains no scarce materials and is completely recyclable. The redox flow battery – which features a closely guarded electrolyte – will be trialled as a supplement to the huge Eraring battery that will at least partially replace the 2.8GW Eraring coal plant that is currently scheduled to close in August 2025.

The first stage of the Eraring battery will feature two hours of lithium-ion battery storage – 460MW and 920MWh – although it is planned to extend this to up to four hours of storage over time – 700MW and 2,800MWh. The redox flow battery can offer 12 hours of storage, and Origin intends to trial a small eight-hour version sized as a 100kW (800kWh) module at the Eraring site. It will be the first commercial test of the technology.

If that is successful, Origin says it plans to build a 5MW, 60MWh redox flow battery, although the location of that bigger facility is not confirmed and may not be at Eraring. “We believe long duration storage will ultimately play an important role in the energy mix, and we look forward to watching the progress of this trial and seeing how this technology could complement other storage projects within Origin’s portfolio,” said Greg Jarvis, the head of Origin’s energy supply and operations.

“Long duration storage could supplement the high demand peak period covered by the 460MW Eraring battery currently under development and add to the overnight generation availability provided by the Shoalhaven (pumped) Hydro Scheme.” Jarvis said that the Allegro technology is very promising. “It is also particularly pleasing for Origin to work with an innovative, local firm as we look to further transform the Eraring site for the future,” Mr Jarvis said.

The move is potentially significant because of the growing need for long duration storage. That was expected to be provided by pumped hydro, but because of the complexities, costs and delays in large civil engineering projects, energy companies are increasingly turning to batteries as a solution.

Already, a NSW tender has secured an Australian-first eight hour battery to be built by German energy giant RWE, and 12-hour batteries – which can be modular and easily replicated through the grid – offer another potentially compelling solution.

Eraring Power Station, photo supplied.

Allegro was founded in 2021. The CEO and co-founder, Professor Thomas Nann, says Origin’s support is a powerful endorsement of the company’s proprietary battery technology. Nann told Renew Economy that the electrolyte developed by the company is water based – like vanadium redox flow batteries – but can be used with several different chemistries.

“For us, this is a great moment. We got Origin’s endorsement because they trust us, they have seen that our technology works,” he told Renew Economy. He said the trial of the smaller module could last around 18 months.

Once successful, the next stage battery will be built, and the company also plans to build a local “gigafactory” to meet potential demand. The major shareholders are ASX-listed ReNu Energy, a local VC fund called Melt Ventures, and the founders and others.

ReNu was formerly known as Geodynamics, a former “hot rock” geothermal energy hopeful that Origin Energy was once invested in but had to take big write-downs after the technology failed to deliver on expectations. ReNu is also heavily invested in green hydrogen projects.

Origin says initial work on the RFB trial module is expected to start in August, with the battery to be commissioned in late 2024. Work on the main Eraring two-hour lithium battery is expected to begin in July.

The Eraring coal generator has been given an “indicative’ closure date of August 2025, but delays in new transmission and wind, solar and storage projects is leading to speculation that at least some of its 720MW units may be kept online, at least for another summer.

The new NSW Labor government has flagged its interest in buying the Eraring coal plant to keep it open for longer but appears to have gone quiet on that idea now that is has been faced with the complexities of such a purchase. However, Origin, indicated on Wednesday that it is keeping its options open. “Origin will continue to assess the market over time, and this will help inform the final timing for closure of all four units at Eraring,” it said in the statement. “Origin will also continue to actively engage with the market operator, NSW Government, our people, and the local community regarding plans for Eraring’s closure.”

Origin has agreed to an $18.4 billion takeover led by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, which in turns intends to hasten the utility’s switch to green energy by spending up to $30 billion on new wind, solar and storage projects over the next decade, in line with a 1.5°C climate target”.


“Microgrid “living laboratory” to demonstrate resilient, renewable power systems of the future

June 29, 2023 by Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy writes” University of Wollongong researchers will pilot a “mixed-use” residential and commercial microgrid to demonstrate how solar, storage and demand management can help power communities in the future – in some cases offering a more reliable and lower cost energy supply than the traditional network.

The microgrid project, led by UoW’s Australian Power Quality Research Centre (APQRC), has received $1.1 million from the NSW government to operate as a “living laboratory” to explore the viability of using on-site clean energy generation to power communities. The so-called Clean Energy Living Laboratory, or CELL, will use electricity generated by 468 solar panels on the roof of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) – roughly 300kW – to power that building as well as a net-zero house and on-campus student accommodation.

The microgrid will also have battery storage, which APQRC research coordinator Sean Elphick says will be rated to almost the entire load, but one of the keys focuses of the project will be on demand management. “So, what we would do if we knew that we were going to go to an island situation [and isolate the microgrid from the local network] is to reduce our demand as much as we possibly could,” Elphick told One Step Off the Grid. “So that we can keep the battery size down… in terms of kilowatts, but also to make the kilowatt-hours go as far as they can.”

To that end, Siemens is a partner in the project, and will be helping the UoW team with the microgrid control systems that will combine with existing building management systems that have been put in place at the university. “Siemens’ … overall control system would be talking to those BMS systems, and you know, turning off non-essential load or potentially throttling back air conditioning, all that sort of thing, to bring demand down as much as we can [when the microgrid is islanded],” Elphick says.

Essentially, the CELL microgrid aims to give researchers a better idea of the viability of using on-site energy systems to power whole communities looking to reduce their reliance on the grid. “Microgrids will become critical components of the distributed and low-emission electricity systems of the future, facilitating decentralised, resilient and low-carbon electricity supply,” Elphick says. “This project will deliver a flagship mixed-use, precinct-based microgrid highlighting both the benefits and challenges of deploying such a system within the National Electricity Market.

“It will also provide comprehensive and open data on real-world usage and enable critical research as a unique living laboratory for best practices in microgrid design, deployment and operation.” Elphick says that while the main sources of energy demand across the CELL will come from heat pump air conditioning and heating and hot water, there are a lot of small loads to manage, too.

 “So, in our building here, obviously, it’s a commercial building – you’re looking at computers and lighting and all that sort of stuff that you’d see in a normal office space. “And over the other side, you’ve got the, you know, the standard residential loads. Again, there’s a lot of lighting over there, but televisions and computers … and kettles.”

University of WollongongOnce the microgrid is up and running, it will be made available to the public to observe clean energy technology solutions at work. Not unlike the award-winning net-zero Illawarra Flame House, which was built on campus to demonstrate net-zero energy retrofitted home, and will form part of the microgrid. “A lot of what we’re installing here is pretty mature technology,” says Elphick. “So, you know, we’re installing some more solar generation, it’s a mature technology, the battery technology is mature.

“The demand-side aspect of things is potentially less mature. But again, we’ve got … multiple inverters, a building management system, microgrid control. “If the whole system is going to work the way that we intend all those things needs to talk to each other and that’s not straightforward, necessarily – and it’s certainly not standardised. So that’s one key aspect [of the project].

“The other aspect of this is … to make this infrastructure available to people so they can come here and see it in operation and get some assurance that, you know, they can do this in their own home, and it works. And it’s, you know, demystifying the whole thing. “And the third aspect of it is the infrastructure will be available as a laboratory platform for technology developers to come and prototype and develop their equipment here.

“So, the difference there is …we have a lab here that can do that sort of thing now, but it’s limited to about 30kW. With this new infrastructure, we’ll be able to supply a facility that can evaluate equipment up to maybe a couple of hundred kilowatts… which is quite large.”



Disclaimer The comments and details in the articles in this newsletter do not reflect the views, policies or position of the Association or its member Councils and are sourced and reproduced from public media outlets by the Executive Officer to provide information for members that they may not already be exposed to in their Local Government areas

Contacts Clr Kevin Duffy (Chair) or 0418652499 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,