Over-50s to benefit from Australian-first power initiative

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson and GemLife Director and CEO, Adrian Puljich, at the launch of the VPP batteries (over-50s)
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson and GemLife Director and CEO, Adrian Puljich

An Australian-first initiative by developer GemLife is connecting more than 10,000 homes to Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), making its over-50s communities up to 90% energy independent while saving residents more than 60% on their power bills. 

The leading over-50s lifestyle resort developer is the first in the country to install the cutting-edge technology in a large-scale masterplanned community, with VPPs now operating at its GemLife Maroochy Quays, GemLife Bribie Island and GemLife Palmwoods resorts, all in South-East Queensland.

GemLife will invest more than $75 million over the next six years in developing VPPs across its portfolio of 11 existing and new communities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Related article: Tesla launches Phase 4 of South Australia’s VPP

The commitment follows a successful trial of the innovative technology at its GemLife Palmwoods community, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, where the average power bill reduced to just $8 during the six-month testing period.

“The VPP shields residents from soaring electricity prices, offering bill consistency, which is vitally important for our residents, the majority of who are on fixed incomes,” GemLife director and CEO Adrian Puljich said.

“At the same time, we’re contributing to a more sustainable future, with the initiative projected to significantly reduce carbon emissions, while limiting our reliance on the national energy grid, to assist with energy firming—so it really is win-win.

“Across the first three communities, we’ve already connected 700 homes to VPPs, at no cost to our homeowners, and will be installing the system in all our existing communities by the end of 2024, with all our new communities to open with the technology already in place.

“The initiative sets a new benchmark for the development industry, and particularly communities of this kind, when it comes to forward-thinking sustainable design, and we hope the broader industry will follow suit.”

The VPP initiative was spearheaded by GemLife which brought Australian energy technology companies Evergen and Evopower on board to collaborate to create a robust custom-designed system to achieve 90% onsite renewable energy generation and storage.

The system includes a network of homes and community facilities with rooftop solar plus a bank of commercial-grade battery connected via smart AI-driven technology, which is capable of predicting the demand for energy use, by monitoring weather conditions and optimal charge times.

GemLife Palmwoods residents Eric and Margaret Martin said the VPP was a welcome relief, given the volatility of energy pricing amidst other cost of living pressures.

“Our bills have been very small and once the senior’s discount has been applied, we’ve had nothing to pay at all,” Margaret said.

“It’s such a relief not having to worry about using the air conditioner when it’s hot and fearing what your electricity bill will be at the end of the month.”

Related article: WA’s first Virtual Power Plant activated during heatwave

Eric said it had taken the worry away when it came to rising power bills.

“It also means we can enjoy the benefit of electricity savings through the VPP without having to think about any costs associated with upgrading or maintaining the system ourselves, which is an additional benefit.”

EV charging stations have also been installed in each community to support residents driving electric vehicles, adding to the broader environmental benefits.

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