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Digital partnerships in the Northern Territory are developing innovative renewable energy solutions

Raymond Pratt

Raymond Pratt is a man with a mission.

A proud Arrernte man, Raymond and his team have come up with a digital innovation to create solutions for renewable energy installations in the Territory’s remote Aboriginal communities and businesses.

“There are countless remote renewable energy projects founded on good intentions, yet failed through lack of digital access to gain a true understanding of energy requirements,” said Raymond, who is the Managing Director of DICE Australia.

“Success hinges on reliable digital access, which ensures the continuity of energy services and improves the monitoring, maintenance and sustainability of renewable energy installations.”

The Darwin-based construction and electrical services company for the construction and renewable energy sectors is one of five companies who successfully completed their project as part of the first grant round of the Northern Territory Government’s Digital Partnerships Program.

“As someone who spent substantial time in remote communities when growing up and has worked in remote regions since, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact of people living with restricted and intermittent energy access,” Raymond said. 

The grant enabled DICE to identify and select hardware and software for a system to deliver the best balance of reliable communication and data management at an affordable price. 

“The ability to deliver smart energy solutions in remote communities to create affordable quality power leads to empowered people,” he said. 

“Through digital technology allowing closer, more accurate monitoring and reporting, the life span of the asset will be greatly increased, while the high cost of maintenance will drop significantly.” 

This system is called DARRES (Digital Access to Remote Renewable Energy Systems) and has substantially adjusted remote system functions. It crucially flags when faults occur and allows for solutions being provided remotely in collaboration with a trained member of the community.

“We understand the challenges of deploying high-tech renewable energy systems to remote locations where access is difficult and skilled local services are hard to come by,” said Raymond.

“The development of a real-world digital system that is reliable, efficient, cost-effective and much more user friendly combats this - and the government grant helped us achieve it.

“The grant helped us to reach out to even more local businesses, organisations and remote communities. It also sealed our commitment to provide jobs and increase economic growth for Indigenous businesses in the Territory.”

The company is renowned for its collaborative business model. 

For the DARRES project, Raymond and his team engaged the services of the Charles Darwin University Centre for Renewable Energy, the Industry Skills Advisory Council NT, Desert Knowledge Australia, SmartEnergy NT and IT experts, New Future IT, a remarkable Aboriginal business in the Territory.

The team also worked closely with engineers at Balance Utility Solutions out of Western Australia. 

“The team at Balance have been credited with the smarts behind the success of the system, and over the years have helped steer DICE in the direction of developing cutting-edge and innovative technologies to provide renewable energy efficient solutions to homes, business and remote communities,” said Raymond.

“By working with and teaming up with other industry leaders in their fields of expertise, and continuing to find people and companies that share a similar vision and values, the dream of making a positive difference is now a reality.”

Already, the Anindilyakwa Land Council has given DICE permission to use two sites on Groote Eylandt as trial sites, and Desert Knowledge Australia will also trial the DARRES system.

DICE is also looking to extend its smart energy technology platform to the broader domestic and commercial market to include cattle stations and roadhouses.

Raymond and the DICE Australia team continue to go from strength to strength, and on 3 December 2021 DICE won the ICTNT Local ICT Business of the Year Award.

Still, their chief executive officer remains humble.

“In the Territory, innovative thinking is referred to simply as getting things done.”

If you have an innovative idea which includes digital solutions to meet local challenges and encourage economic growth, check out the Digital Partnerships Program to see what support is available.

To find out more, go to the DICE website.