Australia has created a digital marketplace where homeowners can sell the electricity from their rooftop solar panels to stabilise the grid. The “virtual power station” means that homeowners store solar energy in their batteries and automatically contribute it to the grid at times of high demand. The system calculates the price of energy at that moment and pays the homeowners accordingly.
Results & Impact
Two forthcoming pilot projects will be launched in the Australian Capital Territory and on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, each involving around 5,000 households. The aim is to reduce energy costs, drive investment in renewable energy, stabilise the grid and buffer it against surges in demand. Australia has one of the highest uptakes of rooftop solar in the world, with panels on 1.6 million houses
The Australian Capital Territory and Victorian governments, the Australian National University, the Australian Energy Market Operator, the Australian Energy Market Commission, Energy Consumers Australia, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, United Energy, ActewAGL, Reposit Power and Mojo
Homes that run on solar energy are networked into the electricity grid, and contribute stored energy whenever there is a shortfall. An energy exchange then calculates the monetary value of the contribution and compensates the home owners
Cost & Value
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funded $342,000 for the initial project trial, with over $760,000 additional added from industry partners. A yearly running cost is in discussions
deX has multiple stakeholders, which means working with this many organisations can have its difficulties, and requires constant communication
A new pilot project announced by the Australian government could see homeowners with solar panels and batteries trade the electricity they generate in a new open marketplace developed by energy providers, agencies and tech start-ups.
The Decentralised Energy Exchange – better known as deX – was launched recently with the aim to capitalise on the energy produced by private users in Australia. The hope is that a network of private owners of rooftop solar panels and batteries will use the exchange to sell the energy they generate. The energy they produce could potentially reduce overall costs, drive investment in renewable fuels, stabilise the electricity grid and protect supply from disruptions like heatwaves.
The pilot has its roots in a 2016 study which was commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and researched by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, the University of Arizona and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. After the report recommended an energy exchange, AREA convened electricity network operators United Energy and ActewAGL, energy start-up Reposit Power and the energy retailer Mojo. AREA contributed $450,000 towards the total project cost of $930,000.
“In practical terms, deX will allow households and businesses generating renewable energy to access incentives and reduce their demand on the grid, by utilising technologies like battery storage to top up the electricity supply during peak demand periods,” said Dr Phil Blythe, Founder & CEO of GreenSync. “We’re essentially providing the fabric that allows all solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage packs to be a part of the grid, and be incentivised appropriately for their support. The system will allow networks to post their problems, which could be anything like power constraints or capacity constraints, and rather than spending money on a capacity upgrade, customers can solve the problem through a peer-to-peer energy sharing model.”
The consortium is launching two pilot projects in the Australian Capital Territory and on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, each involving around 5,000 households. The projects are also being overseen by a reference group that includes the Australian Energy Market Operator, the Australian Energy Market Commission and Energy Consumers Australia.
The energy exchange acts like a series of signals which control the flow of power, depending on where the need is. For example, if one power line is in danger of being overloaded by high energy demands, the exchange anticipates any shortfall and the networked households make up the difference with the energy they have generated and stored. The homeowners are then compensated for the number of units they have contributed to the exchange.
The communication for the exchange is enabled by a system developed by a company called Reposit Power which controls the home based battery and links it to the exchange. The smart system communicates with the marketplace in real time and searches for instances when the household’s energy supplies can be monetised.
Australia has one of the highest uptakes of rooftop solar technology in the world, with around 1.6 million households currently using the technology. While individual solar panels and batteries might seem inconsequential, thousands of aggregated households can operate as a virtual power plant with a capacity in the megawatt range. Rooftop solar currently represents around 16% of renewable energy generation in Australia, and it is estimated to increase its contribution to between 20% and 50%.
(Picture: Twitter/Duncan Rawlinson)