An Australian-first survey is set to be conducted by Essential Energy to better understand customer expectations and gain critical behavioural insights to inform the introduction of Standalone Power Systems (SAPS).

In February 2022, a quantitative survey of 300 rural and remote private customers will be facilitated by Taverner Research Group (TRG) and The Behavioural Architects (TBA). 

This social science research project will provide insights to develop a detailed customer engagement strategy for potential SAPS customers. 

Chantelle Bramley, Executive General Manager of Corporate Affairs at Essential Energy, and project sponsor, said, “This research will help us unpack what our customers’ expectations and concerns might be about disconnecting from the grid; how we can create a compelling customer proposition for the range of commercial and residential customers for whom a SAPS may be viable, and what support Essential Energy will need to provide.” 

Ms Bramley said that while Essential Energy understands the reliability and cost benefits of this technology, the utility needs to step back and really understand what is important to customers. 

“We want to get this transition right and involve our customers in the development of these new offerings,” Ms Bramley said. 

“There are a range of benefits from this technology but unless they deliver what customers want, we won’t get the sort of scale deployment we need to realise all those benefits.

“In-depth interviews with six existing SAPS customers and 20 potential SAPS customers has already provided critical behavioural insights. These customer-led qualitative insights are helping to shape the next phase of our research.”

This customer-focused, evidence-based research will also inform key stakeholders, such as the New South Wales Government, who are looking to consult with state residents as part of their decision to opt into the national SAPS Regulatory Framework.

In addition to the environmental benefits, SAPS presents an important opportunity to improve the resilience of regional and remote communities as the removal of long powerlines can help to both reduce the risk of bushfires and of power not being available after an event. 

By generating electricity on-site and not relying on supporting infrastructure that could be affected by natural disasters, such as bushfires or floods, SAPS can provide a more reliable service, enabling customers or communities to isolate and remain energised in an emergency. 

This is particularly important for keeping telecommunication towers and fire-fighting equipment operational. 

It is expected that in the next ten years SAPS will become an increasingly viable option for thousands of customers. 

Background Qualitative research will be conducted using CATI interviews of +/- 15 minutes in length with 300 potential SAPS customers. 

This phase will be used to further test ideas, verify segment and persona sizes, and provide further insights on behavioural-based communication strategies. 

Essential Energy’s SAPS are an alternative power source suited for customers whose properties are located on long powerlines, servicing a small number of connections. 

Standard SAPS units, developed for regional areas, consist of 10kWp solar panels, 27-54kWp battery and 10kWp back-up diesel generator, with proposed SAPS being sized to meet specific customer usage. 

All Essential Energy SAPS will be installed and maintained by Essential Energy, with no upfront cost to customers. 

Immediately following the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020, SAPS were deployed into nine sites to support telecommunications towers and a small number of residential customers to have their power restored more quickly whilst waiting for the full network to be rebuilt. 

Essential Energy has been investigating SAPS for a number of years, commencing in 2018 with a trial site in Bulahdelah. 

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