Ploys of summer

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by Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon

Could keeping the lights on during the height of summer be as simple – or as complex – as rewarding customers? It’s just one of the ways electricity networks are working with customers to find smarter ways to manage demand when the mercury rises.

Against the wind

Networks provide Australians with a robust and reliable essential service. The stats speak for themselves, the number of unplanned outages has generally declined over the past decade. Now, energy customers across the NEM on average experience around 1.5 outages each year, and the frequency of outages fell in 2015 – 16 in Queensland and New South Wales (1).

Ausgrid’s network supply reliability for the last five year period has been the best on record for Ausgrid (in over 50 years), with a stabilisation of the average number of interruptions per year to approximately 0.7 outages per year per customer, down from previous figures of over one.

An average Endeavour Energy customer has only one outage of about 80 minutes per year.

Last year was our third hottest year on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement. Summer’s extreme temperatures represent a challenge for grid operators to deliver safe, reliable energy as we all switch on our air conditioning to cool off.

Meeting this challenge is a significant driver of network costs – and the development of new, smarter ways to manage this peak demand that don’t involve building more poles and wires is core business for network businesses.

Rapidly evolving technologies that are transforming our energy system will also help us ride out the heatwaves of summers to come and avoid increases in power bills.

A solar panel being installed as part of AusNet Services’ Mooroolbark Mini Grid project.

Power to the people

Customers’ continued appetite for home solar and storage provides networks with new and exciting opportunities to manage peak electricity demand. This includes rewarding the timely use of these distributed energy resources to provide grid support when it’s needed.

The Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap with the CSIRO shows that by 2027, more than 40 per cent of customers will use on-site resources like solar and storage. By 2050, it’s expected that almost two thirds of customers will have distributed energy resources.

How well we coordinate these resources – known as orchestration – will be critical to keeping costs down.

The Roadmap estimates network service providers would buy grid support from customers with distributed energy resources worth $2.5 billion per year by 2050. Orchestration working well will avoid the need for $16 billion in network investment in infrastructure such as poles and wires.

In its 2012 Power of Choice Review, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) found that demand management could save between $4.3 billion and $11.8 billion over the next ten years.
Demand management is already being used by networks today.

Electric dreams come true

Networks have big ambitions and are walking the talk. Demand management programs, trials and projects are being carried out by networks across Australia.

Energex

  • Is conducting residential battery trials to gain insights to enable the connection of household batteries to the network, and to explore the possibility of accessing and remotely controlling batteries at certain peak times.
  • Is rewarding customers for managing their energy use through its Positive Payback program.

Ergon Energy

  • Has a Grid Utility Support System (GUSS), which is an award-winning, edge-of-network storage product that provides support to customers serviced by the Single Wire Earth Return network. Each GUSS unit is an advanced, cost-effective technology solution that can reduce peak loads and supply reliable voltage levels.

Energy Queensland

  • Yurika’s Virtual Power Plant is a cloud-based platform that intelligently manages different power sources and consolidates the information to create meaningful data. This enables the supply of more affordable and reliable energy by optimising its use and putting downward pressure on power prices.

Essential Energy

  • Is signing up regional NSW residents to participate in a trial to assess the potential for customer-owned battery storage systems and advanced solar inverters to help better manage demand for network capacity.

Ausgrid

  • Its CoolSaver air conditioning trial is investigating efficient management of power consumption of air conditioners during peak hot and winter days.

Endeavour Energy

  • Its SolarSaver program aims to use the energy stored in a battery installed in selected homes with solar panels, to reduce the electricity delivered from the network during peak demand times.
    Its Grid Battery Energy Storage System trial is testing the efficiency and network support benefits of a grid-scale Battery Energy Storage System.

United Energy

  • Has a Summer Saver program that offers customers located in constrained areas cash incentives to reduce their demand during peak periods on “event days”, generally hot weather above 35°C.
  • Has partnered with Greensync to deliver the Community Grids Project to provide customers with incentives to help them reduce and/or shift their electricity usage voluntarily or by using solar and energy storage systems.
  • Has been undertaking a trial of Commercial and Residential Solar Storage Installations on the Distribution Network to explore using solar and energy storage as an alternative to investment in traditional network infrastructure.
  • Its Dynamic Voltage Management System Trial uses a proven method for reducing energy and peak demand on distribution networks.

Powercor

  • Has partnered with a small community in Victoria to trial a new electricity tariff which will allow customers there to trade energy with each other without being charged.
  • Has a hot water controlled load tariff that enables them to manage the hot water heating load of participating customers via their smart meter network.

AusNet Services

  • Works with business customers through their Critical Peak Demand tariff. Introduced in 2011, it involves large businesses agreeing to cut energy consumption during periods of peak electricity demand.
  • Is trialling Australia’s first mini grid in an established community. The Mooroolbark Mini Grid project envisages a future where Distributed Energy Resources play a major role in the electricity supply system.

Jemena

  • Recently launched a new demand response project which encourages Melbourne households to make small changes to their summer electricity usage.

Steve Hendy with his battery installation as part of the Salisbury trial.

SA Power Networks

  • Its award winning Salisbury trial in Adelaide gave 100 customers batteries to defer $2.9 million in network upgrades.

TasNetworks

  • Is part of the Bruny Island Battery Trial which will look at how battery-PV systems can be used by customers to manage their energy and simultaneously help manage the network.

Horizon Power

Is trialling energy management via the customer through their Power Ahead pilot in Port Hedland where 500 residential and business customers have targets for usage in peak and off peak times.

Western Power

  • Is investigating alternatives to building more infrastructure for the constrained Mandurah area. This also provides the opportunity to consider demand side management with major customers in the area. It is finalising an agreement with major customers to reduce their load during times of high demand.

Network Opportunity Maps released last year as part of a collaboration between Energy Networks Australia, ISF and ARENA will also help networks to align distributed energy resources to help build a smarter and more reliable grid.

We’ve got to break free

Networks need to be able to break free of their regulatory shackles in order to fully embrace the opportunities new technologies present.

The Finkel Review highlighted an urgent need to ensure market rules and frameworks enable the introduction of emerging technologies and the ability to test them.

The Australian Energy Regulator’s new Demand Management Incentive Scheme and Innovation Allowance Mechanism for electricity distribution networks are a welcome step in the right direction.

The projects and programs being rolled out by Australian networks today prove networks are not afraid to try doing things differently and are acutely aware of the need to act now.

Networks are determined to keep up with the energy transformation in order to keep the lights on and prices down. The heat is on.

(1) Australian Energy Regulator, State of the Energy Market 2017, p 121

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