The demand response army of customers that’s 1.7 million strong…

When you join forces with a big operator and work together on a really big idea, the results you tend to get are, well…

By: ARENA

Big.

And that’s the theme that comes out when you look at the projects put forward by retailer EnergyAustralia as part of the demand response program being brought to you this summer by ARENA and the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“EnergyAustralia is one of Australia’s leading energy retailers. We’ve got millions of customers across the Eastern seaboard,” says the company’s Sal Tringali.

“Our demand response program is basically designed to engage with customers who are both willing and able to participate by turning off energy or using alternate methods of supply.”

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Energy Australia is an electricity giant, boasting around 2.6 million residential, small business, commercial and industrial customers in Victoria, South Australia, NSW, the ACT and Queensland.

Of those, around 1.7 million — living in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales — will have the potential to get involved with two demand response projects that together represent a quarter of the total amount the demand response trial will remove from the grid.

ARENA and AEMO’s three-year demand response program will remove 200 MW of demand from the electricity grid. The program, to which ARENA has contributed $28.6 Million of a total $35.7 million, is made up of ten projects from eight companies, spanning NSW, South Australia and Victoria.

The remaining funding has been contributed by the NSW Government for projects in that state alone.

DEMAND RESPONSE IS COMNG THIS SUMMER. HERE’S HOW IT’LL WORK

Demand response is an innovative solution to the problem of spiking demand during peak times for electricity consumption, such as during summer heatwaves.

Rather than building expensive new infrastructure to meet these occasional spikes it aims to use a combination of technology and behavioural change to reward electricity users who shift some use to no-peak periods in the event of a demand response “event”.

Under EnergyAustralia’s projects, up to 50 MW of load will be removed from the grid during times when it is under severe strain.

“That’s the equivalent of up to 10,000 households being turned off to support grid security,” Tringali says.

But houses won’t be turned off to achieve this saving. It’ll be achieved by a range of different actions from a hugely diverse group of customers.

Befitting the size of the proponent, EnergyAustralia’s demand response projects offer a little bit of everything. The retailer can call upon many different types of customers, including residential householders, small businesses, retailers, commercial, and industrial operators.

“This summer will be primarily business but we see great opportunity to transition residential customers into the program” Tringali says.

How it works

Some participants, largely businesses, will participate in automated responses that mean processes are time-shifted when an “event” occurs. Householders, meanwhile, will either participate through behind the meter smart technology or after receiving text messages notifying them to act.

EnergyAustralia has partnered with makers of so-called behind the meter technology such as WattWatchers (energy monitoring and controls), Redback Technology (smart household batteries) and software solutions such as those offered by, GreenSync (which makes possible coordination of commercial and industrial loads into a virtual power plant).

All of them will play an important role in helping to temporarily reduce peak demand.

For businesses

Businesses who take part, Tringali says, will be those who: “Either have generation sources on site or processes they can interrupt.”

They are either able to switch from receiving electricity via the grid to another method (such as running generators) during a demand response event or are able to change or delay energy-using processes without negatively affecting their output.

Businesses who are switching to  generators will be encouraged to use renewable biofuels such as those Australian company Green Power Solutions derives from ethically sourced feedstock like recycled cooking oils.

“We’ll notify them there’s an event about to take place and we’ll ask them to enact their alternate supply or to turn off processes,” Tringali says.

“That could mean for example that a business with a processing plant they stop one of those processes, interrupt it for a period, without having a material impact on their business.”

“Then they turn it back on post the event.”

Some processes, such as refrigeration, can be turned off for a short time without any negative impact. Other industrial processes involve stockpiles, which can briefly be run down during a period of inactivity and then easily replenished later.

While it is too early to yet announce the identities of large EnergyAustralia customers who will be participating, they will feature some of the biggest names in corporate Australia, including a major retail chain. Stand by for more details in coming weeks.

Piles of earth
Businesses that use stockpiles can shift energy use during a demand response event without negative impact. IMAGE: Adobe.

For householders

In years two and three of the program EnergyAustralia plans to begin involving individual householders. This will be a combination of smart monitoring technology and reward-based, behavioural demand response.

To put it bluntly, during demand response events you’ll get paid more for using less.

The customers will choose the technology,” Tringali says. “We want to remain agnostic to that technology. Some customers will allow us to remotely control their premises whereas others we’ll send notifications via SMS to ask them to do things for us.”

As with other behavioural parts of the demand response program, residential customers will be notified an event has been called and will elect to respond by making changes such as switching off a pool pump or slightly adjusting a thermostat. Maybe they’ll hold off on switching on the dishwasher for a couple of hours.

When the event has passed they will receive another notification.

“Customers will choose to participate. Their participation will not impact their lifestyle. They’ll just use energy smarter and at different times,” Tringali says.

Tringali says there has already been strong interest from customers as to how they can participate.

“They are telling us they want to be part of this,” he says.

“As one of Australia’s leading energy retailers we have a diverse customer base. That includes, large distribution centres, manufacturing plants, processing plants retail outlets. They can all change their behaviour slightly to really see the benefits.”

This article was originally written by Daniel Silkstone, former Head of Content, ARENA.

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