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Innovative distributed energy platform to streamline Australia’s future decentralised energy system

An innovative new distributed energy platform designed to help electricity networks better utilise the increasing penetration of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in the electricity grid, while helping consumers benefit from selling their generation could be available within three years.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today committed $10 million in funding to Australian energy tech company GreenSync Pty Ltd to accelerate the deployment of the Decentralised Energy Exchange (deX) software platform.

Designed as an open access software platform, deX is “middleware” that will allow consumer energy assets to be registered and visible to the grid. The platform will be technology agnostic and open to all technology providers, networks and retailers as well as market bodies.

deX aims to become a digital marketplace that allows home and commercial building-based energy assets and appliances such as solar PV, batteries, smart air conditioners and hot water systems to bid into the market to be used for a range of grid services such as managing frequency, providing energy for the wholesale market and reducing network constraints.

deX will provide visibility and control of  DER services that conform to the operational requirements of the distribution network and unlock new value for energy consumers while supporting the grid’s transition to a predominantly renewable future.

The $32 million platform rollout is expected to be a critical enabler for the growing DER and renewable energy industry in Australia and globally.

Initially created through a collaboration of utilities and technology companies during an ARENA A-Lab event in 2016, ARENA subsequently provided GreenSync with $450,000 in funding to develop and pilot the deX prototype in the ACT and Victoria.

deX has delivered its first production release and now has nearly 100 organisations and utility partners across 20 countries.

In South Australia, deX is now being used by Simply Energy and SAPN as the software platform for their virtual power plant trial funded by ARENA.

This further funding will help GreenSync to scale up deX to be rolled out nationally.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said deX has the potential to be a key pathway for ensuring DER can be integrated into the grid, and would play a role in transforming Australia’s electricity market into a two-way, decentralised modern grid.

“Studies indicate that virtual power plants could account for 700 MW of capacity by 2022 and consumer-owned distributed energy could account for up to 45 per cent of all generation within two decades.

“In a rapidly evolving energy market and growth in consumer energy, GreenSync through their deX platform is addressing vital issues with DER including physical integration and visibility with the grid, ensuring network limits are considered when dispatching, and achieving financial market integration to ensure value is maximised for consumers that own DER.

“The deX platform is an exciting project for ARENA in that this project was initially developed at an A-Lab session in consultation with energy companies, was piloted and is now in the final stages of being rolled out as a commercial product that could change the way energy is bought and sold in the future.” Mr Miller said.

GreenSync CEO Phil Blythe said, “We welcome this investment that enables the Australian electricity industry to transition to a decentralised energy system. As Australia is leading the charge with this technology globally, GreenSync sees a significant export opportunity for this and other innovative energy technologies in the deX ecosystem to meet the challenge of powering our grids by 100% renewables.”

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 98KB)

Evolving to a distributed electricity network

And the transition has only just begun. With predictions that 45 per cent of Australia’s energy will be generated behind-the-meter within two decades, these emerging technologies are sending energy back into a grid that was designed to only flow in one direction, and are predicted to push the network to breaking point.

The risks are real, but if managed well the rise of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) also presents an opportunity to make the energy network more resilient and affordable.

In the search for solutions, ARENA recently announced nearly $10 million in funding for projects and studies that support the integration of more DER into the network.

One recipient was the evolve project, led by software developers Zeppelin Bend in partnership with the Australian National University.

The project has set out to grow the capacity of the electricity network to accommodate more customer owned solar and other energy assets, and has received funding from the NSW Government on top of $4.3 million from ARENA.

To pinpoint congestion in the network to specific locations, Zeppelin Bend will extract data collected by the electricity networks to build a workbench. ANU will use this to identify problems in real-time, and also develop systems that can look ahead and forecast future challenges.

This information could help consumers to adapt their behaviour to get the most out of their behind the meter assets, and maintain the stability of an increasingly distributed network.

Bill Tarlinton, one of the three founders of Zeppelin Bend, has worked with electricity distribution networks for decades, establishing the company four years ago when they recognised the broader energy system was entering a period of significant disruption.

“There’s been a bit of a perfect storm,” Tarlinton said.

He says the multiple players in the market that are often working in different directions with different drivers mean no single entity is designing the system.

“At the same time we’ve had a push towards more renewables, and moved away from fossil fuels.

“A lot of the assumptions that underpin the systems around today don’t work any more so we need to develop new systems to allow the integration of higher penetration renewables,” he said.

That’s what the evolve project is attempting to do.

He says it won’t fix everything, but is solving one particular set of problems around the hosting capacity of electricity distribution networks.

Lachlan Blackhall from project partner ANU says the first part of the project is focused on identifying where congestion is occurring in the electricity network.

“When you look at Google Maps, depending on the traffic congestion the maps are coloured differently. Green is good, yellow is a bit slow, and red means a major traffic jam,” Blackhall says.

“The first part of our project is the same concept: it’s about identifying where congestion is occurring, understanding what’s causing that congestion and then how we can signal to [behind the meter] devices – batteries, solar inverters, electric vehicles, demand response – that there is congestion now or we forecast that there will be congestion in the future.”

He says this will give energy consumers a better understanding of how they can adjust their usage in order to avoid the congestion in the network.

“It could be that they fill up their battery later when we know there will be a lot of solar to soak up, or better understand how they can participate in the different markets so they don’t breach the limits.”

He breaks the project into two phases – firstly identifying congestion and signalling where it is going to occur, then allowing aggregators to make decisions to ensure the limits of the network are not breached.

“It’s about empowering customers with the information they need to ensure that their assets can participate fully without burning the network down in the process” he said.

The three year project will start rolling out immediately and progressively scale up the accuracy and performance over time.

“The old method of thinking about something for ten years and then rolling it out isn’t going to work,” Blackhall says.

After kicking off in Queensland with the state-owned distributors Ergon Energy and Energex, the project aims to move into New South Wales by the middle of 2019.

Looking at the list of project partners, it is clear there has been buy-in from across the energy industry.

As well as state-owned Ergon, Energex and Essential Energy, private distributors Endeavour and Ausgrid are also involved in the evolve project. This is providing total coverage of Queensland and New South Wales.

All four of Australia’s battery aggregators are participating, and the project has received funding from ARENA on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, as well as the New South Wales Government.

For Blackhall, this shows that there is a widespread acceptance of the need to prepare for the transition to a heavily distributed electricity grid.

“There is a good level of buy in which is consistent with a view within industry at the moment that we need to understand coordination and orchestration,” Blackhall said.

Councils ready to lead
A rise in uptake of electric vehicles could push the electricity network to the limit

“If we don’t start the work now, it’s going to be urgent in a couple of years time. The consumers response to the availability of solar has been extraordinary – we are the highest per capita adopter of solar in the world.”

ARENA’s investment director Phil Cohn said the agency is pleased to have been involved in the project from its inception.

“The involvement of four distribution businesses, four aggregators, technology startups, as well as the ANU and NSW Government shows that this innovation is taking place at a large scale,” Phil Cohn said.

“Two years ago an early version of this project was developed with Zeppelin Bend at an A-Lab workshop.

“Since then the project has taken many twists and turns, but the ideas generated in that forum have evolved into something of real significance,” he said.

Looking to the challenges coming down the line, Bill Tarlinton suggests that the rise of electric cars could stretch the network to the limit.

“When you consider that some of the highest loads we get now are summer nights when we’ve got high air conditioning loads and that’s when people will be plugging their cars in, that presents a challenge for the networks,” Tarlinton said.

“If 10 or 20 or 30 per cent of people start driving them into their garage each night and plugging them in, that’s a significant amount of load being added to the network with no augmentation.”

But he also points out that EVs could also plug into the network and act as generators, feeding energy back and reducing load.

“The patterns of consumption that the networks have been designed around for 50 or 60 years will suddenly change, so unless you have some way of normalising those consumption patterns back to what the networks were designed to host, you’re going to have problems.

“That’s really what our project is about, attempting to put in place all the mechanisms that allow the consumption and generations patterns to work within the capacities of the network.

“That’s quite a complex problem”

 

$9.6 million to support distributed energy revolution

The announcement includes $7.21 million for five projects that trial new ways to maximise the amount of distributed energy that the network can accommodate, while maintaining the stability of the system.

A further $2.38 million has been allocated to seven studies that will investigate how high penetrations of distributed energy can be successfully integrated into the energy market and grid.

With the highest number of rooftop solar installations per capita – at two million households and counting – Australia is already pioneering ways to integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into a grid designed last century for large centralised power stations.

Distributors and the market are working hard to accommodate the rise of behind the meter assets and make sure the transition delivers an electricity network that is more stable and affordable.

And even as world leaders for rooftop solar uptake, Australia’s transition has barely begun. Challenges are set to grow sharply as more rooftop solar and batteries are installed, electric vehicles become more popular and new technologies like smart appliances hit the mainstream.

One of the five projects to receive funding will trial software on the NSW grid that acts as a ‘traffic controller’, with the ability to remotely increase or decrease the output from customer owned assets to manage grid congestion. Led by Zeppelin Bend and also receiving funding from the NSW Government, the evolve project aims to show a way forward that allows more customers to connect solar and storage to the distribution network.

Today electricity distributors have few tools available to manage high concentrations of rooftop solar. Rather than restrict new connections, or invest in costly infrastructure, the project could unlock a way for distributors to coordinate individual household systems and ‘evolve’ with the changing mix of renewables and DER.

The collaboration between academia, industry and government will work with all three the NSW electricity network businesses.

The RACV have also received funding to develop a prototype smart hot water system, which could be aggregated into a centrally controlled fleet. Showing the potential of smart appliances, the system will use energy usage predictions and weather forecasts to optimise the the use of excess solar power to heat water.

Not only would using solar on site improve the value of electricity generated, limiting the flow of excess energy back into the grid could allow more households to connect while also improving the stability of the network.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said rooftop solar, batteries and other customer-related energy technologies will shape the energy system of the future.

“We are looking at how we can make the most of of the growth in distributed energy resources as consumer choice expands and changes the way we generate and use energy,” Mr Miller said.

The success of rooftop solar is a sign of things to come. Today there are more than two million solar rooftops nationwide, up from just 14,000 systems a decade ago.

“It is projected that up to half of all electricity could be generated by consumers within the next few decades, up from around 4% today,” he said.

Amongst the studies to receive funding, researchers from the Australian National University will explore how community energy projects can reduce costs for consumers, while also growing the amount of renewable energy and storage that can be installed. The $1.37 million study aims to promote more community energy projects – both here in Australia and around the world.

The project will develop software that can examine the value of the different models of community energy projects that have been rolled out to date. These tools will be used to develop tariff structures that encourage individual households to participate in collective schemes, and also guide the most effective use of distributed energy generation and storage.

“This is a huge change and will require innovations in software, hardware and thinking to achieve the best outcome for consumers,” Mr Miller said.

The new announced funding round will build on other work ARENA is undertaking in the DER space. Last year ARENA announced the Distributed Energy Integration Program – an initiative bringing together energy peak bodies, market authorities, industry associations and consumer associations to enhance the potential of consumer owned energy resources.

Read more about the successful projects here.

$9.6 million to support consumer energy revolution

The announcement includes $7.21 million for five projects that trial new ways to maximise the amount of distributed energy that the network can accommodate, while maintaining the stability of the system.

A further $2.38 million has been allocated to seven studies that will investigate how high penetrations of distributed energy can be successfully integrated into the energy market and grid.

With the highest number of rooftop solar installations per capita – at two million households and counting – Australia is already pioneering ways to integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into a grid designed last century for large centralised power stations.

Distributors and the market are working hard to accommodate the rise of behind-the-meter assets and make sure the transition delivers an electricity network that is more stable and affordable.

Even as world leaders for rooftop solar uptake, Australia’s transition has barely begun. Challenges are set to grow sharply as more rooftop solar and batteries are installed, electric vehicles become more popular and new technologies like smart appliances start hitting the mainstream.

One of the five projects to receive funding will trial software on the NSW electricity grid that acts as a ‘traffic controller’, with the ability to remotely increase or decrease the output from customer owned assets to manage grid congestion.

Led by Zeppelin Bend and also receiving funding from the NSW Government, the evolve project has received $4.29 million from ARENA to show a way forward that allows more customers to connect solar and storage to the distribution network.

Today electricity distributors have few tools available to manage high concentrations of rooftop solar. Rather than restrict new connections, or invest in costly infrastructure, the project could unlock a way for distributors to coordinate individual household systems and ‘evolve’ with the changing mix of renewables and DER.

Jemena are trialling three technologies to address these challenges. Installed in two areas where high levels of solar uptake are stretching the network, the project aims to develop tools to orchestrate the customer owned assets to preserve the stability and reliability of the system, while allowing more distributed resources to connect. The project has received $1.12 million from ARENA.

The RACV have received $273,000 in funding towards their $608,000 project to develop a prototype smart hot water system that can be aggregated into a centrally controlled network. Showing the potential of smart appliances, the system will use energy usage predictions and weather forecasts to optimise the the use of excess solar power to heat water.

Not only would using solar on site improve the value of electricity generated, limiting the flow of excess energy back into the grid could allow more households to connect while also improving the stability of the network.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said rooftop solar, batteries and other customer-related energy technologies will shape the energy system of the future.

“We are looking at how we can make the most of of the growth in distributed energy resources as consumer choice expands and changes the way we generate and use energy,” Mr Miller said.

The success of rooftop solar is a sign of things to come. Today there are more than two million solar rooftops nationwide, up from just 14,000 systems a decade ago.

“It is projected that up to half of all electricity could be generated by consumers within the next few decades, up from around 4% today,” he said.

Amongst the studies to receive funding, researchers from the Australian National University will explore how community energy projects can reduce costs for consumers, while also growing the amount of renewable energy and storage that can be installed. The $1.37 million study aims to promote more community energy projects – both here in Australia and around the world.

The project will develop software that can examine the value of the different models of community energy projects that have been rolled out to date. These tools will be used to develop tariff structures that encourage individual households to participate in collective schemes, and also guide the most effective use of distributed energy generation and storage.

“This is a huge change and will require innovations in software, hardware and thinking to achieve the best outcome for consumers,” Mr Miller said.

The new announced funding round will build on other work ARENA is undertaking in the consumer energy space. Last year ARENA announced the Distributed Energy Integration Project (DEIP) – an initiative bringing together energy peak bodies, market authorities, industry associations and consumer associations to enhance the potential of consumer owned energy resources.

Read more about the successful projects here.

evolve DER Project

Distributed energy projects awarded nearly $10 million

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today awarded $9.6 million in funding to 12 projects and studies to further integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into the electricity system.

ARENA is providing $7.21 million to five pilot projects led by Zeppelin Bend, Jemena, SA Power Networks, Solar Analytics and RACV. Each project will trial novel approaches to increasing network hosting capacity with the objective of allowing the system to operate securely whilst maximising the ability of distributed energy, such as solar PV, to provide energy to the grid.

A further $2.38 million has also been allocated to seven studies led by CitiPower & Powercor, Dynamic Limits, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, Oakley Greenwood, the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne. The studies will investigate how to successfully integrate high penetrations of DER into the grid and into the energy market.

DER encompasses behind-the-meter technologies such as rooftop solar, home batteries, inverters, controllable loads both in homes and commercial and industrial facilities, electric vehicle charging points, smart appliances and systems (such as fridges, air conditioning systems, hot water heaters and pool pumps) as well as relevant enablers such as smart meters and data services.

Among the five projects funded is the Evolve project led by Zeppelin Bend, funded with the NSW Government, which will see software trialled on the NSW grid that will act as a traffic controller able to send signals to DER assets to increase or decrease their energy output to manage grid congestion.

The seven studies include an ANU study on community energy models and a CSIRO study to prepare a model of the low voltage grid for public use.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said these 12 projects and studies will help to maximise the potential benefits of DER technologies owned by households and businesses.

“Rooftop solar, batteries and other customer-related energy technologies are set to play a key role in shaping the future energy system. It is projected that up to half of all electricity could be generated by consumers within the next few decades, up from around 4% today. This is a huge change and will require innovations in software, hardware and thinking to achieve the best outcome for consumers,” he said.

“ARENA is extremely excited to be funding some of the best experts in the energy sector to build network hosting capacity technology and further understand the impacts of DER and to identify, and ultimately solve, the technical limits of our electricity grid,” Mr Miller said.

The funding initiative complements work that ARENA is already undertaking in the DER space, including the announcement last year of the Distributed Energy Integration Program (DEIP); an initiative that has the energy industry working together to enhance the potential of consumer owned energy resources. DEIP is a collaboration of energy peak bodies, market authorities, industry associations and consumer associations.

“We are looking at how we can make the most of of the growth in distributed energy resources as consumer choice expands and changes the way we generate and use energy,” Mr Miller said.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 152KB)

Projects

Zeppelin Bend Pty Ltd

The project includes the augmentation and extension of multiple software systems in order to calculate and publish the operating envelopes and constraints that apply to individual or aggregated DER operating within the network. The project will be delivered across network businesses (Ausgrid, Essential and Endeavour Energy) integrating with multiple Virtual Power Plant operators.
Funding: $4.29 million
Location: New South Wales

Jemena Electricity Networks (VIC) Ltd

The project will demonstrate the use of dynamic phase switching, dynamic power compensation and grid-side battery storage technologies at two sites on Jemena and AusNet Services distribution networks, to increase DER hosting capacity.
Funding: $1.12 million
Location: Victoria

SA Power Networks

The project will co-design and implement an Application Programming Interface (API) to exchange real-time and locational data on distribution network constraints between SA Power Networks and the Virtual Power Plant being rolled out in SA by Tesla. The interface aims to allow the raising of the 5 kW export limit applied to solar households by SA Power Networks.
Funding: $1.03 million
Location: South Australia

Solar Analytics

Solar Analytics will work with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Wattwatchers to develop automated data acquisition and delivery of solar PV generation and load data when a system disturbance event occurs. The outcome is focused on voltage disturbance monitoring and simulations.
Funding: $491,725
Location: NEM-wide

RACV

The project is developing a smart electric Hot Water System prototype which allows real-time variable control of energy stored. The system integrates into a Home Energy Management System which can manage excess solar PV generation.
Funding: $272,998
Location: Victoria

TOTAL: $7.21 million

 

Studies

CitiPower and Powercor

The study will develop a replicable methodology for modelling options for increasing DER hosting capacity on distributed networks and addressing the costs and benefits of these, with a particular focus on the Powercor distribution network.
Funding: $164,402
Location: Victoria

Dynamic Limits Pty Ltd

A detailed feasibility study for a project to demonstrate the application of dynamic DER export and import limits at two sites on Essential Energy’s distribution network, with the potential to increase the capacity of distribution networks to host DER.
Funding: $292,213
Location: New South Wales & South Australia

University of Tasmania

The study will develop software technology for optimal scheduling of DER for provision of power system frequency stability services at least cost, within the constraints of distribution networks.
Funding: $527,582
Location: Tasmania

CSIRO

Working with 10 network providers to identify a concise set (taxonomy) of low voltage network feeder types and associated models, with the aim of facilitating consistent and effective DER hosting capacity analysis by networks, researchers and other stakeholders. This study will produce low voltage power system models for public use.
Funding: $485,025
Location: National

Oakley Greenwood Pty Ltd

The study will analyse the regulatory and economic environment for DER in the NEM and internationally, with the aim of determining the optimal way to value and provide price signals for the services that DER can provide within the network and at customer sites. The study will develop an approach to facilitating the implementation of the most efficient pricing signals and market integration approaches.
Funding: $207,000
Location: NEM-wide

Australian National University

The study comprises of an analysis of community energy models, where distributed generation, storage and load are not co-located behind a single meter. It will build upon existing work and explore technical, economic, social and regulatory issues of community energy models in order to demonstrate how they can aid issues of energy quality, support DER penetration and simplify DER implementation.
Funding: $498,650
Location: ACT

University of Melbourne

The study will develop network models from AusNet’s distribution network, identifying PV hosting capacity limits using network and smart metering data. It will also produce planning recommendations and develop analytical techniques to assess network hosting capacity of solar PV on alternative feeder types.
Funding: $203,867
Location: Victoria

TOTAL: $2.38 million

Smart Hot Water System – Distributed Energy Resources Project

Optimal DER Scheduling for Frequency Stability Study

Distributed Energy Resources Hosting Capacity Study

National Low-Voltage Feeder Taxonomy Study