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$9.6 million to support consumer energy revolution

To support the transition to an electricity network that is increasingly powered by small-scale energy assets, ARENA has announced $9.6 million in funding for 12 new projects and studies.

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 |

Download this media release (PDF 152KB)


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


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



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


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

Dynamic Limits DER Feasibility Study

Enhanced reliability through short time resolution data around voltage disturbances

Advanced Planning of PV-Rich Distribution Networks Study