Ausgrid seeks thousands of homes to take part in expanded virtual power plant
New South Wales electricity network company Ausgrid has launched the second phase of its household battery-based virtual power plant, bringing two new project partners on board – ShineHub and Evergen.
The new phase of the VPP scheme follows up on the success of an initial trial which ran for four months in 2019 and established a VPP of 1MW in capacity from 270 customers across 170 suburbs in Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter region.
The aim of the Ausgrid program – one of several VPPs being trialled around the country – is to establish whether specialised aggregators of behind-the-meter energy storage can provide a commercially and technically viable demand management service to the grid, while also offering customers an additional income from their home batteries.
The results of the first phase of the trial, which was conducted with Reposit Power acting as the aggregator, were pronounced “very encouraging” in a report published by Ausgrid in November last year.
The more than 200 Reposit customers involved in the trial provided a combined solar storage capacity of 2.4MWh and, more importantly, an aggregated dispatch power capacity of 1MW.
That sort of dispatchable capacity is expected to be particularly useful to networks in the evening peak, when rooftop solar systems stop generating at that same time as household demand kicks in.
Customers were happy with the result of the trial too, with Ausgrid estimating that participating households earned up to $200 for the year for participating in the VPP, on top of already significant bill savings from generating and storing their own power.
“The results suggest that residential battery systems without VPP control … typically reduce grid electricity demand during evening peak periods, suggesting that the wider rollout of residential batteries will have a positive benefit on the network,” the Ausgrid report said.
“Results highlight the significant potential for the orchestration of residential batteries to support Ausgrid’s network needs, above and beyond typical ‘business as usual’ operation, suggesting that VPPs can offer both a cost-effective source of demand reductions for Ausgrid and additional income for customers.”
For the second part of the trial, Ausgrid has signed up two more “aggregators,” ShineHub and Evergen, and expects to sign hundreds – perhaps even thousands – more households up to the scheme.
“The VPP allows households to collect solar energy, store it safely locally and then feed it into the network when required during peak demand,” said Ausgrid chief customer officer, Rob Amphlett Lewis in comments last week.
“(It gives participating households) more control over how they use their energy. Not only will they personally reap the benefits of their solar and battery system, they can also support the wider energy network and earn money for doing it.”
On top of earning customers money, it also works to share excess clean power with those who need it, Amphlett Lewis added. “It’s going to help the environment and lower power bills.”
The money earned by households participating in VPPs could also serve to boost home battery uptake, by improving the return on investment for home storage, which remains a good deal behind solar panels in terms of ROI.
ShineHub – which has been active in the Australian market for years working to find solutions to issues of energy poverty and inequitable access to rooftop solar – says the Ausgrid VPP offers an exciting solution to community power saving.
“Power-saving technology is improving all the time and the VPP means when the network is screaming for more energy, hundreds of residential batteries start feeding power back into the grid,” said ShineHub co-founder and CEO Alex Georgiou.
Shinehub is also participating in major VPP trials in South Australia, of which there are now seven that have been established off the back of the state government’s highly successful home battery subsidy scheme, which has facilitated the uptake of more than 12,000 discounted home batteries in that state.
In its latest notice to market, the government body in charge of the state’s generous rooftop PV and battery rebate, Solar Victoria, said it would begin encouraging the aggregation of batteries funded under the Solar Homes Program to broaden the reach of the benefits of battery storage.
As it stands, Victoria’s solar battery rebate currently offers a rebate of $4,838 on a range of CEC approved battery systems for households in more than 250 postcodes across the state.