An AGL Energy trial that allows Adelaide households to share their rooftop solar power with friends and relations – rather than sell it back to the grid – is set to be expanded, as the gen-tailer continues to mine its growing fleet of behind the meter resources like solar and battery storage.
The head of AGL’s New Energy division, Elisabeth Brinton, said a 20-customer peer-to-peer trading trial had kicked off in July this year in Adelaide, in an effort to explore the value – both to customers and to the utility – of excess distributed solar generation.
In Melbourne, the gen-tailer is piloting a similar program – using a mix of rooftop solar, batteries and “smart” air conditioning – to discover where the value is in energy sharing and, more specifically, how blockchain technology can be used in the process.
Brinton says the Adelaide trial was also about testing the value to customers of sharing solar energy for financial and social gain by connecting them with their peers, making efficient use of their solar and batteries, and contributing to the decarbonisation of their community.
The trial uses a prototype web application which enables customers to set their trading goals and connections, and to understand their household energy usage and trading activity with peers.
It is also a way for the millions of Australians locked out of the rooftop solar market – because they rent or live in apartment buildings, for example – to gain access to the same advantages their friends and neighbours can enjoy.
“As more of our customers install solar and batteries, they are playing an increasingly important role in the electricity system, and we are finding new ways to enable them to actively participate in that system and engage with each other and their community,” Brinton said in a statement on Monday.
“Under the right conditions, a buyer could get energy at a lower price than from the grid, while a generator could sell excess energy at a higher price than the solar feed-in tariff,” she said.
“In the coming months, we will expand the scope of the peer-to-peer pilot to more customers to test a new range of exciting features in the prototype app.”
For one participant in the original trial, Adelaide resident Christine Odgers, the app has allowed her to share with relatives the more than 50 per cent of excess solar energy produced each day by her 3kW rooftop PV system.
“My motivation was to support family members who don’t have solar panels by sharing energy with them and helping them offset their power bills,” she said.
“I strongly recommend it to others. The more these programs are spread throughout the community, the more we can rely on local consumption of green power. It’s a very satisfying thing to do.”
The good news for consumers is that there is an increasing number of these sort of trials going on in the Australian market.
Among them is a a pilot project with Perth-based blockchain energy market provider, Power Ledger, that was launched by another big gen-tailer, Origin Energy, in September.
The three-month technical trial will use “anonymised and historical” data from Origin customers to explore the benefits and challenges of peer-to-peer energy trading across the regulated network.
In particular, the trial aims to prove the accuracy and security of an energy trading platform based on “cryptocurrency.”
This is a specialty of Power Ledger, whose P2P solar trading platform was launched at the White Gum Valley housing development in Fremantle last year, allowing residents to trade rooftop solar energy with one another, without the addition of market costs and commercial margins.
Results of another WA trial, involving 10 households and about 20 people at the Busselton Lifestyle Village, on the Western Power network, is said to have showed that households could save $A600 a year on their electricity bills using Power Ledger’s peer-to-peer trading.
Another cutting edge program, which is being conducted in collaboration with a broad range of energy market players, is GreenSync’s deX: an open decentralised energy exchange where energy capacity can be transacted between businesses, households, communities and utilities.