AGL to pilot "virtual" rooftop solar scheme for renters, apartments

Just three months after taking its Virtual Power Plant trial live in South Australia, AGL Energy has flagged the roll-out of another pilot scheme that it says will offer “virtual” rooftop solar to customers who rent, live in apartments or otherwise cannot install PV panels at their homes or businesses.

Speaking at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, AGL chief Andy Vesey said the scheme was “almost a take on community solar”, by bringing the technology to the increasing portion of Australian households who wanted it, but could not access it.
The sneak peak at the new pilot coincides with the gen-tailer’s announcement on Wednesday that it is increasing its solar feed-in tariffs – in line with soaring retail power costs – by between 77 and 140 per cent across the NEM states.
The increases will see FiT rates rise to just over 11c/kWh in New South Wales and Victoria (Victoria’s increased FiT rate was already mandated by the ESC), to 10.6c/kWh in Queensland, and to 16.3c/kWh in South Australia.
“We estimate the increases in feed-in tariffs could be worth up to $332 per year in extra savings for some customers, depending on which state they live in and the amount of solar energy they generate and export to the grid,” AGL’s general manager of sales ans marketing, Sandra de Castro, said.
“We also know consumers are wanting and expecting greater control and visibility of their energy usage and management and this too is driving solar PV uptake.”
Indeed, the increased FiTs will be welcomed by Australia’s solar households and those planning to install it, but – as Vesey put to the conference in Melbourne – it’s not much use to those who have no viable roof.
“What we are basically doing is we will build dedicated solar facilities and to customers who want to have that option, give them – as a discount on their bill – the equivalent supply (to a rooftop system) from that solar,” he said.
“And when they don’t want it any more they can undo it. It’s a subscription.
“So everyone will have access to solar, whether they have a roof or not; the same benefit. What’s the benefit of a solar system? It’s price stability. It’s certainty.
“And in our pilot, which will be rolled out by the end of the year, that will look like a discount on the bill. And so your battery is the network.”
Vesey said that as well as meeting the needs of a broader range of the gen-tailer’s customers, the pilot would also help AGL build more large-scale solar capacity.
“It will build out solar plants, because customers want to have them,” he said.
In his time at the helm at AGL, Vesey has talked much about the company’s customer focus, particularly in making the new energy transition fair, and beneficial, for all.
He said that trials like the rooftop solar scheme announced this morning, and the VPP trial underway  in Adelaide, were about bringing customers “into the mix,” and giving them more control over their power consumption and costs.
The company is currently trialling a program that allows customers with analog meters to enter in their own meter read, and pay for their power to their own preferred schedule.
“The point is, you can enter your own number, and then, you can pay it, just by clicking on the app. It’s got great uptake.
“We’re hoping to get this out, but now it’s trialling we want to make sure it works.
“So giving people more information, and the ability to control their bills, that’s helpful in a rising price environment.”
Vesey said AGL would also be “simplifying” the format and content electricity bills, starting July 01 in NSW, South Australia, and Queensland – coinciding with the retail price hikes announced for those states – and in January in Victoria.
From those dates onward, Vesey told the conference, customers would get a simplified bill “with only two things on it: a usage charge rate and supply charge rate. Two numbers. So you can understand how you use energy and how you pay for it.”

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