Evoenergy to trial ACT virtual power plant, tapping customer solar, batteries and EVs

A trial of an online marketplace that will allow residential rooftop solar systems and other distributed energy assets to act as a virtual power plant in the Canberra electricity market has won the backing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

ACT network operator Evoenergy said on Thursday that it had received $2.05 million in funding from ARENA to research and test potential market platforms to support Canberra’s rapidly changing energy market.

Evoenergy said it would work alongside Schneider Electric, GreenSync, and Withywindle to explore how distributed energy resources (DER) – rooftop solar, home batteries, electric vehicles, and so on – affected the electricity network, and how they could be used to their full potential.

“Over the past 10 years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of distributed energy resources in our network which has changed the way energy flows between homes and businesses,” said Evoenergy acting general manager Fiona Wright.

“This project is exciting because it will give us a better understanding of how we can unlock the potential of distributed energy resources in an increasingly decentralised grid,” Wright said.

“We see a future where the role of the network changes to providing a more proactive and flexible platform based approach to balancing electricity demand and supply, rather than building more poles and wires which is the common solution in a traditional network.”

Essentially, the 18-moth trial will integrate Evoenergy’s existing operating systems with GreenSync’s Decentralised Energy Exchange (deX) platform and enrol DER assets into a simulated virtual power plant.

The deX will provide the key tools for the VPP – including the ability to contract DER services to manage network constraints, to deliver more benefits for customers from their behind-the-meter assets, and export more energy at times of low network congestion.

Schneider Electric will bring its energy management and automation expertise to the trial, while Withywindle is taking part as the knowledge sharing partner.

“With Canberra’s ambitious renewable energy targets driving the uptake of solar and electric vehicles, this is an ideal network environment … to demonstrate the growing capabilities of smart energy technology where customer-owned energy resources can be part of a network solution,” said GreenSync CEO Phil Blythe.

“Evoenergy’s trial will help to maximise the amount of distributed energy that the network can accommodate, while maintaining the stability of the system,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller in a separate statement on Thursday.

“This project will utilise two leading industry platforms to demonstrate a coordinated approach to DER management.”

Schneider Electric vice president Simon Mouat said the management of DER would be “a critical part” of Australia’s future energy system.

“As a global business we are excited to work with Evoenergy in one of the most advanced electricity networks in Australia to define the optimal management of DER and maximise the network’s performance,” Mouat said.

Trials and simulations of virtual power plants that tap Australia’s vast rooftop solar resource – and its growing number of battery storage systems and electric vehicles – are cropping up around Australia, as market players wrap their minds around the changing shape of the Australian grid.

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