United Energy taps solar, storage, software to defer network upgrade

Melbourne-based start-up GreenSync has revealed it will be working with Victorian utility United Energy to deliver a landmark, community-based demand response and energy storage project on the Mornington Peninsula that will defer the need for costly network upgrades in the popular tourist area.
GreenSync, whose sophisticated distributed energy management platform won it a finals berth in last year’s Australian Technologies Competition, says the five-year project will engage and incentivise households, businesses and community groups from Rosebud to Portsea to reduce and/or shift their electricity usage.
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According to GreenSync managing director Phil Blythe, the technologies used in the project will cover everything from solar PV systems to battery storage and controlled load management, mostly of air-conditioning units, which residents, businesses and tourists switch on by the tens of thousands during the Peninsula’s hot summers.
GreenSync will also engage local utilities and other larger commercial and industrial operations to control their discretionary loads.
Blythe says his company’s technology competed against both the network solution and other non-network solution providers to win the public tender for the job – an illustration, he says, that it is now commercial to deploy distributed energy resources rather than build out new grid infrastructure.
What’s more, increasingly engaged customers have an expectation that network businesses will make prudent investment decisions that will benefit everyone and keep bills down.
“This is an instance where the community has challenged the utility to find a cheaper alternative than poles and wires,” Blythe told One Step Off The Grid on Thursday.
United Energy, who Blyth describes as “a progressive utility” has embraced that challenge.
“An important driver of our current and future strategy is the ability to leverage advanced technologies,” said United Energy CEO Tony Narvaez in a statement on Tuesday.
“The GreenSync solution will allow us to work collaboratively with our customers to continue to deliver a safe, reliable and cost-effective energy supply. Our partnership with GreenSync is another sign of our evolution from a traditional network distribution into an enabler of an innovative energy future,” Narvaez said.
“These sort of projects, where asset deferrals are happening …there are only a handful of projects in the world doing this,” Blythe told One Step.
“This is a watershed (moment) as this entire market starts to shift away from infrastructure towards distributed energy.”
The Mornington Peninsula Community Grids project will kick off this summer with a small-scale trial and then roll-out in full starting late 2018, GreenSync said.

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