Victorian households applying for the state government’s home battery rebate now have the option to get a bigger discount on their storage system, in return for signing up to participate in the upcoming virtual power plant pilot.
Solar Victoria, which runs the government’s Solar Homes program and will also oversee the pilot VPP, said this week that a total of 2,000 rebates of $4,174 – a $600-plus premium on the $3,500 rebate currently available – were being offered to eligible applicants willing to take part in the trial.
Households that signed up to the pilot before June 30 this year would then have the option to choose between four approved VPP providers – Reposit, Sonnen, QCells and Mondo – depending on which offering best suited each household’s particular needs.
The Andrews government flagged two years ago its plans to establish virtual power plants made up of the state’s growing number of home solar and battery storage systems, the uptake of which has been driven by its Solar Homes rebate scheme.
In a notice to market, published in April 2020, Solar Victoria said it would begin encouraging the aggregation of batteries funded under the scheme to broaden the reach of the benefits of distributed solar storage.
As the notice explained, when enough solar homes – and even non-solar homes – have batteries, they can aggregate them using smart technology to create a significant electricity market resource that makes the most of the ability to store abundant and often unused daytime rooftop solar.
“When demand for electricity is high this extra power can be fed into the VPP network, taking the stress off at peak times to create a more reliable network,” a Solar Vic VPP explainer says.
“So, you and your community can benefit from fewer disruptions, more stable services and, ultimately, cheaper power.”
It’s a fairly straight-forward concept, and one that is being trialled and rolled out on grids around the world – in Australia there are a number of VPPs already well established, including in South Australia, where Tesla has been working with the state government for years to build what it says is the world’s largest VPP.
The not-so straight forward part, perhaps, is getting customers to opt in. In Australia, in particular, investment in rooftop solar and battery storage has been driven by a desire for energy autonomy, making households reluctant to hand any of that power back to retailers or other market players.
Hence the added incentive of a bigger rebate being offered by Solar Victoria. Of course, there are further benefits to be gained from taking part in the VPP, beyond a cheaper battery and the warm glow of being a part of a smarter and more reliable grid.
As Solar Victoria details, each approved VPP program offers different incentives, such as reduced energy bills or regular compensation for taking part. Applicants are encouraged to do their research and work out which offer is their best fit.
“In a first for Victoria, we’re offering an innovative new opportunity for households to contribute to powering our clean energy future,” said state energy minster Lily D’Ambrosio in a statement on Wednesday.
“Victorians have overwhelmingly embraced solar. Virtual power plants are designed to capture and use the clean energy our growing network of solar homes are producing.”
“The Virtual Power Plant pilot program will connect Victorian households, so that they can create and share power, save money on energy bills and increase the resilience of the grid, together.”
In terms of eligibility, applicants to the VPP-connected batter rebate should own an existing home, have a rooftop solar system of 5kW or more, and the household’s annual income would need to fall under the existing $180,000 threshold that already applies across the Solar Homes program.
A range of other measures must also be met, and each different VPP provider also has some of its own eligibility requirements that would need to be met. To learn how to apply for the Victorian VPP pilot, click here.