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Households to use solar + storage to trade electricity with grid

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A Canberra-based company is to introduce new technology that it says could help turn electricity markets on their head – by allowing households to buy and sell electricity on the market.

The buying and selling of electricity has hitherto been the province of large or specialised companies such as electricity retailers. But Reposit Power says that homes and businesses can and should be able to trade electricity with the help of battery storage, and production facilities such as solar panels.

Reposit Power plans to install battery storage in six homes around Canberra to run a six-month pilot of its technology, known as GridCredits. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is contributing $445,000 to the $900,000 project.

Reposit Power says GridCredits is a world-first energy storage program that will put consumers in the driving seat and will “transform the grid forever.”

Spokesman Luke Osborne says the technology will allow households to “buy low and sell high” – adding a new layer of possibilities to homes that have solar and storage. He says this will enable some households to virtually eradicate their bills and still remain connected to the grid by doing what the retailers do – maximising their earnings on the market.

reposit power

“A lot of what retailers do is buying services from peaking power stations. Consumer with storage and solar panels can provide the same services themselves,” Osborne told RenewEconomy in an interview.

“What we are doing is when it makes sense – households can be a seller, and then buy electricity at a low price.”

Reposit Power is interested in using similar technology for wind farms and solar farms and for large businesses. “This is the alternative to going off-grid – households can be energy independent, at the same time as making the whole grid cleaner,” Osborne says.

“Networks should be a platform for trading and exchange of electricity, so tariffs should be structured to encourage this, not to prevent it, or that will accelerate the death spiral of the grids.

“This is about households being able to go head to head with the major companies.”

Reposit Power hopes to be able to broaden its rollout by mid next year, when this initial program is complete, and when it has convinced the Australian Energy Market Operator that households or businesses can be a “reliable source of power”, as AEMO requires.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the new technology would allow consumers to gain more value from their rooftop solar PV installations. He said that one in five houses now use solar power.

“This substantial rise has made it vital to find solutions to better manage how residential solar systems operate in our electricity grids,” Frischknecht said.

“Reposit’s GridCredits system can control and store solar energy. This gives consumers access to their own power overnight and at peak times, reducing their demand on the grid.

“It also allows energy to be sold back into the grid by placing bids into the market, turning residential properties into micro power plants.”

Frischknecht said that storage would help network operators manage demand more effectively by delivering stored power into the grid at peak times, and Reposit’s technology will also help smooth out the variable delivery of solar energy.

This in turn would allow more renewables to be connected to the grid.

Reposit Power was co-founded by energy industry veteran Dean Spaccavento and scientist Lachlan Blackhall. The company says the two “shared a vision for allowing consumers to trade their electricity while contributing to a safe and cost-effective grid.”  

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  • Andrew Thaler

    Someone seems to have forgotten how the grid system works. This sounds like a nice idea on paper, and now its got a shed load of ‘grant’ money to play with… but if Snowy Hydro isn’t buying cheap power and pumping water at night to release during the day to sell the ‘energy’ back at a higher price (minus losses) then who honestly reckons that households will turn a buck from it.
    In my (simple-minded opinion) this is a gimmick that scooped up a lot of grant money for some techies to have a play with. Money that should have been better spent on actually doing more productive things in the renewable development scene.
    Who doesn’t already know that off-peak power is cheap and peak power is expensive and that battery management can work with and between these two hard facts.
    Have your fun… I have real work to do.

    • Steve Gill

      I was under the impression that pumped hydro did make up a part of the snowy scheme. Correct me if I’m wrong

    • manicdee

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumut_Hydroelectric_Power_Station#Tumut_3_Power_Station

      Tumut Hydroelectric power station draws water from Talbingo Dam, which is pumped from Jounama Pondage. These facilities were completed in the early 1970s.

      The peak/offpeak prices you are paying as a consumer are vastly different to the high/low prices available through the day at wholesale rates. The local utility will sell you “off peak” at a higher price while absorbing some of the cost of the most expensive peak electricity.

      Even just trading electricity at wholesale prices, and taking into account the losses of storage and conversion, a small participant using a battery system at home should be able to make enough profit to reduce their own consumption costs to zero, and even cover the cost of the grid connection. In effect the home arbitrageur will be operating as a micro peaking plant.

      Then throw in some domestic generation (say, 3kW on a family home, another 3kW on a detached double garage), and you’ve pretty much set your self up with passive income for the life of the equipment. Will you be able to pay for replacement equipment as well as your own consumption over that time? That’s the only question I need answered 😀

  • john

    6 homes at 10kw solar would max at 200kwh power day at a rough guess on good days
    so if storage of 160 kwh this is a tiny amount of power.
    Taking 31-11-2013 for NSW
    Min price was 43.87 that is .0437c KwH
    Max price was

    • sean

      the real money is if you include the cost of distribution into the equation.

      we have artificially low prices because all of NSW is treated as if it were a pin point in a substation in western sydney.

      there are no generators there, and no consumers, but that is the market fiction.

      however if you were to make a subset of smaller markets within NSW (say every substation) you could watch the points of congestion increase in price, those with less use would stay low.

      If you had a house with 10KW 2km from the CBD your power is worth more than power generated some 200KM away on the central coast.

  • The company says the two “shared a vision for allowing consumers to trade their electricity while contributing to a safe and cost effective grid.”

    This is yet another innovation efficiency based on guaranteed ROI. Which is all well and good, however the probabilities are this will again become part of another divestment of community benefit.

    Where the largest entity will leverage power and wealth to gain exponential growth in yearly profit.

    What is needed is leadership providing a course and direction; where the smaller small/medium business with households willingly invest in energy generation are encouraged to integrate with the grid for the wider communities benefit.

    Not just a corporation handling of economic efficiencies of this 1960s innovation of photovoltaics. A group who never contribute to R&D in this arena, but just take a full measure of profit and give little back. A situation of poor CSR where profit leaves the circle of alternative energy generation by those relatively small suppliers of energy.

    By what line of logic would this not better serve as a real government initiative?

    Where social capital was generated in place of a pure profit model and put back into encouraging more smaller energy makers. After all this is largely an administrative business, which with data processing power is becoming increasingly easy to leverage with few people. ”

    As using automation makes the argument of the inefficient public servant redundant, so why shouldn’t the Australian Taxpayer and small energy producer and consumer benefit first?

  • Chris Fraser

    Fantastic Dean and Lachlan all the best ! … I can imagine that an ARENA-Reposit project investigating the notion of householders buying and selling energy – and not just large generators – went over at the AGL Boardroom like a f*rt in an elevator. But never mind, ENA will love it because it enhances users’ experience and dependence on the grid … we are saved.

  • sean

    This is brilliant and something i have been advocating for years.

    It is the only thing that will stop networks from being a stranded asset for most of the domestic network.

    The AEMO should extend the marketplace through not only the states, but each congestion point (transformer). Low use will incur a small fee, as the utilisation of each congestion point approaches 100%, the price rises exponentially.

    This will allow producers to extract the most value out of their production being close to consumption, limit over-utilisation of resources, and ensure that electricity is priced at sensible levels. Paying 50c/kwh is ridiculous when the wholesaler is getting paid 3c/kwh.

    • Chris Fraser

      Provides downward pressure on grid investment, uses more of what grid you already have.

  • coomadoug

    Where I see this idea as a huge winner is in a society that is moving to high density living. There is not the roof space for adequate solar. Large scale solar and wind generators will be the energy source and electric cars interconnected on the high rise residential complex will be the poles and wires to the residential consumer. Then there will be buying and selling across various avenues. Perhaps the car computer could manage the whole energy use of the home as we buy and sell.

    • Richard Werkhoven

      Well there is enough land/roof area for solar. I don’t think anyone is sugeesting a Solar PV only solution for power for the whole world. Wind, Concentrated solar etc. will clearly all be part of the solution as you suggest.

      Electric cars will be part of the storage solution. This has already been tested by Ausgrid/Energy Australia.

      Battery technology combined with Solar PV has been shown to be able to achieve a 14.9% peak load reduction in the Ausgrid trial. This was tested using flow batteries in home based units.

      The car computer is not always on the grid.

      The grid will have to manage the process of requirements/pricing. The home inverter/control systems can manage the buy/sell arrangements.

      There is a standard protocol for talking to electric cars to handle their use as storage systems. Some vehicles already on sale support this protocol. In fact I will be going aloing with a friend who has just ordered one to collect it from the dealer in a few days.

      This is way past theory now – it’s just a case of implementation and legislation.

  • Mark Roest

    Why does it cost $150,000 per home for storage? If it was priced at $300 per kWh capacity, that would be 500 kWh of storage per home! With that much money on the table, they should be able to put in LOTS of storage, plus LOTS of solar, and give a very healthy discount on it.

    • At $150,000 per home for storage I think it would be extremely unlikely that battery storage would be economical, even with economies of scale, and energy trading.

      • Mark Roest

        My point was that the pricing is inflated way above the current costs for batteries, and extremely so compared to what batteries will soon cost. Some auto manufacturers are already paying less than $300 per kWh of capacity. Tesla is expected to push their cost below $100 per kWh capacity. So the business practices of this company and / or its suppliers are in question, not the actual manufacturing cost of batteries.

    • manicdee

      The $150k per home is the cost of running the project. The cost of hardware is likely to be a very small portion of this (possibly $20k per house), the rest of the money will be for software development, hardware development, integration, testing and reporting. So really, the $900k project is salaries for a few staff and a pocket-fattener for whichever MBA got themselves the plum job of running the project 😉

      The outcome of the project will be a company that franchises their energy arbitrating business to people who buy an inverter+battery with their software. Their ongoing income is likely to come from licensing (fixed $/year for the software) or royalties (percentage of sales). But I’m only speculating here. The business study hasn’t even been finished.

      Once the business takes off, this looks like a good way of providing support to pensioners or low income households.

      • Mark Roest

        A careful balance of interests is needed. If the business model is actually distributed storage, responding where and when it’s most advantageous, then the high value of ancillary services allows, and morally requires, that you put in enough storage and solar to make the low income people essentially energy independent, and then top it off with whatever additional amount is needed for arbitrage purposes. I’d think that the consumer – producer would get a no net negative cash flow deal with low interest and ownership when paid off for the base part, and would not pay for the adder at all, but would share the revenues, because they are making the service to the grid possible. The real deal is to start out with energy efficiency retrofit (and building rehabilitation if needed), couple with solar energy and battery storage. Let’s demand that kind of treatment of customers for everyone.
        Tesla’s newly announced US price for home storage that is actively used is $427 USD per
        kWh for 7 kWh, liquid-cooled, and $350 USD per kWh for 10 kWh, for
        storage only used in emergencies.

  • Mark Potochnik

    Unless you are in wisconsin, they want you to buy at .18 and sell at .03
    Screw them when it becomes time, I’m going OFF GRID!