Ausgrid completes VPP trial, plans to do more as it heads to digital future

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Ausgrid looks it expand virtual power plant after succesful first trial, embracing AEMC’s vision of a digital future for energy.

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Electricity network company Ausgrid says has successfully completed a trial of its virtual power plant platform and intends to roll-out the technology into more parts of the company’s network and to more customers.

Ausgrid had partnered with Australian VPP provider Reposit to trial a 1MW project across more than 230 customers located across Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter region. The project allowed for the coordination of household battery storage systems to help meet grid demand when it was needed most.

Using the Reposit platform, Ausgrid was able to send dispatch signals to hundreds of residential battery storage systems, allowing for additional electricity supplies to be added to the grid, with owners paid for the electricity exported.

By aggregating and coordinating many otherwise small systems together, the virtual power plant was able to provide a comparatively substantial response for the energy market during periods of tight supply. Under the trial, around 230 systems were combined to provide up to 1 MW of additional capacity.

After reporting the success of the trial, Ausgrid is now actively considering the expansion of the virtual power plant.

“This is a ground-breaking program for Ausgrid and not only helps customers, it helps the grid. This trial has proven at times of high demand we can call on our VPP to provide additional supply and reduce demand,” Ausgrid chief customer officer Rob Amphlett Lewis said.

“By partnering with Reposit Power and our customers we’ve been able to give customers more choice about how they share their excess electricity and give them a better return on their investment.”

Across the four-month Power2U trial, customers were paid an average of $30, with each customer participating in an average of seven dispatch events.

“By collaborating with our customers and industry partners we were able to deliver financial savings and unlock previously unexplored options for sharing energy,” Amphlett Lewis added.

“In the long term this technology could provide a lower cost alternative to grid investment, which would result in lower bills for all our customers.”

Canberra-based Reposit Power has developed a combined hardware and software solution that supports the coordination of residential battery storage systems as part of a larger virtual power station.

“We are delighted this trial has shown the enormous value of our clean, flexible and cost effective VPPs to individual households as well as the wider community,” Reposit co-founder and CEO Dean Spaccavento said.

“This technology is now empowering consumers and communities to make the best choice on how they share their energy.”

Following the success of the trial, Ausgrid is investigating plans to expand the virtual power plant to more customers across more parts of its network, including the introduction of additional technology providers.

Last week, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) released an information paper that it hopes will help energy companies to begin preparing for a ‘digital disruption’ to the energy sector, with the energy sector rapidly transforming into a two-way market where consumers are gaining more control and influence over how their electricity is used and generated.

Ausgrid sees the emergence of VPP platforms as playing a key part of this transformation.

“In the age of disruption where sharing technology is changing how we operate – we see Ausgrid as being to energy what the internet is to global tech giants like Amazon and Google,” Amphlett Lewis said.

“We are the caretaker of a shared asset that, just like the internet, holds the key to unlocking greater competition in the energy sector.”

The South Australian government is currently building its own virtual power plant, which has already served an important role in maintaining reliable supply to customers when supplies have been interrupted elsewhere in the electricity grid.

The South Australian government has ambitions to grow the VPP to as many as 50,000 interconnected battery systems, providing as much as 250MW of dispatchable energy supply.

The ACT government likewise has its own, albeit smaller, plans to support the deployment of up to 5,000 residential battery systems, providing the territory with up to 36MW of dispatchable storage capacity.

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