A Melbourne-based, industry-leading effort to harness and manage Australia’s booming behind-the-meter energy resource has begun in earnest this week, with GreenSync’s Decentralised Energy Exchange, or deX, officially opening for business.
The deX, as outlined at its public launch just over a year ago, is a an open exchange where energy capacity from distributed resources like rooftop solar and battery storage can be traded between businesses, households, communities and utilities.
GreenSync said on Thursday that the exchange was now open for participants to register, allowing them to “plug in” to the platform, while the Melbourne-based start-up worked to maximise its hosting capacity “without breaking anything.”
The milestone marks one of the first steps for the incredibly complex, potentially game-changing solution to one of the biggest challenges facing Australia’s rapidly evolving National Electricity Network: the rise and rise of the energy prosumer.
That is, the millions and counting of Australian households and businesses that – buoyed by increasingly cheap and easy to use technology – are investing in rooftop solar, battery storage and other stuff that puts them in charge of at least some of their energy load.
Rooftop solar, alone – which last month passed the 7.5GW milestone – has been the source of much industry hand-wringing, amid breathless media reports that Australia’s love of PV could bring the grid undone.
But as GreenSync founder and CEO Phil Blythe points out – futile as it would be to try to stem the tide of renewables in Australia – this does not need to be a problem.
“There has been a lot of negative media coverage about the impending crisis posed by the proliferation of solar and other DER on the grid,” he said in comments on Thursday.
“But instead of launching into discussions about curtailment and the rollback of subsidies, we should be looking for ways to better manage its continued growth.
“deX ensures consumer benefit by growing the grid’s renewable hosting capacity whilst managing reliability, which is better for everyone.”
As the media pack explains, deX Connect does this by giving distributed energy resources (DER) access to open markets via a single (fleet-wide) integration via their technology provider.
All told, deX will represent more than 70 per cent of Australia’s solar and storage inverter market with eight new partners including Wattwatchers, Enphase Energy, Sungrow, SwitchDin, Blue Pillar, Fronius, Goodwe and Solar Analytics joining the platform – Tesla was already long-since signed up.
This integration connects millions of DER, says GreenSync, including virtual power plants, inverters, battery storage systems, monitoring solutions and other ‘behind the meter’ products, enabling tradable energy services and expanding the reach of existing VPPs.
All this explains why the deX has had the attention of the vast majority of Australia’s major energy market players – from the gen-tailers to the market operator AEMO – since well before its official launch in September 2017.
As Blythe told RE, the deX has about 85 different industry partners, working on different technology trials and pilots, including the majority of utilities, retailers and network operators.
But there’s work to be done, yet, before the deX is truly up and running.
“The first release is the exchange platform,” Blythe told RenewEconomyin an interview on Wednesday.
“We want to address the invisibility and reliability on the grid of solar panels, inverters, battery storage systems, load control devices, so that they’re effectively visible in a way that is not going to push the system outside of its safe operation limits,” he said.
To that end, GreenSync also unveiled deX Vision on Thursday, which it describes as “a portal into the exchange” giving networks and system operators an overview of the location, performance and operational status of distributed energy resources, and an understanding of the impact of those resources’ in the network.
It has also officially launched the Green Room – a collaboration space at its new office in La Trobe St, Melbourne, that is reserved for bringing in industry partners collaborate on joint projects around the deX.
This week’s happenings also introduce the first integration partners for deX Vision – Schneider Electric and Indra – who will be providing a bridge to distribution network management systems.
And then – because it’s not just about making behind-the-meter resources NEM friendly – there comes the part where households and businesses get more value from their assets, by being rewarded for adding to overall grid system reliability.
Although that part will have to wait until the physics of the deX are all sorted.
GreenSync says Australian households, starting with NEM customers (so, excluding WA and the NT) will have the option to trade their energy on deX from Q1/2019. Customers with the Wholesale Electricity Market, Western Australia (WEM) will follow, from Q2/2019.
And once the deX is made available Australia-wide, Greensync says it will be progressively launched in the United Kingdom (Q3/2019), Japan (Q4/2019) and the United States (early 2020), via the company’s partners.
“By helping to manage DER and providing the digital infrastructure that will facilitate trading of DER in an open marketplace, deX creates the conditions required to enable a future powered in the vast majority by renewables,” Blythe said on Thursday.
“The politics of the (energy) industry at the moment are certainly challenging,” he added, in comments to RE.
“But those deep in industry understand what the issues are and are getting on with solving them.
“We’re an operational entity, we have to deal with this, we still have to operationally make the system work.
“How do we solve the physics problem? The rest of the dynamics is not going to change the physics.
“What we need is a sensible plan for he coordination and management of distributed renewable resources so that we can continue to use them unabated and unpoliticised into the future.”
In the meantime, residential, commercial and industrial customers can participate in deX and technology vendors can join deX Connect for free by registering online.
Energy retailers and aggregators can participate in deX for an administrative fee; while distribution networks and market operators can get access via a subscription license.