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Virtual Power Plant trial demonstrates the future of batteries in the ACT

By Chris Steel MLA - 4 December 2017 20

On 1 December, Tesla’s large-scale battery came online in South Australia. This has overshadowed an exciting development in Canberra where, over the past week, batteries in households across the ACT have fed their stored energy into the grid for the first time.

It is part of a trial ‘Virtual Power Plant’ by ActewAGL Distribution and company ‘Reposit Power’. During the event, Reposit-enabled batteries fed clean energy into the grid, and in return consumers were provided with a higher feed-in tariff.

This follows the motion I moved in the Legislative Assembly in October to encourage energy providers in the ACT to accommodate battery storage and make available the distributed battery power to the grid during times of peak demand.

Energy storage the key to a sustainable future. Photo: Supplied.

Battery storage is the key to a sustainable future. Photo: Supplied.

Solar panels have for a long time provided significant cost savings on electricity bills for Canberra households and businesses. More than 16,000 homes in Canberra, as well as every public school, have solar panels installed on their roofs. Adding a battery to a solar PV system can provide further savings for households, but now – thanks to this new development – can also allow energy providers to harness the stored energy and support the stability of the broader energy network.

The ACT is already a leader in the renewable energy sector. Following a successful pilot program in 2016, the ACT Government is investing $25 million for battery storage systems under the Next Generation Renewables program for Canberra households and businesses, making it one of the largest roll-outs of battery storage in the world.

This is timely because the National Electricity Market is undergoing the most significant transformation since its inception with the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid.

A recent report from the Australia Institute found that households will increasingly produce electricity for storage and sale, as the uptake of battery systems becomes more prevalent. When demand for electricity increases, the electricity grid can draw on stored household energy when it is needed, providing stability to the electricity market and supporting a stable transition to renewable energy.

The Virtual Power Plant trials allowed consumers to actively participate in the National Electricity Market for the first time, providing a premium on battery power of $1 per kWh compared with 11c currently provided under the solar feed-in tariff.

The Virtual Power Plant conducted by Reposit Power held two trials so far, lasting two hours on 24 November and 30 November.

Here’s what it looked like from the consumer end. The areas marked in the circles shows the battery discharging into the grid during the Virtual Power Plant event. Photo: Supplied.

Up until this point, batteries installed in homes only stored energy for use within the individual household, rather than feeding into the grid during times of peak demand.

Consumers with Reposit-enabled batteries received an invitation to be part of Australia’s largest Virtual Power Plant, earning GridCredits of $1 per kWh. This compares to the solar feed-in tariff which only offers 11 cents per kWh.

If GridCredits are provided on an ongoing basis, this has the potential to encourage the take up of battery storage systems, and allows people to pay off the initial costs of their investment at a much more efficient rate.

Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel’s Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market acknowledged the future role of batteries and financial incentives for consumers and identified that batteries are a key technology in our society’s transition to renewable energy.

It is clear that distributed battery power will play an increasingly significant role in the future of energy by providing a source of clean, renewable electricity to the grid. Battery storage paired with solar panels in households not only brings us closer to a more sustainable and renewable future, but also provides real financial benefits for participating households.

The Virtual Power Plant trial this week was an important step forward for battery use in households and businesses in the ACT, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes.

What do you think about this new innovation? Were you a part of the Virtual Power Plant trials? Share your experiences with us by commenting below. 

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20 Responses to
Virtual Power Plant trial demonstrates the future of batteries in the ACT
bj_ACT 4:36 pm 08 Dec 17

Chris Steel MLA said :

Futureproof said :

I’d go Solar and batteries in a heart beat. but alas I do not have a politician’s salary.

There is a genuine social equity issue as the grid transitions. Effectively what we are already seeing is people with the money being able to invest in solar PV/batteries to reduce their bills (potentially to near $0) while people without the capital are having to pay increasing power bills. The ACT government’s solar for low-income households project Is one part of addressing this but market regulators will need to keep an eye on how the market is regulated to ensure the downward spiral doesn’t get out of control. Thanks for raising.

Three simple questions seeing you have raised it as an answer to a good question.

How many people has the ACT government low income Solar fund helped so far?

How many is it funded to help going forward?

How many wealthy households have benefited from earlier more generous ACT government grants (to the financial detriment of the working poor who can’t afford Solar on their roof)?

Chris Steel MLA 2:17 pm 08 Dec 17

dungfungus said :

It would help your argument if you dispensed with the emotive use of the term “dirty coal”.

I think the market is already determining that coal has no part in our energy future. Its role in contributing to carbon emissions is incontrovertible and certainly isn’t clean which is why harnessing clean power through batteries makes so much sense.

There’s no doubt that the recycling of batteries is part of the transition but it is by no means a brick wall to battery rollout.

Chris Steel MLA 2:00 pm 08 Dec 17

Futureproof said :

I’d go Solar and batteries in a heart beat. but alas I do not have a politician’s salary.

There is a genuine social equity issue as the grid transitions. Effectively what we are already seeing is people with the money being able to invest in solar PV/batteries to reduce their bills (potentially to near $0) while people without the capital are having to pay increasing power bills. The ACT government’s solar for low-income households project Is one part of addressing this but market regulators will need to keep an eye on how the market is regulated to ensure the downward spiral doesn’t get out of control. Thanks for raising.

Capital Retro 10:00 am 08 Dec 17
dungfungus 9:04 pm 07 Dec 17

Chris Steel MLA said :

dungfungus said :

Obviously if someone is paying $14 then it’s not a good good deal for someone.

We never had this sort of nonsense when reliable base load coal was the only source of energy.

I think the whole point is that we don’t want to rely on dirty coal – and we don’t want spot prices to go so high because demand can’t be met in summer. Batteries present us with an opportunity to have reliable and clean power when it is needed – and consumers with batteries can take part. The Australia Institute calls them pro-sumers – solar producer-consumers.

It would help your argument if you dispensed with the emotive use of the term “dirty coal”. Sure, if you pick a lump of it up off the ground it will leave some dust on your hands, so what?
Coal is washed before it is burnt and sure, carbon dioxide is released as part of the process.
Concurrently, reliable, base load electricity is also produced and where do you think we would be today without it? Breathing also produces carbon dioxide.
There are a lot of “dirty” raw materials extracted from under the earth that go into the manufacture of renewables too. Have you ever thought what is to happen to all the chemicals in batteries and solar panels that will have to be dealt with when they clap out? Not to mention wind turbines which last about 20 years and boy, don’t they have a huge carbon footprint?
Whatever we do we should hope we never end up with that “dirty” uranium stuff making electricity.

Futureproof 5:56 pm 07 Dec 17

I’d go Solar and batteries in a heart beat. but alas I do not have a politician’s salary and subsidised cost of living expenses – the ultimate CentreLink (special politician {Australian Citizen of course} benefit) – do less to get paid more.

Futureproof 5:50 pm 07 Dec 17

Chris Steel MLA said :

I think the whole point is that we don’t want to rely on dirty coal

Funny how our coal exported to India, China and Japan is clean coal

John Moulis 6:35 pm 05 Dec 17

All this talk about batteries reminds me of when I left school and started work in the computer room in the basement of the Treasury building in 1977. In one large room across the corridor were hundreds of car batteries connected in series to provide emergency power. On the wall next to them was a power point.

We will have these batteries (along with wind turbines and solar panels) to provide power when alongside them we still have coal, gas, hydro and uranium to provide far superior – and more reliable – power.

The mentality is remarkably similar.

Chris Steel MLA 1:31 pm 05 Dec 17

dungfungus said :

Obviously if someone is paying $14 then it’s not a good good deal for someone.

We never had this sort of nonsense when reliable base load coal was the only source of energy.

I think the whole point is that we don’t want to rely on dirty coal – and we don’t want spot prices to go so high because demand can’t be met in summer. Batteries present us with an opportunity to have reliable and clean power when it is needed – and consumers with batteries can take part. The Australia Institute calls them pro-sumers – solar producer-consumers.

Chris Steel MLA 1:22 pm 05 Dec 17

dungfungus said :

As with all other renewable concepts, they won’t get support without massive subsidies. The extra 0.99c per kWh for feed-in tariff paid on this trial is an outrageous amount.

Additionally, installing a home storage battery in a garage necessitates a fixed bollard in front of it and this usually means sacrificing the parking space that used to be there. This would delight some people, of course.

They are costly but coming down in price rapidly. The cost of lithium-ion consumer batteries down 90% over 16 years and from 2011-2014 by almost another third – according to Citi Research. It’s predicted that up 40% of Australian households will have one by 2035.

dungfungus 9:20 pm 04 Dec 17

Chris Steel MLA said :

dungfungus said :

As with all other renewable concepts, they won’t get support without massive subsidies. The extra 0.99c per kWh for feed-in tariff paid on this trial is an outrageous amount.

The grid may only require these GridCredit events for a very short time – maybe only 10 mins when demand peaks. In this case spot price may actually be much higher than $1. The Australia institute reports spot prices hitting $14 so for energy distributors getting only $1 per kWh from batteries may be a very cheap option and that’s good for everyone.

What we also have to think about going forward is that there has be some incentive for battery households to remain connected to the grid (and paying the supply charge), otherwise they could become energy hermits and disconnect from the grid pushing supply prices up for everyone.

Obviously if someone is paying $14 then it’s not a good good deal for someone.

We never had this sort of nonsense when reliable base load coal was the only source of energy.

Chris Steel MLA 6:05 pm 04 Dec 17

dungfungus said :

As with all other renewable concepts, they won’t get support without massive subsidies. The extra 0.99c per kWh for feed-in tariff paid on this trial is an outrageous amount.

The grid may only require these GridCredit events for a very short time – maybe only 10 mins when demand peaks. In this case spot price may actually be much higher than $1. The Australia institute reports spot prices hitting $14 so for energy distributors getting only $1 per kWh from batteries may be a very cheap option and that’s good for everyone.

What we also have to think about going forward is that there has be some incentive for battery households to remain connected to the grid (and paying the supply charge), otherwise they could become energy hermits and disconnect from the grid pushing supply prices up for everyone.

bigred 1:56 pm 04 Dec 17

While I am convinced solar/batteries is the way of the future, it is not quite there yet. I have been looking hard for the best part of a decade and I just cannot make the numbers work economically and do not have the confidence about longevity yet. Instead I have done a small feed in system, solar hot water and quite a few other energy efficiency measures designed to reduce energy demand.

dungfungus 11:10 am 04 Dec 17

As with all other renewable concepts, they won’t get support without massive subsidies. The extra 0.99c per kWh for feed-in tariff paid on this trial is an outrageous amount.

Additionally, installing a home storage battery in a garage necessitates a fixed bollard in front of it and this usually means sacrificing the parking space that used to be there. This would delight some people, of course.

bikhet 8:54 am 04 Dec 17

I agree that something needs to be done to store solar/wind generated electricity when supply exceeds demand, I wonder if batteries are the best way to do this. My main concern is what will happen to the batteries when their storage capacity has declined to the point where they are no longer useful. I seen no analysis on the whole of life costs of batteries, but I admit I haven’t looked very hard. My gut feeling is that for areas with an already-installed grid pumped hydro may be better.

My concerns about whole of life costs also extend to using batteries for powering transport, where I’ve long been a fan of fuel cells, while admitting that they’ve got a long way to go to be useful.

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