The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will provide $900,000 in funding to Victorian distribution business United Energy to trial the delivery of grid stability services through voltage-reduction demand response capabilities.

The trial will test United Energy’s dynamic voltage management system capability to deliver frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) to the Australian Energy Market Operator and the National Electricity Market.

FCAS is used by AEMO to maintain the frequency on the electrical system and provide a fast injection or reduction of energy to maintain grid stability. It is traditionally provided only by coal, gas and hydro-electric power stations.

United Energy aims to deliver 30MW of FCAS capacity to the NEM and the system will be tested this summer.

Under the $1.4 million trial, United Energy will install frequency monitors and use data from its smart meter network to stabilise frequency across its 47 zone substations, which act as controlling points across the electricity network.

The trial will demonstrate how voltage management can respond to frequency disturbances on the power system. Speed of response will also be monitored, with the system tested to automatically respond in less than five minutes to frequency changes.

United Energy’s 676,000 households and businesses across Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula won’t be affected or experience any downtime in energy supply during the testing.

ARENA has previously funded FCAS trials at solar and wind farms, with United Energy’s trial being the first to be conducted on the distribution network.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project will demonstrate how innovative new technologies can provide important grid services that have traditionally been provided by coal and gas generators.

“United Energy’s project is showing we could leverage data coming from smart meters to help provide essential stability services that are required on the grid without customers being asked to reduce their energy use,” Miller said.

“One of ARENA’s key investment priorities is focused on integrating renewable energy into the grid. Along with FCAS trials we have funded at solar and wind farms, this trial using voltage management is showing that we can achieve the same grid stability services currently provided by traditional generators.”

United Energy general manager electricity networks Mark Clarke said the trial could provide significant benefits to customers and the grid as a whole.

“Frequency events can have a major impact on power supplies if not managed quickly. We will be testing how this technology can support the stability of the national energy grid and minimise major power outages,” he said.

United Energy received $5.76 million in ARENA funding as one of 10 pilot projects within ARENA’s $35 million three-year demand response trial with AEMO and the NSW Government.

As part of that funding round United Energy is using its voltage management system to deliver 30MW of emergency reserves.

This helped prevent power outages for 14,000 customers each hour during last summer’s heatwave events on January 24 and 25.