The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has awarded $9.6 million in funding to 12 projects and studies to further integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into the electricity system.
ARENA is providing $7.21 million to five pilot projects led by Zeppelin Bend, Jemena, SA Power Networks, Solar Analytics and RACV.
Each project will trial novel approaches to increasing network hosting capacity with the objective of allowing the system to operate securely whilst maximising the ability of distributed energy, such as solar PV, to provide energy to the grid.
A further $2.38 million has been allocated to seven studies led by CitiPower & Powercor, Dynamic Limits, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, Oakley Greenwood, the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne. The studies will investigate how to successfully integrate high penetrations of DER into the grid and into the energy market.
DER encompasses behind-the-meter technologies such as rooftop solar, home batteries, inverters, controllable loads both in homes and commercial and industrial facilities, electric vehicle charging points, smart appliances and systems (such as fridges, air conditioning systems, hot water heaters and pool pumps) as well as relevant enablers such as smart meters and data services.
Among the five projects funded is the Evolve project led by Zeppelin Bend, funded with the NSW Government, which will see software trialed on the NSW grid that will act as a traffic controller able to send signals to DER assets to increase or decrease their energy output to manage grid congestion.
The seven studies include an ANU study on community energy models and a CSIRO study to prepare a model of the low voltage grid for public use.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said these 12 projects and studies will help to maximise the potential benefits of DER technologies owned by households and businesses.
“Rooftop solar, batteries and other customer-related energy technologies are set to play a key role in shaping the future energy system. It is projected that up to half of all electricity could be generated by consumers within the next few decades, up from around 4% today. This is a huge change and will require innovations in software, hardware and thinking to achieve the best outcome for consumers,” he said.
“ARENA is extremely excited to be funding some of the best experts in the energy sector to build network hosting capacity technology and further understand the impacts of DER and to identify, and ultimately solve, the technical limits of our electricity grid,” Miller said.
The funding initiative complements work that ARENA is already undertaking in the DER space, including the announcement last year of the Distributed Energy Integration Program (DEIP); an initiative that has the energy industry working together to enhance the potential of consumer owned energy resources. DEIP is a collaboration of energy peak bodies, market authorities, industry associations and consumer associations.
“We are looking at how we can make the most of of the growth in distributed energy resources as consumer choice expands and changes the way we generate and use energy,” Miller said.