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‘Transactive energy’ powers households as Australia’s AGL expands virtual power plant

Fremantle, Australia, where Western Power, Synergy and Power Ledger's RENeW NExus Project, supported by the Australian Government through the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Image: Power Ledger.

Virtual power plants made up of household solar and battery systems look set to continue their rise in Australia, with utility AGL expanding the scope of an ongoing project significantly.

Meanwhile, another Australian company, Power Ledger, has this week hailed the successful early deployment of a peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading platform using blockchain technology, in both its home country and in a demonstration project in Osaka, Japan.

SolarEdge emailed Energy-Storage.news to announce that its StorEdge inverter solution, paired with LG Chem battery systems, still the only eligible equipment for AGL’s VPP programme, has been included in the extended rollout of the project to Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, after a successful first phase in Adelaide, South Australia.

The utility’s battery programme will offer StorEdge system owners an annual credit of up to AU$280 (US$190.33) on electricity bills for allowing AGL’s VPP to “access their batteries in times of grid need,” SolarEdge said. The improvement in system payback, as a result, will help stimulate solar and battery sales and deployment, the company said. According to AGL’s site, this includes AU$45 in credits each quarter plus a AU$100 sign-up bonus usable towards electricity billed by the utility. At present, it is only offered as an initial 12-month contract to existing AGL customers that install a battery system.

In Adelaide, AGL additionally now offers a hefty rebate of up to AU$7,000 off the upfront cost of battery system purchases: AU$1,000 from AGL and up to AU$6,000 from South Australia’s government, which is attempting to proactively support residential storage at both consumer and network-level through its Home Battery Scheme. Batteries from several providers are eligible for that support scheme, although at present AGL only named Tesla and LG Chem. The utility said it “intends to widen the range of compatible systems in future”.

“AGL’s residential battery program unlocks new benefits for our customers and provides grid services that benefit all grid users,” AGL’s general manager for distributed energy, Dominique van den Berg, said, adding that the utility was excited to expand its cooperation with SolarEdge and leverage the capabilities of the solar company’s inverters.

“This new offer helps customers to unlock more value from their significant investments in solar energy systems and to increase their use of solar energy to help lower energy bills,” van den Berg said, adding that the launch is “consistent with our objective of delivering smart solutions to meet the growth in customer demand for residential batteries.”

AGL has invested AU$20 million in its VPP to date. An editor’s blog on this site last week briefly ran through this and some of the other developments behind-the-meter in Australia’s solar and storage markets. The country has been one of the earliest to recognise the technology’s potential, with the national Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) advising that an economic value should be put onto VPPs as early as 2015

SolarEdge Storedge inverters with LG Chem batteries. Image: SolarEdge.

Blockchain enables P2P 'transactive' trades in Australia and Japan

Energy-Storage.news reported on the first successful blockchain-backed P2P trade of electricity in Fremantle, West Australia around this time last year as just 18 households began sharing surplus energy and in effect setting “their own electricity prices”, platform provider Power Ledger said. 

In action since November 2018, the system, deployed by Power Ledger and utility Synergy, is enabling and processing around 50,000 transactions each month, creating a “renewable energy marketplace”, from 53.6kW of rooftop solar PV paired with 150kW of lithium-ion battery energy storage. Energy retailer Synergy and its parent company Western Power will track those transactions via the platform. 

Adding a ‘transactive layer’ to the shared operation of solar and storage between the 40 households now involved, those 50,000 transactions add up to more than four megawatt-hours of P2P energy trades a month, Power Ledger said. In a recent report on virtual power plants, Navigant Research highlighted the potential for growth of so-called ‘transactive energy’ markets. A piece from Sonnen's head of e-services, Jean-Baptiste Cornefert for this site and our technical journal PV Tech Power a while ago spells out some of the potential benefits for blockchain-backed trades to help balance the grid in western Europe following a trial with grid operator TenneT. 

The trial will now be extended to run until the end of this year. The key benefits include the ability for households to be able to view their electricity usage in real-time, over 30-minute intervals - or rather, the platform should be able to do so - compared to the 30 to 60-day billing cycles previously in place. Western Power smart meters feed data into the Power Ledger platform, which then in turn feed Synergy’s billing system. 

Power Ledger has also just recently conducted its first P2P energy trading demonstration in Japan, with utility company KEPCO. The trial saw autonomous trading of surplus energy between participants, mitigating for fluctuations in solar generation and customer demand. It built on the know-how gained from previous successful work in Thailand and the US as well as in Australia, Power Ledger managing director David Martin said.

Power Ledger’s demonstration which took place in Osaka, west Japan, is further evidence that the Japanese market is rapidly preparing for the changing dynamics of falling or expiring feed-in tariffs for solar and an energy market currently undergoing deregulation and experiencing increasing competition as a result. An effort by another large regional utility in Japan, TEPCO recently reported by Energy-Storage.news emphasised the need for creation of a "next-generation peer-to-peer (P2P) electricity system” to make the most of solar and battery assets in customer homes, as TEPCO launched its own post-deregulation electricity retail business, TRENDE.    

Osaka, Japan, where Power Ledger is also creating a P2P energy network in a demonstration with utility KEPCO. Image: Power Ledger.

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