markvincenteiss-10Significant customer-driven change is now inevitable in Australia’s electricity market, with the uptake of more renewable and distributed energy sources. Ahead of his presentation at the 2017 Australian Energy Storage Conference, Mark Vincent, Manager of Network Strategy at SA Power Networks, discusses what the industry must do to adapt to this change to meet customers’ future energy needs.

In his role as Manager of Network Strategy at SA Power Networks, Mark Vincent’s job is to help lead the transformation of its network and services which, in part, relies on planning how SA Power Networks can adapt as customers take up more renewable energy technologies, such as battery storage, solar PV, and electric vehicles.

“Significant change in the electricity industry is inevitable, and it’s being driven by customers.  We need to work out how we can adapt to that. There’s no point trying to hold back the tide. We need to work out what our services and our network need to look like to meet these new needs,” Mr Vincent says.

“Collaboration across the industry sectors will also be important to make sure we can make the transition in an efficient, orderly way, and we’re starting to see more of that.”   

Prior to his role at SA Power Networks, Mr Vincent worked in various positions in the electricity sector, including regulatory pricing determinations, operations management, strategic planning, and leadership of various business transformation projects.

Distributed technology future

Mr Vincent says that in the foreseeable future he predicts that the industry will see a greater uptake of distributed technologies lower down in the network, with more of a focus on connections to distribution networks rather than transmission networks, and small-scale customer technology changing the way electricity is provided into the grid.

“Our state’s typical demand on the network is about 1,500MW, and we predict that over the next 10-20 years we’ll have perhaps half our customers with batteries, two thirds with solar, and a quarter with electric vehicles,” Mr Vincent says.

“Each one of these resources could be around 2,000MW, so we’d have 2,000MW of solar, 2,000MW of batteries, and 2,000MW of electric vehicles, and it’s obvious that this just doesn’t work with the way we are managing things today.

“You can’t just add 6,000MW of resources to a network that typically ticks away at 1,500MW and expect it all to work. It’s a big challenge.

“We’re looking at the problem by questioning how we support this customer-driven change, how we make sure customers can connect to these resources without putting the network under threat, and how we can potentially leverage these resources to reduce future network expenditure.”

Networks hold the key for implementation

While customers are starting to move towards renewables, distributed energy, and energy management systems, Mr Vincent says that networks will still have a key role to play.

“In South Australia, we’ve got substantial renewable resources already in place, and the potential for significantly more. We’ve got tremendous potential for vastly more wind, solar, and potentially even biomass, so we support the findings of the Electricity Transformation Roadmap Project undertaken by CSIRO and ENA – that decarbonisation is possible by 2050 – and agree that this is not just possible but also necessary,” he says.

“Over the next 20-30 years we think we’ll move progressively towards more renewable resources, but the catch is that they are generally highly intermittent.”

Mr Vincent says that one of the best ways to deal with intermittency is through networks.

“If you connect everything up, then when you’ve got a deficit of generation for a particular customer or a particular region, you can supply that deficit from somewhere else where they have a surplus, or perhaps some storage, to balance things out.

“That’s why networks were initially constructed, because it’s far more efficient for customers to share resources rather than if everyone goes it alone, and the modelling that we’ve undertaken certainly supports that direction.”

Mark Vincent will be discussing these issues in further detail in his presentation at the 2017 Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition. This must-see industry event will run from 14-15 June at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. 

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