Australian and US energy leaders discussed the untapped potential of using hot water systems for storage during discussions at Energy Networks 2016.

Energex CEO Terry Effeney and Lena Hansen from the Rocky Mountain Institute agreed it would be possible to unlock greater use of hot water storage, in addition to new battery storage systems entering the grid.

Mr Effeney said the network had huge amounts of storage connected to it now – “it’s called hot water”.

Mr Effeney said the opportunity to increase the benefits and penetration of rooftop solar panels by using hot water systems as storage hadn’t received sufficient focus yet.

“Traditionally, we have charged hot water systems in the evening, but we are charging our hot water systems during the day now and using them as a ‘solar soak’,” Mr Effeney said.

Ms Hansen agreed and said there was a need to think differently about the resources already on the network, with better use of hot water systems able to save the United States an estimated US$3billion a year.

Mr Effeney said the key thing was to establish the right frameworks and incentives to allow the best use of distributed resources in an efficient way with the grid.

“If customers are going to spend the money, then utilities should not spend the money,” Mr Effeney said.

“Our job is to find a way to integrate that technology into our networks. We don’t have to spend unnecessary money on our low voltage network if we know we can depend on interaction with those smart devices.”

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg highlighted the importance of tariff reform to provide efficient signals to investment.

“The objective of these tariff reforms is to lower system costs for consumers over the long run, while at the same time allowing consumers to better manage their own energy costs,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Frydenberg’s support for tariff reform came as the Energy Networks Association (ENA) released the final Electricity Network Tariff Reform Handbook.

ENA CEO John Bradley said the Handbook recognised successful tariff reform would require a clear customer focus with better analysis of customer preferences and outcomes, tools to assist customers to respond, and support for vulnerable customers.

“New tariffs have to be simple for customers to understand and respond to – and that means collaboration with energy retailers and other new market participants will be vital,” Mr Bradley said.

Mr Frydenberg commended energy networks’ consumer engagement efforts during recent revenue determination processes and supported the energy industry’s development of a Customer Engagement Handbook.

“I encourage you to use this Handbook in developing a closer relationship with energy consumers, which will not only help you to better understand each other’s needs and expectations, but also deliver a better energy system overall,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Minister Frydenberg announced the CSIRO would develop a Low Emissions Technology Roadmap, which would build on other energy work including the Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap being developed by ENA and CSIRO.

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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