EnergyAustralia’s Technology and Change Executive, Anne Weatherston, spoke at the 2017 IoT for Utilities Summit on how reforms to the national energy system in the coming decade will be at least as important as developing technology that allows customers to leave it behind and get off the grid.

Ms Weatherston addressed the challenges for existing energy businesses as new entrants and connected customers shake up traditional approaches to energy.

“The ability for customers to pair their solar PV with battery storage gave rise to predictions of a death spiral – people leaving grid, meaning those costs are spread across fewer customers, encouraging those people in turn to leave the grid as their bills get higher,” Ms Weatherston said.

“The reality is more complicated. Significant numbers of people don’t have the option to leave the grid; whether they’re renting their property or simply can’t afford the upfront costs of investing in solar and battery storage.

“At EnergyAustralia we’re determined not to leave those people behind. 

“Increasingly as well, we’ve also seen governments prepared to intervene in the market in the name of delivering energy affordability.

“The great opportunity we have is to make the grid work better for all customers – whether you’re able to invest in new technology or not.”

Ms Weatherston said for customers investing in solar and battery storage, EnergyAustralia’s partnership with Redback Technologies provides the opportunity to optimise their stored energy; when to use it, when to store it and when to sell it back into the grid.

“And demand response initiatives are welcome news for all customers. At a time when network costs make up about half your bill, demand response will help put the brakes on the need for ever-increasing network investment.

“As part of a government-backed pilot, EnergyAustralia will be delivering 50MW of demand response, equivalent to the level of capacity you need to power twelve and a half thousand homes. We’ll have 40MW of that in place for the coming summer.

“We’re also making sure the grid can support increased penetration of renewables. We’ve seen just how important it is to make sure renewables are backed by storage technology.

“Working with the Arup Group and Melbourne Energy Institute, our proposal for a pumped seawater hydro facility in South Australia is a great illustration that storage isn’t just about lithium ion batteries.

“This project has the potential to produce 225MW of electricity with around eight hours storage. It’s the equivalent of installing 126,000 home battery storage systems but at a third of the cost.”

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