Engy grid

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will contribute $3.54 million to the utility’s Flexible Services Trial project. 

United Energy said that this trial project will look at new ways to integrate more renewables into the grid and manage Victorian system security challenges associated with minimum system load, now and into the future. 

The $8 million project will centre on two trials to manage the challenges associated with two-way electricity flows from renewable energy sources – like rooftop solar systems – and identify capabilities of low voltage distributed energy resource management systems needed to facilitate a seamless flexible connection experience for customers at scale.  

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Chief Executive Officer, Darren Miller, said the project displays a broad range of solutions for managing flexible demand. 

“As we move to an electricity system with a high share of variable renewable energy, it is vital that we scale up flexible demand technologies that are responsive to changes in generation.

“Distribution networks play a critical role in keeping the electricity system operating reliably and are increasingly needed to trial new solutions to manage a changing electricity supply. ARENA is pleased to be working with United Energy to trial new solutions out in the field – across suburban Melbourne. 

“This project comprises two different tools that will help to develop the flexible, dynamic grid needed to respond to the growing share of renewable energy powering our grid,” Mr Miller said. 

The project will consist of a hot water load control (HLWC) trial, where hot water will be managed via a smart meter to align with periods of low demand and high solar production.

The project will recruit customers on existing controlled load tariffs, requiring a minimum of 10,000 customers recruited and potential to scale up to 146,000 customers or 120MW in flexible capacity. 

United Energy will also conduct a flexible exports trial providing 100 residential and five commercial and industrial customers the ability to export solar electricity from their rooftops above current static limits using Dynamic Operating Envelopes (DOEs). 

The trial is expected to involve varying solar exports in line with what is happening on the local network. For example, customers will be able to export more electricity during times of high demand, while exports will be reduced during periods when demand is low and there is excess power in the grid. 

United Energy owns and operates the electricity poles and wires in Melbourne’s south and east and supplies power to more than 715,000 customers. The trials are expected to be conducted on this network, as well as sister Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs) CitiPower, based in Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs, and Powercor in Victoria’s west. 

United Energy’s General Manager, Electricity Networks, Glen Thomson, said the project would support the network to continue to integrate more renewable technology and provide benefits to customers. 

“Our network is critical to supporting Victoria’s move towards a clean energy future and this project will involve us operating our network in a different way that will provide significant benefits to our customers and the community going forward.” 

The Flexible Services Trial is due to be completed in 2026.

Image: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Igor+Borisenko 

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