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Victorian distribution business United Energy will trial technology aimed at stabilising the electricity grid during major frequency changes and minimising the risk of significant blackouts under an Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funded program.

The use of this demand response technology will allow United Energy to provide stability services without customers experiencing any differences or downtime in their energy supply.

ARENA is providing a $900,000 grant for United Energy to test whether its existing Dynamic Voltage Management System (DVMS) can quickly and securely manage frequency across the energy network.

The trial will use the DVMS technology as a Frequency Control and Ancillary Service (FCAS).

FCAS is the market typically used to stabilise the electricity grid during events that cause frequency changes. Traditionally, coal, gas and hydro generators have been used to stabilise the energy grid, but as the mix of electricity generation changes, alternative ways of stabilising the grid during frequency events are being sought, which is where DVMS comes in.

United Energy’s General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke, said using the data from its smart meter fleets to support frequency could provide significant benefits to customers.

“Victoria is unique as our extensive smart meter network allows us to have in-depth insight and control of the network and this trial will allow us to look at new ways to use this data for the benefit of the broader community,” Mr Clarke said.

“We already provide one of the most reliable networks in Australia and this is about leveraging existing assets supported by new technology for the benefit of the broader power grid.

“Frequency events can have a major impact on power supplies if not managed quickly. We will be testing how this technology can support the stability of the national energy grid and minimise major power outages.”

Under the trial, United Energy will install frequency monitors and use data from its smart meter network to quickly act to stabilise frequency across its 47 zone substations, which act as controlling points across the electricity network.

Speed of response will also be monitored, with the system tested to automatically respond in less than five minutes to frequency changes.

By using this technology, United Energy aims to bring additional FCAS capacity (30MW) to the National Electricity Market. The system will be tested during the 2019/20 summer and well into 2020.

The trial will also look at what role regulated networks may have in participating in the FCAS markets.

“We want to work with the broader industry about how our networks can contribute to these services at least cost to deliver benefits for all customers,” Mr Clarke said.

ARENA previously provided $5.762 million in funding to United Energy as part of the $35 million three-year demand response RERT trial with AEMO. Under this trial, United Energy used the same DVMS technology to provide 30MW of demand response during emergency peaks.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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