This summer’s power of choice

Nexergy
Nexergy
Dec 1, 2017 · 4 min read
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Source

Today marks a special day for the energy sector in Australia for three reasons.

Firstly, it’s the first day of summer (woohoo!) which is also the start of the most challenging season for the energy system. While most of us are enjoying end-of-year festivities in air-conditioned comfort, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) will be watching the whole system like a hawk.

They’ve been preparing for this summer for the past year because the demand forecasts showed a lack of supply in the market over this period, which would have resulted in regional blackouts (as occurred in South Australia last summer, and almost occurred in NSW). However, these forecasts have spurred some much needed innovation in the form of “demand response” programs, which reward customers for reducing usage at key times. A number of such programs are now (happily) in place for this peak demand period.

The Power of Choice reforms also go some ways towards facilitating a more intelligent system.

The second reason today is special is that it marks the start of what’s known as the “Power of Choice” reforms. The process started back in 2014 and includes a range of energy sector reforms (for better and, some would argue, worse) to lead the industry to be more consumer-centric. These reforms also go some ways towards facilitating a more intelligent system. For example, as of today any electricity meter which is removed from a property must be replaced with a smart meter which has the capability to record generation and consumption every 30 mins (at least) and be remotely read.

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No more old style accumulation meters which need to be read by a human being. Source
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An “advanced meter” like this one is what we’ll all have installed… eventually. Source

If all goes to plan this means you’ll be able to change your electricity retailer faster and with greater ease because no one will have to come out to read your meter before changing it over to the new provider. Over time this should reduce costs (well, that’s the expectation anyway).

Under there’s a new player in the energy ecosystem too. Your energy data will no longer be held by your distributor or retailer, but will instead stay with your “metering service provider”. If all goes to plan this means you’ll be able to change your electricity retailer faster and with greater ease because no one will have to come out to read your meter before changing it over to the new provider. Over time this should reduce costs (well, that’s the expectation anyway).

The requirement to utilise advanced meters is surely a good thing, as it will enable more accurate billing and should facilitate better offerings to customers. However, the full roll out will take considerable time because an advanced meter will only be installed when a meter needs changing, which isn’t that often. While new energy innovators won’t therefore be able to take advantage of such metering as quickly as they would like, this is clearly a case of “progress over perfection”, so it’s great to see these changes come into effect. Indeed, as with other sectors, we can expect alternate offerings to take the place of slow, heavily regulated ones and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the energy space is rapidly heating up in response.

And finally, just this morning Tesla unveiled the largest energy battery in the world in South Australia. It’s the largest by a good margin too, being approximately three times the size of the next largest, which operates in California. It’s exceptional to hold that record in Australia, and even more so in South Australia where wind and solar dominate the energy mix in the region. Energy storage is hailed as the glue between variable or “intermittent” renewable energy sources. This “big battery” is an international show-piece of a reliable, affordable, renewably-charged grid. We believe this, and similar projects, will pave the way for greater trust in new technologies like batteries to allow aggregation of smaller distributed energy resources to enter, and bolster, the overall energy system more rapidly.

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Tesla’s “big battery” connected to the Hornsdale Wind Farm in Jamestown, SA Source

All this on one day! It truly is a very exciting time to be in energy and the next few months are shaping up to be particularly exciting as we learn how the past year’s innovations function in the real world.

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