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The heat of the upcoming Victorian state election is fuelled with promises and last-dash policies by the incumbent Labour party. A topic up for debate is the state’s renewable energy strategy and its viability in terms of cost. Politics aside, one company shines through with its tech invention for renewable energy.

Hots for Solar

A leading homegrown Australian energy company is developing a virtual power plant thanks to an AUD 4.5 million grant from the Victorian Government. The company is a leading supplier of solar systems to residential and commercial properties. An early entrant in the Australian battery storage retail market, the company has been paving the way in innovating and sourcing demand management platforms.

The generous government backing is unsurprising. In the lead up to the elections on 24 November, the incumbent has recently promised to co-fund the installation of solar panels. The AUD 1.3 billion project will power 650 000 homes over the next ten years.

Power and heating generated by the solar panels and wind farms go beyond a push for renewable energy. The initiative is primarily launched to lower the cost of living for Victorians. The Government has outsourced wholesale energy projects to private companies and proposed safety measures to prevent losses.

For this initiative, monies are allocated from the Victorian Government’s Microgrid Demonstration Initiative grant program. A microgrid promises energy security, sustainability and cost savings for those within the small network of local suppliers. Those in the network may function independently of the national grid. The program supports eight state-wide microgrid projects, amounting to AUD 10 million.

Fuelled by Tech

The virtual power plant adopts cloud-based demand management software to optimise solar and battery use during peak periods of the day. More than 600 residential and commercial properties will be linked up under the Brisbane-based Monitoring and Support Centre. The initiative is subsumed under a broader national plan to connect demand management platforms and the national grid to form a Virtual Power Plant.

By integrating the collection of data from properties, the energy company can dispatch and move energy resources accordingly, much like a traditional centralised power plant. This innovation is part of the company’s wider wholesale portfolio. Collectively, close to 5 MV of electricity will be generated and stored across the properties.

Currently, the technology is being rolled out on a trial basis. Nevertheless, the company’s Executive General Manager Retail, Mr Jon Briskin believes that Victorian’s embrace of solar will promise the success of the project. He cites the lowered costs and associated benefits as pull factors in adopting the cloud-based demand technology.

“By offering trial participants access to cheaper batteries and solar PV systems and connecting these to our demand management platforms, we will be able to help customers manage their stored and generated electricity, have this traded into the electricity market and reduce demand placed on the existing electricity network.”

Cloud-Based Energy Management

Around the world, wholesale energy companies are also tapping on cloud-based management systems to efficiently distribute resources based on the data collected. The biggest take up have been from Europe and North America customers.

The cloud system allows trading excess energy generated in a seamless fashion. Customers are empowered in the process. They choose how to manage the energy; whether to sell it, store it, or use it for charging electric cars. Reduced regulation on utilities is reported to improve customer relationship with government. However, others analyse the disruption to wreak havoc on the energy industry, especially for monopoly players.

Regardless, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio said, “We’re investing in new technologies that will help create jobs, attract investment in renewable energy and bring down power prices…We’re ensuring Victoria’s energy system is affordable, resilient and secure as we transition to the next generation of energy technologies.”

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