March 5, 2021

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Western Australia to pilot virtual power plant

The trial, dubbed Project Symphony, will see the co-ordination of large numbers of batteries, rooftop solar panels and appliances into a community-scale pop-up power plant. The project, being developed by Western Power and Synergy, the AEMO and Energy Policy WA, will be hosted at the Perth suburb Southern River and involve more than 500 households and businesses.

A virtual power plant, or VPP, is a centrally-managed network of systems installed behind-the-meter that can be collectively controlled to deliver benefits to households, energy retailers and the local network.

The concept is based on aggregating individual energy resources to help balance electricity supply and demand, and many view the model as an important element of the nation’s future energy security and reliability.

For example, if rooftop solar systems are generating excess power, it will be possible to manage it by storing energy and adjusting how much can be used.

VVPs are already being pioneered in South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

New era in energy for WA

The WA trial is expected to provide immediate benefits for Western Power’s network and pave the way for more innovative use of VPPs across the state’s main electricity grid, the government says.

The Energy Minister stated that using Virtual Power Plants means there is less of a need for traditional generation assets, such as coal or gas, which is a step towards a more sustainable power system. The project will lay the groundwork for a future where household energy devices help keep the power system stable, enabling more and more renewable energy on the grid, he added.

The trial will build on previous trials by Western Power and Synergy, as well as Horizon Power’s Onslow distributed energy resource (DER) pilot.

The state government will stump up $75 million for the two-stage, $35 million projects and is seeking federal funding for the balance.

It comes after the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced in September 2020 that an American electric vehicle and clean energy company had received $8.2 million to deploy battery and rooftop solar systems at 3,000 social housing properties in South Australia which is the site of the nation’s largest VPP being created by AGL. AGL is also recently expanding its solar battery VPP to the eastern states.

Australia leads in renewable energy

According to another article, the Liberal MP and Energy Minister of Australia made a statement heralding the country’s deployment of renewable energy as a success story of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a National Press Club speech calling for a “technology-led approach” to reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, the Liberal MP said Australia had “done remarkably well in emissions reductions in recent years. We are a world leader in renewable energy investment, deploying wind and solar at 10 times the global per capita average,” he said in the September 2020 address.

Similar claims have been repeated in multiple media statements from the minister which have also favourably compared Australia’s rollout of renewable energy sources to those in Europe, the US and China.

According to a review by the Australian National University, Australia added 6096 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy between 2018 and 2019, or around 242 watts (W) per person based on the IRENA figures and the country’s estimated population in 2019.

That compared to an increase of 175,792MW in renewable energy capacity worldwide, or less than 23W per person – more than 10 times lower than Australia’s per capita figure. When just solar and wind energy capacity was used, Australia’s per capita renewable energy deployment was nearly 12 times the rate worldwide.

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