RACE for Networks
Optimising Australia’s electricity grid through customer distributed energy resources and network integration
Theme N1: Electric Vehicles & the Grid
Expected rapid growth in electric vehicle (EV) adoption creates large opportunities for grid integration, through flexible smart charging and vehicle to grid (V2G) and vehice to premises (V2P) to moderate peak and minimum net demand.
This Theme will research the potential application of EVs for network support including assessing customer value proposition, vehicle capability for grid support, pricing and incentives, vehicle warranty implications, voltage and power factor support, etc.
It will investigate the optimal size, location and functionality of two-way EV charging and demonstrate smart charging and V2G/V2P in practical trials.
What’s the Industry Problem?
There is increasing customer interest in home battery storage solutions. However, stand-alone batteries are relatively expensive, e.g. ~$10k for 10-15 kWh, with an expected life of about 10 years.
EVs are expected to become much more widespread over the next decade and may constitute the majority of light passenger vehicle sales in Australia by 2030 (>500,000 per year).
EVs are likely to have much greater energy storage capacity than stand-alone batteries both per unit (40-90 kWh) and in aggregate.
There is an urgent need to facilitate using this very large battery capacity to support a renewable energy dominated grid.
The power capacity of existing petrol passenger vehicles (typically >100kW per car x 14 million cars = 1,400 GW in Australia) already dwarfs the peak demand in the Australian National Electrcity Market (~34 GW). As the transition to EVs now appears inevitable, making use of a small share of this resource to support the grid can be expected to dramatically reduce the cost of firming capacity for a renewable energy dominated electricity system.
The key impacts of this Theme will be to expedite the introduction of an estimated 25% of total EVs to participate in smart charging and V2G/V2H operationsa above BaU by 2030, and to reduce network costs to manage volatile and growing peak demand. Value of potential benefits to exceed $150M pa by 2030.
Theme N2: Low voltage network visibility and optimising DER hosting capacity
N2a - Low cost visibility of network conditions
Demonstration of low cost solutions for visibility of network conditions at the low voltage/customer end of the grid. This Theme aims to access data from comms-enabled monitoring devices at customer premises to provide finely grained real time data on network conditions.
By adding value for customers via enhanced data and control, this Theme will develop options to provide network visibility data at low cost to network operators and to their customers. This is likely to lift DER hosting capacity significantly.
N2b - Assessing and mapping the DER hosting capacity of energy networks.
This includes assessing and mapping the capacity of energy networks to connect and manage Distributed Energy Resources, such as distributed solar, battery storage and electric vehicles.
N2c - Mainstreaming customer DER network support (integrating solar, storage and flexible loads)
Pilot projects to integrate higher penetrations of variable renewables, storage and flexible loads. This could build on precedents such as the "Networks Renewed" project which successfully demonstrated, in fringe of grid in NSW and Victoria, how advanced power conditioning in modern smart inverters can be used to provide network support in the form of voltage management and power factor correction.
What’s the Industry Problem?
Many of the greatest challenges in the electricity system today occur at the low voltage level, at or near customers premises. These challenges include voltage excursions, phase imbalance, poor power factor and thermal capacity limits.
The rapid uptake of rooftop solar has highlighted these challenges. If not well managed, household batteries and electric vehicles could further exacerbate these challenges.
However, most network businesses currently have poor realtime data on network conditions ("network visibility") at the low voltage level. This severely curtails their capacity to manage such challenges and limits both DER hosting capacity and solar export capacity.
There is limited data on the hosting capacity of networks for distributed energy resources, or large scale renewables, making planning by developers and DNSPs difficult. Increasing hosting capacity is crucial as there is greater demand for distributed energy resources (DER) capacity to be connected.
Rooftop PV systems are rapidly proliferating. Almost one quarter of Australian homes now have rooftop PV.
However, there is an emerging trend to limit PV export due to actual and perceived network hosting capacity and other network constraints.
If rooftop PV (and battery and EV storage) are to reach their potential, then it is essential that these DERs support and are perceived to support rather than undermine network capacity.
This Theme will offer network businesses insight into extent of local voltage excursions and poor power factor to allow more targeted investment, improved reliability, better distributed solar performance and improved hosting capacity.
Enhanced mapping of network hosting capacity will support network planning and assist DER proponents in developing projects. Increased precision in planning for grid investment and DER, with improved cost and reliability outcomes.
Successful pilot projects demonstrating how smart inverters can increase the hosting capacity for rooftop PV and relieve network constraints would create powerful precedents.
Even a 2% increase in hosting capacity and optimised solar output would represent a potential benfefit to consumers of more than $50M pa.
Such technology is also likely to have very significant export potential.
Theme N3: Local DER network solutions
N3a - Algorithms and analysis for cost effective embedded and islanded microgrids.
Pilot and implement microgrids where cost effective to reduce costs for customers. Develop technology and planning and operation methods and algorithms.
Pilot projects to develop business models, investment planning and operational tools to support decision making and implementation by networks and end users.
N3b - Storage as a Service - Distributed community batteries.
Detailed investigation and demonstration of the technical and economic potential and the value proposition for neighborhood-scale batteries. This project would test whether community scale batteries on the low voltage network can deliver superior outcomes to both large centralised and small household-scale batteries.
What’s the Industry Problem?
Micgrogrids: High retail electricity costs combined with increased customer reliability requirements and technology change create opportunities for renewable powered microgrids to help optimise network operation and reduce costs for users. These opportunities exist at fringe of grid, on rural feeders and in new developments.
Storage as a service: To date, the focus of battery storage development in Australia has been on large-scale batteries, such as the Hornsdale 130 MWh battery, or small home-scale batteries, such as the 13kWh Tesla Powerwall 2.
However, large-scale batteries are not suitable for addressing the increasingly common voltage and power constraints on the low voltage network, while home-scale batteries are seldom affordable or cost-effective for most households.
Microgrids: Step change in microgrid planning and implementation in Australia. Adoption of new control technologies integrated with network business processes. Lower cost, higher reliability electricity supply.
Community batteries: If the trials are successful, this Theme could lead to the rollout of neighborhood-scale batteries , delivering lower costs and improved reliability and network performance for smaller customers across Australia.
Theme N4: Distribution System Operator and Beyond: Optimising planning and regulation for DM & DER
Coordinated analysis and scoping of electricity planning and regulation in the era of Decentralised Energy.
Collaborate with energy users, distributed energy resource (DER) providers and networks to develop template case studies of cost effective DM. Engage with regulators to standardise regulatory business cases for optimising total value, including deferred network investment, enhanced reliability and reduced expected unserved energy.
Also, collaborative research drawing on international precedents and local stakeholder engagement, to broaden the scope and to facilitate effective implementation of Distribution System Operator (DSO) models in Australia.
What’s the Industry Problem?
The rise of DERs in the energy system requires a change in the management and control of the electricity system.
Fully centralised control of planning, investment, operation and dispatch is unlikely to be effective or efficient.
Complementing the central independent system operator role with localised “distribution system operator” (DSO) roles may help facilitating this transition. Various parties have been proposed to take on this role such as DNSPs, AEMO and new independent entities. Discussion to date about DSO's has focused on the dispatch function, but other key functions (planning, investment, operation) need to be considered and developed.
Also, energy market regulators are recognising the potential of DM and DER to reduce costs for customers and establishing regulations to support this, but progress to attractive models to customers is slow.
New regulation, such as the Demand Management Incentive Scheme, has created large opportunities for DM. However, this has also created uncertainty about identifying and quantifying customer benefits and regulatory approval for DM.
This Theme will improve the operation of existing and planned regulatory reforms including: the DMIS, DMIA and WDRM, and facilitate future beneficial regulatory reform.
Expected impacts include: lower energy bills and higher reliability for energy users, accelerated adoption of network DM and DER, and new business opportunities for energy users, start ups, DER providers and network businesses.
By providing practical models for optimising DSO planning, deployment and dispatch, this project could facilitate rapid growth in cost effective DM and DER, with major benefits in costs savings, reliability and emission reduction.