Origin to develop 5 MW virtual power plant in Victoria

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Origin Energy has announced plans to develop a $20 million cloud-based project that will distribute power from up to 650 Victorian customers with solar PV and batteries during peak periods, thus reducing their power bills and boosting grid stability.

The virtual power plant (VPP) initiative is underpinned by the Victoria Labor Government, which is providing a $4.5 million grant towards the project as part of its statewide microgrid funding initiative launched last year.

The government has confirmed that the Origin residential and commercial solar customers, which will be selected to participate in the VPP, will get discounted batteries. Further information is expected to be available later this year.

For Origin, the Victorian VPP will operate much like a traditional centralized power plant. Its plan is to make up to 5 MW of electricity generated and stored by connected properties part of its broader wholesale portfolio and integrated with the Brisbane-based Monitoring and Support Centre for dispatch into the National Electricity Market.

“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,“ says Origin Executive General Manager Retail Jon Briskin.

The Origin VPP initiative is being funded through the Victorian Government’s Microgrid Demonstration Initiative grant program, which aims to provide $10 million to support eight state-wide microgrid projects totaling over $37 million in value. 

“We’re investing in new technologies that will help create jobs, attract investment in renewable energy and bring down power prices,” Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said.

The Labor Government’s statewide Microgrid Demonstration Initiative (MDI) is part of its $146 million Renewable Energy Action Plan, launched with an eye on Victoria’s ambitious Renewable Energy Targets of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025.

Last month, the government announced a $980,000 funding as part of the same initiative for the Ovida Community Energy Hub project, which will install shared solar PV and battery systems in three multi-tenanted buildings in Melbourne.

In addition to the MDI, the government has announced a separate $3 million competitive grant program to support the development of a microgrid project in the Latrobe Valley. The program is open for applications for eligible project types, including microgrids, virtual power plants and smart embedded networks which have renewable energy as the primary energy source until September 17.

These microgrid investments are in addition to the $1.24 billion Solar Homes program which will deliver half-priced solar panels to 650,000 Victorian households and solar hot water systems to 60,000 homes with no upfront cost.