SA virtual power plant moves forward with new retailer on board

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The second phase of the South Australian virtual power plant (VPP) project has been officially launched, with community-based retailer Energy Locals on board.

The SA government has confirmed that the project has successfully completed the first phase of the trial and is now kick starting the second phase that will see 1,000 SA households install solar panels and Tesla Powerwall batteries.

“The VVP will deliver cheaper electricity to some of South Australia’s most disadvantaged households whilst increasing the reliability of the state’s electricity network,” said Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

“We are working hard with Tesla to deliver their vision for a VPP to address the high bills hitting households, and welcome Energy Locals to SA as a new retailer to help boost competition.”

Having been chosen by Tesla and the SA government, Energy Locals will enter the SA electricity market and operate as a retailer for the 1,000 households involved in the second phase.

Energy Locals founder Adrian Merrick said the project would provide lower prices for customers and give them more control over their energy use.

“We’re proud to bring new competition for customers with cheaper, cleaner power,” Merrick said.

Touted as the world’s largest deployment of residential solar+storage in the form of a VPP, the SA project was unveiled earlier this year under the previous Labor government.

Although the Liberal Party initially opposed the VPP plans and instead promoted the idea of a home battery subsidy scheme during its election campaign, the SA Liberal government has moved both projects forward.

The government has officially launched its $100 million Home Battery Scheme in October to subsidize the cost of buying a home energy storage system for up to 40,000 South Australian households.

The scheme announcement has since attracted three major battery storage providers – sonnen, Alpha-ESS and Eguana Technologies – to set up manufacturing operations in the state.

Meanwhile, the VPP has completed phase one, the trial phase, which saw 5 kW/13.5 kWh rooftop solar+storage (respectively) systems provided to Housing Trust (state/social housing) properties for no cost on an opt-in basis.

According to the state government, the results from the first 100 batteries demonstrates the success of the concept with households seeing their grid consumption reduced by more than 70%, leading to lower power bills.

“We have made South Australia the world capital of home batteries with our Home Battery Scheme attracting three battery manufacturers to South Australia and by driving forward with the VPP,” said Minister van Holst Pellekaan.

Further progress of the project is subject to the success of second phase of these 1,000 systems and the ability to secure private finance, but the government hopes it could grow to 50,000 homes and become a 250 MW virtual power plant.

Since the VPP scheme is focused on low income housing, the second trial phase is also limited to eligible SA Housing Trust properties.

Phase three will provide more open access to the scheme to those outside the SA Housing Trust.