Microgrid powers ahead with embedded network plan


A subsidiary of energy services provider The Green Guys Group, Microgrid revealed on Friday it is nearing the launch of its inaugural solar PV microgrid embedded network but the Sydney-based company opted not to provide specifics, other than to identify that the site is within New South Wales.

Microgrid has in the first instance targeted established shopping centres for its embedded networks and general manager Alan Waller told pv magazine the company has agreements which are well advanced with several property owners.

“We’ve got a portfolio of sites which are going through the last stages of the explicit informed consent process,” he said.

“They are signed, sealed and delivered and we’ve reached all the regulatory consent processes and whatever else we’ve needed to reach so the next step is to install and kick them off.

“We’ll be stepping into that operational mode within the next couple of weeks.”

Microgrid will rent the roof space from the property owner. There they will install solar PV modules with the electricity generated to be distributed via an embedded network to the individual tenants and common areas.

Waller said Microgrid would install, own and maintain the equipment and there would be no up-front costs for the property owner or tenants.

“There are a few winners in that,” he said. “The shopping centre owner receives the rental for his roof space and we’re able to pump that solar generated through the matrix board and the network to all the tenancies so all the tenants benefit from solar-subsidised electricity.

“An associated benefit for both the owners are the green credentials which come from buying into renewable energies.”

Waller said Microgrid would initially focus on smaller shopping centres as it looks to establish itself as an embedded network operator (ENO).

“This coming year should see us with upwards of 10-15 embedded network sites and the pipeline lead for that is very strong indeed,” he said.

“We’re looking at existing shopping centres around the country in particular, and commercial office locations, where we are able to create an embedded network but also able to install certain size solar systems on the roof.

“We will go into a shopping centre and put anywhere from 100 to 300 kW on the top.

“Initially we’re talking about smaller suburban shopping centres. Anywhere between 20 and 50 tenancies and the solar profiles are perfect for us. There is not too much excess and what we can’t generate from the solar we top up by buying from the grid through a gate meter.”

Waller has been a part of the embedded network industry since 2004. In recent years was part of Energy Australia’s push into the sector before moving to Frasers Property where he helped establish its embedded network operation.

When The Green Guys Group launched Microgrid Power in late 2019, Waller was part of the plan. Since then he has been kept busy “putting it all together and going through the authorisation process”.

That process is now complete with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) recently signing off on Microgrid’s electricity retailer authorisation application.

Change is coming

While that authorisation is not essential for operation, with ENOs able to act with the required exemptions, Waller said it was a case of staying ahead of the curve with regulators looking to “tighten up” the industry.

“The AEMC (Australian Energy Market Commission) is going through a process to further regulate the industry,” he said.

“What they are intending to do, and are working towards, is a rule change whereby they will want all embedded network operators such us ourselves and all the other guys to hold a retail licence rather than be exempt operators.

“They feel that is going to make them a lot more accountable and they’ll be able to standardise the industry.”

Waller however suggested the process could have detrimental impacts on some operators.

“It’s not a cheap or easy process to go through so a lot of the smaller operators will think twice about whether they want to do it or if they want to continue on at all,” he said. “But, I think this tidy up is well overdue.”

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