Victorian networks seek smart solutions to counter grid constraints


Victorian distribution network service providers (DNSPs) CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy have launched a full tender seeking solutions that can alleviate capacity constraints and increase reliability on their low-voltage networks across the state during peak demand periods.

CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy – who between them oversee a large proportion of Victoria’s electricity distribution network – said they are offering third parties an opportunity to develop and implement solutions to address load capacity limitations during peak periods for more than 240 sites across their combined grids.

The DNSPs are seeking “non-network or demand-side solutions, such as embedded generation, grid-connected or behind-the-meter battery storage as well as other load management solutions and resources” as part of a plan to enable new energy use, including the increasing penetration of distributed energy resources and “flexibility” markets.

CitiPower and Powercor head of network planning Andrew Dinning said it is the first time all three networks had opened their low-voltage network up to third parties to provide solutions to address constraints that could limit supply or reliability.

“As a distribution system operator, we want to access existing capability and create new markets to help us manage peak demand in the most cost-effective way for our customers,” he said.

“We’re expecting this tender to spark innovative ideas from market participants on both the supply and demand side.”

The distribution companies said the sort of non-network solutions they are seeking could include embedded generation, such as grid-connected or behind-the-meter battery storage, or other demand management solutions and resources.

United Energy workers install a pole-mounted battery.

Image: United Energy

The projects will predominantly support residential customers and will need to be operating by November. Detailed data and locations of the more than 240 selected sites have been released to the market and are available at United Energy and Citipower and Powercor. The tender closes on 30 May, 2022.

“This is an important step in developing the capability for publishing data on network capacity and constraints that can enable a whole range of new, creative energy solutions for customers as the energy market transforms,” Dinning said.

The network operators are already using demand management programs to address areas of the network reaching their capacity limits. United Energy is trialling pole-top batteries to manage peak demand and improve grid reliability in areas where the low-voltage distribution network is constrained, while Powercor is investing in a community battery that is expected to be in place later this year.

The launch of the tender comes after Powercor earlier this week announced the amount of rooftop solar power being shared between homes and businesses in its network had increased by more than 16% in 2021 to 175,000.

CitiPower and Powercor electricity networks general manager Mark Clarke said more than 23% of Powercor’s customers have a solar system installed on their properties. This increased by more than 23,500 customers during 2021, and combined they are now generating over 700MW – larger than any gas-fired power station, coal-fired generation unit, windfarm or solar farm in Victoria.

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