ARENA funds VPP to cool demand from supermarkets and refrigerated warehouses


Smart refrigeration could cool peak grid demand from the retail sector, under a new ARENA trial.

Aiming to have parts of the commercial and industrial refrigeration sectors act together as coordinated load, the VPP project with Enel X aims to aggregate 20.9 MW of demand from some 440 supermarkets. Enel X has a 20-store pilot underway with a “Tier 1 Grocery chain”, possibly extending to 250 more stores, along with 13 refrigerated warehouses owned by Lineage Logistics. Enel X is recruiting more businesses in commercial refrigeration to reach the 440-store funding support mark from ARENA.

By shifting demand to periods of high supply capacity and away from peak times, the project, dubbed, “Unlocking Flexible Demand in the Commercial Refrigeration Sector”, hopes to alleviate grid constraints while considering the intermittent nature of renewables. In addition, the aim is to de-risk the uptake of new technology for prospective demand response providers, and together, Enel X and ARENA are hoping for project completion by 2027. 

A previous grant from ARENA to Enel X for a VPP with commercial and industrial customers delivered 50 MW of flexible load to suit emergency demand response requirements, unrelated to refrigeration.

ARENA estimates Australia has up to 500 MW of potential flexible demand in refrigeration across Australia’s supermarkets, grocery stores, beverage shops and warehouses, and hopes to unlock shifting demand opportunities to complement energy storage options. 

“Our electricity grid is changing, and a more variable supply requires more flexible demand,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “Commercial refrigeration can unlock this opportunity at a material scale, so we’re excited to see the Enel X project rolled out across Australian supermarkets and other businesses with refrigeration.

Australia’s Federal government already offered businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million an energy incentive to encourage heating and cooling efficiency. But a coordinated approach for larger-scale necessary cooling and refrigeration is a further step. 

Stepping up flexibility

ARENA has already identified flexible demand as a strategic focus to avoid curtailing renewables and reduce future reliance on energy storage.

Already, ARENA previously supported Shell Energy Australia with a $9.1 million grant to implement energy load control across at least 40 commercial and industrial (C&I) customer sites, with the entire energy system, including HVAC, refrigeration, electric vehicle (EV) charging control, and onsite solar PV and storage, using Shell’s C&I load flex product called LoadFlex.

On the heating side, multiple projects in 2021 and 2022 have been awarded ARENA grants to demonstrate active control over residential hot water systems to dynamically orchestrate hot water (HW) load, including $1.98 million for Rheem, and $2.72 million to PLUS ES for projects in South Australia.

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