Flexible demand trials in Victoria aim for better integration of renewables


Victorian distribution network service provider United Energy, and specialist renewable energy investment company Birdwood Energy will conduct voluntary trials into flexible demand, sharing $4.4 million (USD 2.9 million) in funding from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Flexible Services Trial Project

United Energy has been allocated $3.54 million from ARENA to complete an $8 million, two-part Flexible Services Trial project.

Covering much of Melbourne and Victoria’s west, the trial, to be conducted in partnership with CitiPower and Powercor, will manage challenges associated with two-way electricity flows from renewable energy sources like rooftop solar systems.

Scheduled to be completed in 2026, the trial will identify capabilities of low voltage distributed energy resource management system (LV DERMS) needed to facilitate a seamless flexible connection experience for customers at scale.

Two schemes will be tested, including a hot water load control (HLWC) trial where hot water is managed via a smart meter to align with periods of low demand and high solar production.

A minimum of 10,000 customers on existing controlled load tariffs will be recruited for the hot water trial, with the potential to scale up to 146,000 customers or 120 MW in flexible capacity.

Trial results may lay a foundation for Victoria to fast-track the scaling up of opt-in flexible management of hot water and other consumer devices.

A United Energy flexible exports trial will allow export of solar electricity from rooftop systems above current static limits using DOEs.

Image: United Energy

Flexible Exports Trial

A second, flexible exports trial will provide 100 residential and five commercial and industrial (C&I) customers the ability to export solar electricity from their rooftop solar systems above current static limits using dynamic operating envelopes (DOEs).

The trial will involve aligning solar exports to local network activity, enabling larger or lesser exports at times of high or low demand.

United Energy’s General Manager, Electricity Networks, Glen Thomson said the project would support the network continue integrating more renewable technology.

“Our network is critical to supporting Victoria move towards a clean energy future and this project will involve us operating our network in a different way that will provide significant benefits to our customers and the community going forward,” he said.

Load Flexibility Report Card Platform

The second company conducting a trial is specialist renewable energy investor Birdwood Energy, granted $942,944 from ARENA towards design and development of a $2.58 million load flexibility report card platform.

Aiming to deliver 100 report cards, the application will inform C&I customers of potential flexible demand within their site aiming to identify a total of 2 to 5 MW total load flexibility during the trial.

To be supported by solar installers and energy efficiency experts, the platform software will allow users to collect and process site data, providing informed decision-making on applying flexible demand activities.

The report card categorises the types of flexibility, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or cold storage facility loads, and the technology types to unlock them.

Birdwood Managing Partner Scott McGregor said distributed energy which could get up to 60% of generation, is a faster, cheaper way to get to net zero.

“Alongside our partners, the ANU who is leading algorithmic energy software development, and the EEC who is supporting engagement with the broader energy services sector, we will deliver a simple and engaging tool to allow businesses to embrace these opportunities,” he said.

Birdwood Energy also recently announced plans to operate two ready-to-build 4.95 MW solar farms in NSW, each co-located with an 11 MWh / two-hour battery energy storage system.

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