During this summer’s southern heatwaves rooftop solar produced by consumers reduced overall demand by nearly 5 per cent. In the future with rooftop solar doubling/trebling (?) plus battery storage added into the mix, what would happen?
The need to cater for ‘super peak’ demand periods – with a super-sized grid – has helped subsidise the earnings of utility companies in recent years, but now consumers or ‘pro-sumers’ are challenging this.
RenewEconomy reports that
“Victorian electricity and gas network operator SP Ausnet has commissioned a 1MW/1MWh battery storage facility that could herald a new approach to dealing with peak demand, and avoid future costly network upgrades.”
Engineering group ABB and the Korea’s Samsung will build
“a hybrid Grid Energy Storage and Diesel Generation System that will include the battery storage (using lithium ion batteries) and a 1MW diesel generator”.
Imagine a household in a small community with an EV in the driveway.
“The battery in the car could be used to augment the solar panels and the household battery storage to deliver air conditioning. In effect, a household is meeting its own needs. Rather than detracting or ‘free riding’ on the grid, as solar households are accused of doing now, it is delivering a tangible benefit.”
Jack Azagury, the New York-based global head of smart grids for Accenture’s utility business, describes the ‘death spiral’ scenario as both true and overrated.
Which one it becomes depends on how each utility reacts. Transformation, he says, is happening. Solar is growing exponentially, storage is coming down in price, but most consumers will look to grid for back-up, for stability, for peak load, and for insurance. How much they do depends on how willing the utility is to move with new technology.
Azagury says the ‘bigger’ grid will not simply disappear.
“The grid will exist, but it will provide a service around connection. But there will be more options for consumers..in solar and storage, that could provide support or even alternatives to the grid..
If utilities are waiting for regulators and policy makers to help that transformation (happen more slowly), that is not going to happen…That will not save them because regulators and regulation lag. This will be a transition unlike any we seen since electrification.”
Home security firms, home automation device providers, and even internet and cable firms are looking at home energy management.
Azagury suggests analytics will be crucial, hence the importance of ‘smart grid’ technology and good data, which saved 35 transformers from being ‘browned out’ during the mid-January heatwave in SE Australia.
The fact that most networks have operated as a ‘dumb grid’, means that most utilities don’t know customers are offline until the customer tells them. And they don’t know if they are reconnected until they see the lights on in the house.
“Solar will not be the death of the utility … but these organizations will live and die by the quality of the data and the analytics that they have access to.”
Thinking of going off-grid?