- May 6, 2022 7:10 pm GMT
Thanks to progressive policy, Australia is at the global forefront of modernizing its electrical grid—a necessary evolution forced by increasing amounts of renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs). In 2001, the Federal Government rolled out a policy (the Renewable Energy Target or RET) aimed at securing at least 33,000 gigawatt-hours of Australia's electricity from renewable sources by 2020. That target was met in September 2019, a year ahead of schedule.
Australia’s states launched similar targets. South Australia has an ambitious target of net 100% in the 2030s and Tasmania is on track for 100% renewables by 2022. The Australian Capital Territory achieved its target of 100% renewable electricity in 2020.
Twenty years after the initial RET was launched, Australia’s federal government renewed its commitment to renewables with its Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan, announced in October 2021. Aimed at the whole economy, the plan targets net zero emissions by 2050 and relies heavily on technology to help Australia cut emissions while creating jobs and growing their economy.
This is where PXiSE’s vision to transform grid management and enable a 100% renewable future aligns. As a developer of grid controls for a highly distributed and renewable grid, PXiSE has found increasing demand for its software among utilities and grid operators tackling the challenges brought on by increased renewables and DERs, which is highly concentrated in Australia. Their grid modernization projects can serve as a model for the rest of the world.
PXiSE is involved in some of Australia’s most significant DER projects, which include:
- Project EDGE (Energy Demand and Generation Exchange). This three-year trial aims to demonstrate a proof-of-concept DER, which could provide both local and wholesale network services.
- Project Symphony Western Australia’s $35.5 million project aims to coordinate and manage DER assets such as rooftop solar, major appliances, and battery storage with energy distribution software systems.
- Onslow DER project by Horizon Power is a microgrid which services the town with a mix of energy sources, including renewables, modular gas-powered generation, and battery storage.
These three projects demonstrate the breadth of scope that grid modernization efforts encompass—from the local microgrid level, to regional DER coordination, to a broader wholesale energy marketplace. Looking at this from a more targeted industry level, individual verticals are also benefiting from Australia’s solid policy foundation. For example, this same foundation has prepared clean energy sources to take the place of coal-fired power plants.
How so? For starters, by not approaching this as a simple 1:1 replacement where battery storage will replace coal plants, which would be very expensive. In addition to adding renewable energy resources, Australia has options for how to tackle the gap that coal plants will leave.
- Adding battery storage to create a hybrid power plant. This can be done at the coal plants and other strategic points of the network to help reduce emissions and maximize the efficiency of the coal plant’s remaining life while taking advantage of existing transmission infrastructure. The battery storage will continue to support the electric grid after the retirement of the coal plants. Using time-synchronized control technology, hybrid virtual power plants (HVPP) can be created with distributed battery units that do not necessarily need to be co-located with the power resources.
- Grid modernization that empowers utilities to integrate large scale renewables and massive quantities of behind-the-meter solar PV and storage assets into transmission and distribution networks. Integrated and advanced control technologies are here to enable the decentralization of both energy resources and regional networks, facilitating operation as one integrated network or as separate regional island networks. All can provide dynamic two-way energy flow in a 100% renewable grid.
- Market enablement by Australian Electric Market Operator’s (AEMO) DER Marketplace. This incentivizes owners of independent and distributed energy assets to participate in the wholesale energy market while ensuring the networks operate within their capacity limits. Such market enablement improves the total return on investment of energy assets that can serve both internal energy use and external energy market needs.
By combining utility-grade energy storage and customer assets with intelligent grid control software, Australia can leverage all energy assets as a holistic system, rather than siloed power plants of the past. This prepares the grid for the loss of coal power plants or sudden loss of renewable resources without causing major disruption.
While inherently more complex than a singular problem/solution approach, an integrated approach is what is needed to achieve aggressive renewable targets. Today’s technology leverages artificial intelligence, energy storage, and high-speed data communications and controls to make up for renewables’ intermittency. It facilitates a grid that harnesses the power of hundreds of thousands of producers and has the capability to redistribute it rapidly from areas of surplus to areas of need.
Australia is building the 21st century grid and charting a course for others to follow. It’s the modern grid we need worldwide—diversified, distributed, and resilient. PXiSE is excited to play an important role in this energy transition journey.
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