Giving consumers greater control of their supply and usage is one of the critical selling points of modern renewable energy networks, but until recently many of the tools necessary to make that happen have been unavailable.
An innovative, world-first partnership launched in February 2017 may soon bring Australian customers closer to this goal, however.
The Decentralised Energy Exchange – deX
Dubbed the Decentralised Energy Exchange – deX for short – the pilot program brings together energy startup GreenSync with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and two network operators (United Energy and ActewAGL) to deliver a digital renewable marketplace. The high level of solar energy uptake in Australia makes the nation an ideal candidate for the scheme.
"The uptake of rooftop solar is one of the highest in the world per capita in Australia – around 1.6 million rooftops are fitted with solar – and it's being rapidly followed by battery storage," Phil Blythe, founder and CEO of GreenSync, told The Guardian.
"If we're going to have customers that can participate in a grid, then they need to get paid for their participation. We needed a new way of thinking about how these decentralised grids are going to work and fundamentally, how do we do that cost-efficiently."
The deX program functions thanks to the establishment of a network of virtual power plants drawing on rooftop solar generation and battery storage, driving investment in renewable technology and reducing consumer reliance on traditional providers.
Getting the deX underway
At the February launch, GreenSync announced two pilot projects to begin the deX program, in the ACT and on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Involvement at this early stage adds up to approximately 10,000 households across the two sites, with the Australian Energy Market Operator, the Australian Energy Market Commission and Energy Consumers Australia overseeing the project.
Also keeping tabs on deX, with an eye towards rolling out the scheme nationwide should it prove successful, is the federal government. Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, commented that the new two-way interface between consumers and network operators is an important initiative in the ongoing hunt for more-effective energy solutions.
"This holds the potential to deliver on the government's commitment to increasing the reliability of Australia's energy system, whilst supporting a more effective and cost-competitive rollout of renewable energy to households," he said.