Australia has long been one of the global leaders in its adoption of residential rooftop solar and more recently as a potential leader in the adoption of battery storage.
However, Australia has been in the dark ages with its approach to demand response (DR) when compared to other markets around the world. So, the announcement last week by AEMO and ARENA to “Pilot Demand Response to manage extreme summer peaks” is a welcome change to recent thinking and an exciting move toward Australia’s sustainability goals.
Traditional behaviour-based DR, requiring action by the customer, has seen a lot of success around the world in recent years. In more recent times, we are seeing automated demand response maturing fast, with programs like that in Hong Kong where automated DR is part of their energy management portfolio. Integration with building management systems of commercial and industrial customers has been the logical first step, but with everything becoming internet enabled we are really starting to see the potential of DR unfold. The rapid adoption of rooftop solar and storage in Australia is just part of the picture. More exciting is the move to the connected home with consumer technologies such as smart air conditioners and, in the future, virtual home assistants such as Amazon’s Echo connecting to DR systems. For me these are all foundational steps to the real prize – the apartment block a virtual power plant. The convergence of these demand side technologies, along with changes in regulation to encourage the adoption of embedded networks, means the ever-increasing number of apartment blocks will one day become virtual power plants.
I am likely getting ahead of myself as there are many challenges that must be tackled first. When we introduced this into Hong Kong we were quickly reminded of the basics. Consumers often don’t understand DR, they are cautious giving up control of their consumption to third parties, they say they will take part but then inertia sets in and they don’t commit. You quickly realise that while technology presents challenges the real focus must be on customer and community engagement.
There are, of course, other challenges such as the complexities in the models used to predict and calculate how much potential and actual demand cut has occurred. The program itself presents its own issues, for example, how long an event is to take place, which customers are to be invited to take part in an event and how much notice will people be given. The good news for Australia is that these challenges and more have already been faced, and overcome, in many other parts of the world.
Will the 2020’s be the decade of Demand Response in Australia?
In our book ‘utilidocs™, building blocks to a Digital Utility’ we describe what services will help you succeed with demand response. Get your paperback or kindle version here. All profits go to Solar Sisters.
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