The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced Thursday that it was launching a new AUD$12.5 million funding initiative for pilot projects and studies that focus on integrating distributed energy resources into the electricity system.
Formed in 2012 by The Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) supports the development of local renewable energy technology by providing funding to researchers, developers, and businesses. So far, projects that have been supported by ARENA have already attracted over AUD$1 billion in funding and there is already another AUD$3.5 billion worth of projects in the pipeline.
Announced on Thursday, ARENA is now focusing its attention to supporting the development and research of better integrating distributed energy resources (DER) into the electricity system. Specifically, ARENA will provide AUD$12.5 million (USD$9.83 million) to support increasing shares of distributed solar PV and batteries, as well as helping distributed energy resources reach into homes and businesses in an effort to contribute towards grid reliability.
“Distributed energy resources are going to play a huge role in Australia’s future energy mix,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Rather than just focussing on large-scale generation and storage, ARENA is looking at how we can integrate and orchestrate behind-the-meter assets such as rooftop solar and home batteries as these become more common.”
Distributed energy resources include technologies such as rooftop solar, home batteries, inverters, controllable loads (both in the home and at commercial and industrial facilities), EV charging points, and smart appliances and systems. The application process for the funding is in two parts, and ARENA is calling for applications for both pilot projects focused primarily on increasing network hosting capacity, as well as studies on the integration of distributed energy resources into the grid.
“We hope this funding will allow us to increase the value of consumer-owned distributed energy resources in the system, teach us how to optimise behind-the-meter assets like rooftop solar and batteries, and give the market operator, networks and retailers greater visibility of these assets,” explained Frischknecht.
This is not the first time ARENA has looked at supporting DER, having already allocated AUD$7.5 million in funding to pilot projects trialing new approaches to increasing network hosting capacity through advanced monitoring and control schemes to manage power flow, voltage fluctuations, and other system requirements in real time. A further $5 million has also already been allocated for desktop studies, feasibility studies, or modelling to investigate how best to integrate high penetrations of DER.
“ARENA’s current portfolio includes a range of on-site energy delivery or embedded network projects, demonstrating reduced network connection costs and testing a variety of business models,” continued Frischknecht. “There are currently several virtual power plant projects underway, as well as a distributed energy market platform project, all of which have shown the potential for an increase in the value of DER for both individual energy consumers and the broader grid in Australia.”
“By 2022, it is our aim that whole regions of the electricity system could be operated securely and reliably with 100% of demand met from a behind-the-meter assets in combination such as rooftop solar, batteries and demand management within homes and businesses.”