Consumer generated power

Consumer generated power

In Australia, consumers generate about 4 per cent of electricity. Predictions by the Australian Renewable Energy Authority (ARENA) say this could rise to 50 percent in the next few decades. ARENA is funding to 12 projects and studies to further integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into the electricity system.

What are distributed energy resources?

In the twentieth century, large power stations generated electricity that was distributed to the users via a centralised grid of power likes and transformers. The power flowed in one direction only, from the power plant to the user. Things have now changed, with new ways of generating electricity and power flowing in two directions.

Distributed energy resources are decentralised community-generated energy sources connected to the grid. DERs can include rooftop solar PV, wind turbines, biomass generators, fuel cells, battery storage and smart meters. The major advantage of DER is an overall reduction in energy costs. In areas where there is high dependency on variable energy resources such as wind and solar, DER can also provide reliability by reducing demand and smoothing out intermittent supply.

Issues associated with DER

There is a limit to the amount of DER that can be connected to a distribution network and still have it operate within technical and safety limits. Often, infrastructure upgrades are necessary. These upgrades could be in the form of hardware or software systems used to better manage supply and demand.

New technologies

The projects being funded by ARENA range from the development of complex software solutions to manage the grid to smart hot water systems that monitor home energy usage predictions and weather data to optimally use excess solar PV to heat water, limit reverse power to the grid and save homeowners money.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the 12 projects and studies would help to maximise the potential benefits of DER technologies owned by households and businesses.

Find out more about the projects at the ARENA website.