The new energy economy; energy trading and virtual power plants!
Just to clarify, this isn’t some reinvention of Virtual Life. It’s not about creating a new world in a digital universe (although with the looming implications of climate change that’s not a bad idea…)
Nope, it’s real life!
The idea of energy trading and an energy stock market has piqued my interest for some time thanks to the introduction of battery storage (which now seems soooo 2015) and super cool software technology thanks to companies like Reposit Power and Sunverge – more on them in a minute.
Honestly, this topic wasn’t originally scheduled as my number two post in the series. However, after recently attending the Solar+Storage conference in Melbourne, it’s moved up in my SolarGirl Solar Trends chart to spot # 2. And by the end of the post I hope you understand why this has me so excited.
Suddenly energy storage has enabled something equally as game changing as storing our own ‘free’ power for use when the family gets home and turns on every conceivable appliance. Yep, welcome to the world of Energy Trading and Virtual Power Plants!
What on earth does this mean??
For those of you not in the energy industry, you’re probably wondering what the h*#l I’m talking about! Ok, let me explain…
Traditionally, we buy electricity from an energy retailer like AGL,Origin or Powershop. The retailers are middle-men who purchase that energy (produced by big power plants – coal, wind, solar etc) on the wholesale energy market. They charge us a rate for the power we consume. The price we pay depends on a number of factors, including the cost of using the grid – the network of poles and wires that deliver us electricity – and hedging how much electricity we may need at one time. It’s complicated and I won’t get into it further here in fear of putting everyone to sleep (including myself). But I do encourage you to do your own research as, contradictory to my last sentence, it’s actually quite intriguing.
In the past, our energy market has been a one way supply – from the big power producers to us, the end consumer – similar to mass market advertising in the the 50’s. However, with the introduction of renewables, particularly solar, battery storage and smart software, energy supply is becoming disrupted and decentralised – the same way information delivery got shaken up with the introduction of the internet.
So let’s imagine for a second a world where energy supply is different. Where we can share our solar electricity with our neighbours, or with someone across the city. Where, like the stock market, we can trade it too; we can produce energy from the sun, store it or self-consume it when demand is low and sell it back to the network at an inflated price when demand is high!
Thanks to emerging technologies and energy storage, this IS no longer pie in the sky stuff!
Two companies that I love in particular are carving a new way for decentralised energy; dynamos Reposit Power and Sunverge. Innovative and nimble, these guys are disrupting the energy market as we know it with their Silicon Valley software smarts.
Reposit Power actually emerged in 2014 from what some may think is the opposite of Silicon Valley, the Nation’s Capital, Canberra. The company’s smart software allows homeowners to become energy traders, not only storing their own solar energy in batteries for use in the home but also allowing them to sell their stored solar power back to the grid when demand is high (and so are prices).
The best part? The smart guys at Reposit have done all the programming, so unless you feel like hanging at home on a Friday night waiting for that price surge, you can set and forget…just reaping the rewards at the end of your billing cycle. It’s also compatible with a growing list of batteries including the big boys Tesla and Enphase. The great interface means you’ll probably want to check in every now and then – even just to brag to your friends.
Learn more about how Reposit works in this short Video:
But imagine if we could bring HUNDREDS of small solar systems together in one energy community to act as a virtual power plant and create the ‘Grid of the Future’. That’s exactly what’s happening in New York as part of the State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. In the largest virtual power plant project to date, utility Con Edison has partnered with Sunverge and SunPower to install solar systems and Sunverge storage at 300 homes (in tech speak that equates 1.8MW solar and 4MWh of battery storage!).
The aggregation of hundreds of homes with solar power and battery storage will provide the utility with a cost-effective and innovative “virtual power plant,” providing participating homeowners with a backup system in case of an outage while also supplementing the traditional energy delivery model to improve grid resiliency, reliability and sustainability.
I could go on about this topic forever! These are just a couple of examples of projects and companies that I believe are truly evolving the energy market; the way we use, share and access energy. What I love most about all this is that is makes our energy more real, more tangible and more communal. As a friend of mine said ‘it’s like going back to the days where I grow carrots, you grow tomatoes and Bob the neighbour (or Bob the builder) trades them with us to change a light bulb’.
However way you think about it, energy is no longer a thing that mass marketers (utilities and retailers) push out to us in a one way conversation. Nope! Thanks to smarter solar, storage and software technology we get to play a role, take responsibility and collaborate in our Grid of the Future – and that excites me! SGx
Learn more about Sunverge below: