It’s a great idea to accelerate distributed energy: DER Visibility and Monitoring Best Practice Guide

Improving visibility on the low-voltage networks – where consumers increasingly are choosing rooftop solar PV, with battery storage on the rise and electric vehicles on the way – is crucial to make the clean energy transition work. And data is the key to getting that visibility in real-time through the cloud.

Wattwatchers is proud to have played a supportive role in the birth of this Best Practice Guide, an important initiative for the ongoing growth of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) across Australia.

The Guide – or the DER BPG – is the product of a ground-breaking collaboration between leading energy technology companies operating in Australia, both homegrown and international groups, to fill a void in standards for gathering vital energy data to enable more DER integration to ensure grids are cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable for consumers.

Maximum credit is owed to Solar Analytics co-founder Stefan Jarnason for initiating and leading the creation of the DER BPG, with strategic support from GreenSync, the architects of the Decentralised Energy Exchange (deX). But overall, well done to all involved.

Australia’s world-leading transition* to a high renewable penetration electricity system with abundant small-scale generation from residential and commercial solar PV installations is being hampered by a lack of data.

Unlike traditional electricity generation from a small number of mainly large-scale centralised power stations that connect into high-voltage transmission networks, the millions of DER already installed across Australia are relatively tiny in size, widely dispersed, and feed straight into low-voltage distribution networks (which is where consumers plug in to get their electricity).

Increasingly, today’s smart energy technologies such as remote monitoring devices and solar and battery inverter systems have built-in capabilities to collect vital data from these many DER installations, and to communicate it in near real-time via the internet.

There remains a major challenge, however, to aggregate and organise such data, and to make it available in useful forms that uphold the rights of consumers while supporting the overall electricity system to operate more effectively.

Harnessing the power of data is now a core requirement to deliver the cleaner, lower cost and more reliable electricity system that an orderly transition to higher levels of DER promises, and that most stakeholders want. While this requirement is increasingly being recognised across the electricity system, achieving it is complex and involves many stakeholders.

Our objective

The founding objective of the DER technology vendors driving the Guide initiative is to accelerate progress towards standardised data and information about DER, starting with newly-installed generation systems.

Collectively, we recognise that it will take considerable time for such a model to be codified formally through existing standards and certification bodies in Australia. 

While there are clear opportunities to draw on international experience, our group is mindful that in substantial ways Australia is transitioning to high-level DER ahead of the rest of the world, and thus also needs to lead on developing data solutions to better enable this transition.

Given the near-term nature of this information challenge, and the capability of smart DER to provide data, our group is working to enable and implement a consistent data set for DER products installed in Australia from 2020 and to allow, with customer consent, access for authorised industry entities to this set of static and dynamic information on DER.

*>2.3 million home and small commercial PV systems already are installed across Australia, with approx. 220,000 additional systems being added per annum. At present rates of installation, Australia will have around 45-50% of generation installed at consumer sites within 10 years. While this increasing DER penetration is contributing to lower electricity costs for consumers and lower carbon emissions, there are a number of key challenges to this growth continuing in ways that are fair and equitable for consumers, reliable for the system, and cost-effective for everyone. Data-driven visibility of DER locations, types, operating status and performance is a threshold issue for addressing these challenges.