Update on AEMO's Virtual Power Plant Demonstrations program

3 min

AEMO's Virtual Power Plant (VPP) Demonstration program continues to prove that consumer devices have the capability to respond to both contingency Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) events and energy market price signals.

AEMO’s second VPP Demonstrations Knowledge Sharing report digs deeper into how VPPs will potentially operate in the Australian energy market.

In Australia, VPPs are typically focused on coordinating distributed energy resources (DER) like distributed rooftop photovoltaic (DPV) systems, battery storage and controllable load devices, such as air-conditioners or pool pumps, through the market.

AEMO DER Demonstrations Lead, Matthew Armitage, said that insights within the latest knowledge sharing report further demonstrate that VPPs can reward participating households and contribute to a secure electricity system.

“The operational visibility and capabilities shown by both the South Australian VPPs, one operated by Energy Locals in consortium with Tesla, and the other by AGL represent foundational building blocks to enable AEMO to operate the power system with high levels of DER,” Mr Armitage said.

“Throughout our program, we’ve observed VPPs’ performance in delivering frequency control services and responding to energy market price signals by charging and discharging fleets of household batteries.

“Evidence suggests that as VPPs scale, these flexible capabilities may help to ease operational grid challenges during both maximum and minimum demand periods, contributing to positive consumer experiences,” he said.

Beginning in July 2019, AEMO’s VPP program was established to understand and share insights on the operational capability of VPPs, exploring the ability of aggregating DER to deliver services to the grid and unlock new value for consumers.

The Program’s first Knowledge Sharing report, published in March 2020, addressed early findings relating to the ability for VPPs to respond to power system events and provide FCAS to maintain power system security.

This second report builds on these insights using data obtained from the two VPPs currently in operation and focuses on a range of topics including technical performance, forecasting accuracy, communication between operators and consumer owned DER, and cyber security requirements.

Alongside the VPP Demonstrations program, AEMO, in partnership with ARENA and in conjunction with the Energy Consumer Australia (ECA), is undertaking a customer insights survey of VPP participants, with early insights to be released in the third knowledge sharing report in early 2021.  

Lynne Gallagher, CEO (interim) Energy Consumers Australia, said: “The VPP trial is important because it will not only help us answer technical questions about this exciting new technology, but how to make it work for people and how they use energy in their homes and businesses.

“Energy is deeply embedded in the way we live our lives, and bringing consumers into the innovation process is a critical part of developing successful new energy services,” she said.

To support the growing levels of DER across the network, the recently published Renewable Integration Study highlights the need for more visibility and better modelling of new technology including virtual power plants which is being achieved through this demonstration.

The growing number of interested VPP operators also shows that this industry is gaining momentum with more aggregators and technology providers seeking information and getting involved. The insights gained throughout the VPP Demonstrations to date have proved invaluable for the growth of the industry and is providing valuable lessons for key projects being developed across AEMO. 

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