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Victoria slashes grid outage risk with record demand response uptake

Record customer participation in electricity demand response initiatives has cut the risk of network outages in Victoria and delivered more than half a million dollars to those taking part, new data shows.

Distribution company United Energy said on Monday that its Summer Saver program, which had been activated three times over the course of December, had achieved a 97 per cent participation rate – well above previous averages for the program of between 75-83 per cent.

As United explains on its website, demand response can be used to relieve pressure on the grid on those “few really hot days over summer,” by getting customers to reduce or shift when they use electricity.

In the case of the Summer Saver, which runs from December 01 to March 31, participating customers on constrained parts of the local network are financially rewarded every time they participate in an “event day” for a full three hours, as requested by the network.

This usually requires those customers to reduce demand through simple measures like turning their air conditioner temperature up and avoiding using high appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.

United said new data showed that over the first month of the Victorian summer alone, participating customers – most of them households – saved around 8.6MWh across the three events. More than $535,789 was awarded to participants.

“The great thing about Summer Saver is that, instead of conducting expensive upgrades to the network to accommodate just a handful of peak days, the program allows us to continue delivering a reliable power supply in an affordable way for customers,” said United Energy’s general manager of electricity networks, Mark Clarke.

But he said the key take-away from the new data was that customers were ready and willing – and even keen – to take part in network-led demand response programs.

New data shows the public’s appetite for helping the energy grid is at an all-time high, with successful demand response initiatives easing the load on networks and generators already this summer.

Following news that the NSW Government’s public call for people to reduce their energy consumption following bushfire damage to transmission lines last week achieved a reported 200-300MW, data from Victoria distributor United Energy has revealed the booming interest in taking part in demand response.

United Energy’s program, known as Summer Saver, has activated three times so far this summer, on 18, 20 and 30 December, with results showing an amazing 97% participation rate – well above the previously accepted average for the program over six years between 75% to 83%.

The customers, typically households, saved 8.6 MWh across the three events, at peak times on constrained parts of the local network in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula, which sees ballooning population over the summer period.

The program works by asking participating customers to reduce demand by taking simple measures like turning their air conditioners’ temperature up and avoiding using high energy appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.

And while those who opt in are duly rewarded – customers get between $15 and $456 depending on the demand reduction achieved – their participation is a win for all, by helping to reduce the risk of network outages.

United said on Monday that its network suffered a large number of fuse switch faults under heavy load in January 2018, which resulted in thousands of customers off supply.

“Thanks to Summer Saver, United Energy has only had to deal with a handful of fuse faults during each event window so far,” it said.

Source: RenewEconomy