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Summer smart meter plan put in place to keep Victoria’s lights on

The Commonwealth’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing a $900,000 grant for United Energy to test whether its existing Dynamic Voltage Management System can quickly and securely manage frequency across the energy network.

United Energy’s electricity network general manager Mark Clarke said using the data from its smart meter fleets to support frequency could provide significant benefit to customers.

“Victoria is unique as our extensive smart meter network allows us to have in-depth insight and control of the network and this trial will allow us to look at new ways to use this data for the benefit of the broader community,” Mr Clarke said.

“Frequency events can have a major impact on power supplies if not managed quickly. We will be testing how this technology can support the stability of the national energy grid and minimise major power outages.”

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Under the $1.4 million trial, United Energy will install frequency monitors and use data from its smart meter network to quickly act to stabilise frequency across its 47 zone substations, which act as controlling points across the electricity network.

Speed of response will also be monitored, with the system tested to automatically respond in fewer than five minutes to frequency changes.

Failures and planned outages at multiple coal and gas-fired units in the Latrobe Valley played havoc with Victoria’s energy grid last summer, forcing the energy market operator to cut the power to hundreds of thousands of customers during two days of extreme heat in late January.

Up to 200,000 Victorian households were hit with rolling power outages, with the state government declaring the energy grid was not fit for modern living.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said in July the operator was working with AGL and the rest of the industry on plans to cover the loss of generating power at Loy Yang A, which provides about 30 per cent of Victoria’s electricity capacity.

Audrey Zibelman, CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operato, has warned that Victoria risks blackouts this summer.

Audrey Zibelman, CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operato, has warned that Victoria risks blackouts this summer. Credit:David Porter

ARENA has previously funded trials at solar and wind farms but United Energy’s trial is the first to be conducted on the distribution network.

The trial will also look at what role regulated networks may have in participating in frequency control ancillary services markets.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said the project would demonstrate how new technologies can provide important grid services that have traditionally been provided by coal and gas generators.

“United Energy’s project is showing we could leverage data coming from smart meters to help provide essential stability services that are required on the grid without customers being asked to reduce their energy use,” Mr Miller said.

“One of ARENA’s key investment priorities is focussed on integrating renewable energy into the grid.”

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