This article was originally published on Energy News on 14 January 2018, and is reproduced here with permission. www.energynews.co.nz is New Zealand’s online news and information service for the energy sector.
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A new joint venture aims to enable consumers to use small scale generation and storage to participate in power trading within communities.
Our Energy, a Wellington-based energy technology venture, has partnered with solar energy firm Power Technology of Auckland to deliver a new platform to enable ‘local energy markets’ through solar generation and storage.
LEMs enable consumers and communities to be active participants in the retail electricity market through buying, selling, and gifting energy within their community.
The platform will connect customers – through proprietary hardware and software – to facilitate energy trading, billing and reconciliation for the distributed generator owner and the energy consumer.
“The large incumbents of the electricity market have largely individualistic and transactional relationships with consumers, whereas we are offering a community focused solution to energy needs,” Our Energy managing director John Campbell says. “It is a model of energy use that can certainly grow and be adopted across the retail market.”
Our Energy, which is registered as a retailer, will run the platform using its peer-to-peer based energy trading software, ‘Lemonade’.
Allowing consumers to purchase from other users who produce more energy than they need will limit or even remove the reliance on established electricity retailers, Campbell says.
“We see energy as a community resource. LEMs allow communities to behave like energy retailers without relying on the incumbents”.
The platform will use existing network operator infrastructure with customers able to access both the wholesale electricity market and LEMs.
Campbell believes Our Energy is well positioned to seize upon any regulatory change around multiple trading relationships. The Electricity Authority is currently examining enabling consumers to have trading relationships with numerous electricity services from one ICP.
Power Technology’s chief executive officer Hamish Littin says consumers would benefit from an electricity market populated by multiple suppliers, with frequent connection switching to suit specific energy needs.
“The LEM platform offers this sort of flexibility.”
The platform is expected to be rolled out across communities in Wellington and Auckland during the first quarter of this year.
The initial focus will be on enabling LEMs based in schools, as part of the New Zealand Solar Schools initiative launched by Power Technology in 2017.
Campbell says that helping students better understand how to use and pay for energy in a rapidly changing market is behind the decision to introduce the platform in schools. The platform could also be introduced to marae and other community organisations.
He tells Energy News the platform – which is expected to have a weekly access cost of $5 per connection – could also be used with other renewable energy sources such as wind and small-scale hydro.
Power Technology will provide the solar model for the offer. About 80 panels – at 1,650 x 990 mm – will be installed per school, with six-to-eight panels for the average home. Each panel can generate 300-350 watts at peak.
Littin says the total kW/hour generation will be determined by the size of the panel cluster and number of solar hours. The panels have a 25-to-30-year power output guarantee.
Schools can either purchase the hardware outright, through a leasing arrangement, or with a per-unit power purchase agreement.
Power Technology uses lithium-ion batteries sourced from a range of providers, including Tesla, Panasonic and LG.