Swimming pools, grid backup and renewable energy

June 25th, 2018

The electricity grid is increasingly challenged.  Pooled Energy helps stabilize the grid and reduce greenhouse emissions

The Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) has just released their review of the electricity grid performance over summer 2017-18, and it shows how challenging and expensive it has become to keep enough backup power available to avoid blackouts.

Last summer was always going to be difficult.  Hazelwood, Victoria’s large brown coal fired plant, closed in March 2017, and took a huge 1600 megawatts (MW) off the grid.  At the same time, the Basslink interconnector cable that supplies Tasmanian hydroelectric power to the mainland had its capacity reduced by 116 MW, widening the supply gap to a possible 1716 MW.

To cover this gap, three mothballed gas fired generators were returned to service.  This recovered 833 MW of generation.  But that was only about half of the shortfall.

For the remaining gap, AEMO procured 1141 MW of backup power.  Only some of this is actual power generation: 274 MW of diesel generators were available at call for backup generation if required.

The rest of this backup was “demand management”.  This is the ability to request an electricity customer cut power. Large industrial customers agreed, for a price, to cut up to 867 MW of their power consumption, if requested.


Major Capacity Changes in the NEM, Summer 2017-18

Backup is not cheap. Securing this 1141 MW reserve cost $51.6 million dollars.  This is like AEMO paying you $50 if you will agree to turn off your 1 kW electric kettle, if they ask.  They may not ask, but they will still pay you, just to have that safety net available. This backup reserve for last summer cost about $6 on the average household bill.

Last summer was really just the beginning of this brave new world for the grid.  More generation will be needed in future, and much of this new generation will be wind and solar.  AEMO identifies the need for “sufficient operational reserves to be available from flexible, dispatchable resources to respond to variable resources”.

Translating that into English, AEMO wants more gas and diesel backup and demand management to accommodate more renewable energy and other variation.  And it is prepared to pay for this flexibility and dispatchability (the ability to be turned on or off at will) – truly valuable qualities in this new world.

Pooled Energy is built for this future.  The power in our large “pool” of swimming pools can be rapidly ramped up or down in response to grid conditions, without affecting the quality of the pool. This will give the grid the flexibility it needs to bring on more renewable energy.  We are currently engaged with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in a $5 million trial to demonstrate this capability.

So Pooled Energy customers are reducing greenhouse gas emissions in two ways:

  • our efficiencies reduce the total amount of energy used, and
  • we can replace more fossil fuels by more renewable energy

And they get a lower electricity bill, and a better pool!  We think this is pretty cool, an amazing win-win-win for our customers, the environment, and the grid.  We’re very excited to be a part of it, and hope you will join us too.


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