Australia’s first large-scale VPP powers the north

Australia’s first large-scale operating virtual power plant (VPP) is at work in Townsville, redirecting electricity generated in industry to North Queensland’s households.

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham welcomed two major industrial customers to the VPP, which he described as a “high-tech control room”, in Townsville this week.

The control room at Ergon’s CBD headquarters remotely draws electricity from customers around the state to bolster supply during peak demand, and the foundation major customers are NQ’s Sun Metals Corporation and MSF Sugar.

Dr Lynham welcomed the companies’ vote of confidence in the plant, which is managed by Yurika, an arm of publicly-owned Energy Queensland.

“The virtual power plant has already proved its worth during last week’s heatwave,” Dr Lynham said.

“When demand spiked for those air-conditioners last week, the plant drew 44MW from a supplier in the south-east corner to help meet record peak demand.

“Not only is this plant taking pressure off the network, it will help reduce the volatility of wholesale prices in the National Electricity Market (NEM) – a major driver of power prices.

“This is another element of the Palaszczuk Government’s $2 billion Affordable Energy Plan that will make power bills more affordable, and our publicly-owned electricity system more reliable.”

Four people currently staff the hub in Townsville’s CBD, with 10 new positions eventually to be created as operations expand.

Sun Metals Zinc Refinery in Townsville is one of the largest consumers of energy in the state.

Sun Metals CEO Yun Choi said he can see the benefits of the project for the business and the community.

“The virtual power plant represents the future of energy and we are pleased to be a foundation customer,” he said.

MSF Sugar’s general manager business development Hywel Cook said the program was an example of innovative businesses working together to achieve a better outcome for the future.

“Through the virtual power plant, we are working with Yurika to optimise our capacity for electricity generation and to better manage demand across our farms,” Mr Cook said.

“While this will assist us in minimising costs, it will also assist with supply security across the energy network.”

Yurika executive general manager Charles Rattray said the plant was already providing an immediate shot in the arm for Townsville with the extra staff and local contractors working on site inspection, hardware installation and asset maintenance.