Networks seeking third-party innovation for upgrades

Powercor helicopter in air restringing powerlines (helicopters)
Image: Powercor

Are there solutions to network upgrades that aren’t just ‘more network’? When parts of power networks reach their capacity, they usually get a ‘traditional’ network upgrade to supply the extra power that customers need. These works might be a transformer upgrade or an uprated powerline, and these typical ‘poles and wires’ works help networks to ensure reliable supply to customers.

But is there another way? Are there companies out there that can deliver similar results using different technology at a lower cost? And does this create value for electricity customers?

Related article: Powercor applies for transmission licence in Victoria

That’s what Victorian networks CitiPower and Powercor are hoping to find out, opening up network constraints in a new platform that creates a marketplace for alternatives to traditional poles and wires work.

The online flexibility marketplace was created with global technology provider, Piclo, building from their experience internationally to offer an interactive map of local network constraints, allowing providers to match their solutions to network opportunities close to them.

CitiPower and Powercor will use the flexibility marketplace to offer funding for non-network solution providers network-wide, with several tenders and expressions of interest expected throughout the year asking suppliers to solve constraints at a range of levels and capacities; from as low as a few dozen kilowatts, to tens of megawatts.

The first flexibility tender will offer hundreds of opportunities for providers across the networks to defer the need for upgrades, and expressions of interest are also encouraged for millions of dollars of opportunities into the future.

Powercor head of network planning, Andrew Dinning said he hoped providers would bid into the tenders to deliver competitive options and keep costs low for customers.

“We’re really keen to see how much the market has matured to help us deliver for our customers at a lower cost than our traditional ‘poles and wires’ alternative,” he said.

“This might include batteries, virtual power plants or demand management programs, we’d love to hear what’s out there today.”

Dinning said Powercor’s constraint data was open and transparent and—through the Piclo Flex marketplace—easier to access than ever.

“Our new platform further enhances our transparency with network upgrades,” Dinning said.

“Anyone can use the marketplace, look at sites we plan to upgrade, and see if they can compete with traditional network solutions to solve network constraints.”

Related article: CitiPower begins Melbourne underground power upgrade

Solutions successful in the current tender would be rewarded with multi-year contracts to provide network support that helps to meet the challenges of increasing maximum demand.

The first of the competitions have been made available on the CitiPower and Powercor Flexibility Marketplace now.

A webinar will be hosted on 24 May to provide a live demonstration of the Piclo Flex Platform. Bidding is expected to run until later this year.

Previous articleNew app puts energy analytics in the hands of consumers
Next articleNuclear six times more expensive than renewables