National

eBay-style power network may be on the way

By AAP Newswire

Australian homes could one day become virtual power plants due to the uptake of smart devices, which could see customers and energy companies on equal footing.

The agency tasked with creating rules for Australia's energy system likens the would-be change to eBay or Airbnb, which are essentially two-sided markets.

The Australian Energy Market Commission wants feedback on how consumers can benefit from the rise of digital appliances.

The latest household batteries, electric vehicles and air conditioners can be programmed to use electricity when it's the cheapest, with excess stored power then sold back to the grid.

AEMC chairman John Pierce expects this practice to become much more widespread.

"We are on the edge of the next big wave in energy market development. We need to get ready now so we are prepared to realise the benefits which digitalisation will bring", Mr Pierce said on Thursday.

"(The Australian Energy Market Operator) knows how much generation to expect from scheduled generators, and now we need to get a better handle on the virtual power plants which households are creating through solar PV and local storage."

Mr Pierce anticipates a broad decentralisation of the market as more consumers deal with the network in this way.

"The days of a relatively small number of centrally-controlled, big generators dominating the market are going," he said.

The potential for a two-way system is part of a raft of initiatives the AEMC is considering, with multiple recommendations, reports and consultation papers to be released in coming weeks.

The national energy system is due to undergo considerable change, he said.

"It's a time for cool heads, collaboration, and open, honest engagement with all stakeholders on understanding the long-term hip-pocket impact on consumers as we consider options for change," Mr Pierce said.

As the network prepares to prevent blackouts in summer, big power users are being paid in advance so they switch off and allow electricity to go to households.

"It's necessary, but it's not cheap. It's a sign of the times that hard choices are needing to be made between keeping the lights on and cost," Mr Pierce said.

"Everyone understands and accepts the need to bring down barriers to entry for renewables."