To understand whether a neighbourhood battery is feasible and the right solution for your community, you will need information about your local network. When it comes to understanding what network data and information you will need, there are two key aspects:
- What network data and information you will need to scope a project, i.e. where a good location for a battery might be, how much capacity is available
- What constraints exist on your part of the network and how this may hinder or benefit your project
Having constraints on the network doesn’t necessarily mean there is more opportunity for a neighbourhood battery, and in fact constraints could limit market revenues that a neighbourhood battery could obtain (e.g. due to export limitations that restrict energy arbitrage).
Keeping this in mind, when figuring out what network data and information is needed you will likely be looking for answers to some of the following questions:
|How much capacity is available in your area? What is the reliability of the supply?
|Is your local network overloaded?
Does local solar generation exceed demand at least some of the time? Are there issues to do with reverse power flows?
Where, if anywhere, in the system are voltage drops or rises occurring?
Are there any current or forecast network constraints your local DNSP is looking to resolve?
|How much local demand for electricity exists in the area?
What type of demand is it and when does it peak?
|Local solar (or other distributed) generation and energy technologies
|How many houses in your neighbourhood have solar panels?
Do householders have plans to install more?
What is the installed solar inverter capacity in your area?
What is the current maximum installed solar inverter capacity in your area?
To what extent are households in your area having solar exports constrained?
Would they install more solar if these constraints were removed?
How many households have their own residential batteries?
How many households have electric vehicles or are planning to get them?
What are their EV charging arrangements?
Do households have controlled loads drawing on solar in the daytime?
What information DNSPs provide
Under the National Electricity Rules, DNSPs must produce an annual, publicly available Distribution Annual Planning Report (DAPR) overviewing the current and future changes they propose for the network. This includes information on forecasts, system limitations, projects, and investments for both the current year and for the upcoming five years. For example, the DAPR will cover the name and location of network assets where a limitation has been identified, when the limitation occurred, the proposed solution, and its cost. This reporting on system limitations however is very brief, and not particularly useful for scoping out a neighbourhood battery project.
The DAPR therefore does not currently include a requirement for general reporting on the low voltage network. This means you will not be able to use DAPRs to obtain the data you will need for scoping your project. The AER are currently though looking at changing the requirements of the DAPR.
Where constraints do exist, DNSPs may issue a Regulatory Investment Test – Distribution (RIT-D) to the market to look for a non-network solution to the network limitation. RIT-Ds that have been issued by a DNSP can provide insight on current network limitations being faced by your DNSP and therefore the potential network services a neighbourhood battery could provide.
Some DNSPs do report pieces of data on constraints in the low voltage network level, however this data is still limited to peak demand and thermal constraints opposed to DER hosting capacity voltage constraints, which is what is needed most for your project. In some regions, including Victoria and the ACT, data on the low voltage network level is captured. In Victoria, smart meters have been installed in households, allowing power flow information at the household level to be gathered and inform understanding on different network constraints. This data however is not currently available to proponents, even at an aggregated level.
You should first access publicly available network data to undertake preliminary analysis. This includes using DNSP’s most recent DAPR and any issues they have put out for RIT-D. In Victoria, DAPR data analysis and interactive maps can be accessed at the following links for:
Energy Networks Australia (ENA) have also created Network Opportunity Maps that can be used to identify opportunities for distributed generation and energy storage and find any available load or generation data.
Requesting network data and information
If you have exhausted the publicly available data and information, and still need additional information to develop your business and operating models, you will need to request data from your DNSP. Requesting data will be easier if you have an established relationship with the DNSP. In order to maintain this relationship (which will continue to be important for your project), and recognising that providing data takes time and resources, you need to make sure you know exactly what you want when approaching your local DNSP.
Drawing on your energy expert, make sure your information request is:
- clearly expressed
- clearly aligned with the goals and intended services of the project and
- at the appropriate level of detail/granularity.
Make sure to factor in plenty of time for the data request to go through (at least a few months). If part of your model is to provide network services, you should have a conversation with your DNSP about this. The types of data you may need to request are indicated in the table below.
|Spatial & temporal details
|Substation transformer specification
|Total solar panel capacity installed
|Total number of customers within LV network
|Capacity of LV network and connection points
|Aggregated electricity loads at the local substation transformer
|Maximum 30-minute intervals
|Aggregated electricity exports of locally generated solar power at the local substation transformer
|Maximum 30-minute intervals
|Current tariffs of customers
|Local use of system tariff
|Coverage depends on DNSP
Depending on the size of your proposed asset, one or two assessments of your project will be performed by your DNSP. The first may be a high-level connections assessment, which will provide high-level data analysis, budget estimates (e.g. for connection to network), and a Specification Design Services. Next DNSPs will likely perform a PSS/E (Power Systems Simulation for Engineering) assessment that will assess how the battery will impact the network. This process should cover technical aspects like minimum and maximum demand, load flow modelling (e.g. rapid voltage changes), fault analysis, and control strategy.
The Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET) was established by the Victorian Government to help improve data access and information to support consumers as they take up new energy technologies, like neighbourhood batteries. Partnering with local DNSPs, C4NET is working towards providing a single point of service for requesting and obtaining electricity data. Further information on C4NET’s data access service will be provided on this hub when available.