Customers in South Australia and Victoria may be asked to cut power usage at peak times in return for discounted bills.
Both states are contemplating summer without a power supply from the Port Augusta Power Station in South Australia and from Victoria’s Hazelwood Power Station.
In preparation people with generators, or who are willing to sweat it out, may be asked to volunteer to switch off appliances such as pool pumps or air conditioners at times of peak demand.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) have teamed up to prevent load shedding in times of high demand — a situation that occurred earlier this year in South Australia when power was switched off to 90,000 properties..
The ‘demand response’ system will see households or businesses agree to cut their demand during peak times in exchange for cheaper prices.
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said it would work alongside already existing smart meters.
“The electricity company will know if you’ve used less or not, relative to how much you normally use on a hot day, and you might get rewarded for that,” he said.
“But I think the future is going to be much more sophisticated. You sign up online, or maybe it’s part of the deal you have with your electricity company that you give the company some control over certain appliances.”
Customers retain control
Residential customers who opt in could be notified via SMS that power to their appliances will be shut off or reduced.
But customers would still retain the right to override any changes.
“On a very hot day, the electricity company might send you an SMS that says we’re going to increase the temperature of your air conditioner set point, so instead of going on at 22 degrees, it’s now going to go on at 25 degrees,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“And if you don’t like it, you can just walk over to your air conditioner remote and turn it back down.”
Under the program, energy users who subscribe will receive incentive payments to be on standby in emergencies or peak demand days funded by ARENA.
It is not the first time the demand response system has been used in Australia.
Mr Frischknecht said a similar system was used for hot-water heaters in the 1960s and 1970s.
“We used to have a second meter, many of us in our home, that just ran the hot water heater, for those that weren’t on gas,” he said.
“This allowed the electricity company to turn off the hot water heater but not affect the rest of the electricity supply on those peak demand days.”
The three-year program is set to be trialled in South Australia and Victoria in time for the summer.