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DER and how it affects you

What are Distributed Energy Resources?

Have you got solar on your rooftop? Well if you have, then you have a distributed energy resource (DER) as part of your energy solution.

DER are renewable energy resources such as microgrids, community batteries and solar PVs that generate electricity locally.

As these new technologies become widespread, we’re evolving the grid to integrate these new clean energy solutions into the network – and giving our customers greater choice.

You’re part of the reason why our energy landscape is quickly changing. 

All over the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), there is more and more new energy coming online, from microgrids in rural WA to community batteries and rooftop solar on your home or nearby shopping centre.

DER has changed the way our energy system works. Power is now coming in from many parts, powering up the local area, flowing to where it’s needed most.

Why should I care?

DER is a great thing.

Previously power for WA was reliant on big electricity generators, and our networks’ poles and wires to transport power from those generators to the widespread population right across the SWIS. It was a more centralised model of delivering power.

Now, power can be generated and used locally. Residents in Kalbarri will soon be able to draw power from a microgrid. A shopping centre in Ellenbrook can use the latest solar photovoltaic panels on the carpark roof to keep the lights on. In Meadow Springs, a resident can draw on PowerBank, a community battery.

Emu Downs solar farm

The DER challenges

While DER has lots of positives, particularly because of its ability to increase the amount of cost-efficient renewables, it also presents challenges to the operation of the grid.

Grids need stability, and they like energy to flow smoothly. Our grid was designed for more steady power generation, from large-scale generators, that would then be distributed across the network.

DERs often fluctuate, with more power being pumped into the grid when its sunny in the middle of the day than what might be needed by customers, or not enough power on an overcast, cloudy day, which can potentially cause issues.

We’re working on ways to more actively manage those issues, as the grid is essential for DER to work and its many benefits be fully realised.

The role of the grid

It might seem counter-intuitive, but without the grid most DER, like solar panels couldn’t work. Why?

Although the inverter will take your rooftop solar to the grid, the grid is the mechanism by which that DER becomes stable enough so you can run your appliances in your home without damaging them.

It creates the stable voltage, frequency and smooths over the peak currents.

It’s also the grid that will trip the fuse and circuit breakers in your home if there’s a fault, preventing an unsafe situation.

The grid also provides economies of scale to make the use of new technologies like community batteries cost efficient, and ensures energy is managed to so that everyone receives safe and reliable power.

Over time, the infrastructure that supports the grid will shift to adapt to the needs of DER. Tactics are already being implemented to make that shift.

We have new planning tools like the Grid Transformation Engine, the 'GTEng', that allow for energy scenario modelling.

We’re also working with our customers to partner with them on energy solution, including introducing new technologies like community batteries for residents, and pilot programs with commercial partners to shift their energy consumption patterns.

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What does this mean for me?

It means an exciting new phase of energy is on the way where our customers – both residential and business – will become partners in our energy network, helping to make, use and share safe and reliable power.

The WA Government recently launched the Distributed Energy Resources (DER) roadmap that we’re proud to be a part of.  It helps us support high levels of DER on the network ensuring safe, secure and affordable electricity supply now and in the future.

It is part of our plan to future-proof the network.

By working with you we can continue to connect homes, businesses and essential community infrastructure to an increasingly dynamic energy mix and ensure a cleaner, brighter future.