Chris Vlahoplus, partner and clean tech & sustainability practice leader at ScottMadden, Inc., one of North America’s leading energy consulting firms, recently spoke to Utility Dive about Australia’s distributed energy resource (DER) revolution. In November 2016, ScottMadden and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) led a fact-finding mission to discover ways Australian utilities and partners were deploying DERs and how customers were responding to the market shift. As a result of the trip, Mr. Vlahoplus and Tanuj Deora, chief strategy officer at SEPA, identified opportunities in Australia’s DER “boom.” Utility Dive’s article, “What Australia’s DER Revolution Can Tech U.S. Utilities about the Age of Trump,” shares a few of these insights.
Australia’s thriving distributed solar sector has eliminated the need for feed-in-tariffs (FITs). As the article shares, “Australia shows what the power sector looks like when it is more customer-centric and when rates are driving customers to the DG and not just incentives.” Mr. Vlahoplus continues, “Electricity rates almost doubled from 2008 to 2014. Even though the FIT has now been stepped down, higher electricity rates continue to make DER attractive.”
“The market is so far dominated by local solar installers, and the retailers see opportunity if they can leverage the customer data and marketing power they have in customer acquisition,” says Mr. Deora. There seems to be an emerging bias toward competitive practices and the idea that “if a product or service can be competitive, it should be,” adds Mr. Vlahoplus.
Mr. Deora shares, “Like the work being done now in the U.S., most notably in New York and California, Australia is planning on more cost-effective dispatch of DER through new tariffs and a transformed power sector led by distribution system operators. In the U.S., rate reforms are being planned in New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. As they prove workable, other states are likely to follow.”
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