ARENA backs deX project to deliver open-source digital marketplace coupling distributed solar-plus-storage and grid services

Australia’s fast-growing distributed battery storage and mature rooftop PV markets could soon get an ARENA-funded boost. The provision of ancillary grid services, such as peak demand reduction and frequency regulation, could be facilitated by an open-source software solution currently being developed under the deX project.

ARENA has tipped funding into deX, which seeks to develop the software required to enable a digital marketplace for grid services, provided by rooftop solar and battery storage arrays on and in Australian homes and businesses.

Melbourne-based energy tech startup GreenSync is leading deX. GreenSync is teaming with Canberra startup Reposit Power, network operators United Energy and ActewAGL, and electricity retailer Mojo Power, to develop the software solution and couple it with distributed battery trials currently underway in Canberra and on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula. deX will be deployed at the two pilot projects in June.

“We are on the cusp of a profound shift in the electricity market and a turning point in Australia’s energy future,” said Phil Blythe, GreenSync founder and CEO. “Imagine a single marketplace where consumers can connect and configure their energy resources, and all of the upstream value generated by these assets are automatically paid into a bank account or digital wallet.”

GreenSync and ARENA have not announced whether Blockchain technology will be deployed on deX, although it is being deployed on some similar trials in Australia and elsewhere.

A reference group will be attached to the deX project, to investigate how public policy can enable the rollout of the distributed energy and grid services platform. The group will be formed by representatives from the Australian Capital Territory, and Victorian governments, researchers from the Australian National University, and the Australia’s Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and Energy Consumers Australia.

By taking a collaborative and open-source approach, the deX project could potentially result in an open-source digital trading platform that can be rolled out in various markets free of charge.

“Reliability of the energy system and delivering new value streams to consumers are key priorities driving deX,” said GreenSync’s Blythe. “Homes and businesses will be able to monetize their solar and storage assets by essentially renting them to the grid when they’re most needed. deX will revolutionize peak electricity management and drive more effective investment in energy infrastructure.”

United Energy operates the grid on the Mornington Penninsula, on Melbourne’s southern outskirts. The region is forecast to experience electricity network constraints as the population grows. United Energy will investigate the efficacy of deploying distributed solar and storage, coupled with the deX platform, instead of carrying out grid infrastructure upgrades.

“The deX exchange is a step toward localized or “mini-markets” on the grid that will optimize value for all parties,” said United Energy’s Greg Hannan. “This is key to creating value for energy customers in the grid of the future.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht explained that deX will open up new revenue streams for homes and businesses with rooftop PV and storage.

“Australia has world-leading levels of rooftop solar, however, there’s currently no marketplace for consumers to access the full value of these systems,” said Frischknecht. “This could encourage more investment in solar and batteries, supporting the grid, reducing the need for infrastructure investment and ultimately reducing the cost of renewables in Australia.”

deX was formed at ARENA’s accelerator A-Lab, which opened April 2016.