If you’ve spent any time around the energy industry, you’d know that it loves an acronym. And in the modern energy landscape, top of the frequently used acronyms is DER, or distributed energy resources.

It’s a term customers will soon get accustomed to, as it’s a big player in the modern grid and sits at the heart of many of the evolving opportunities for energy creation and storage for residents, businesses and industry.

What is DER?

Distributed Energy Resources refers to devices that can generate, store, and be controlled to consume energy at a particular time, to form part of the electricity supply network.

If you have solar panels on your roof, you have DER. As well as solar, examples of DER includes customer batteries, some smart home appliances, virtual power plants (VPPs) and microgrids.

If you have solar power, you are contributing to the network, which might seem insignificant. But when you have thousands of these small and larger DER generators which are typically powered by renewables, the combined energy flow can have a significant impact on the network load.

This extra energy can be a challenge for traditional networks like Endeavour Energy to manage. DER is often renewable, so more of it hits the network when the sun is shining and none when its night time. It means energy is flowing two-ways – from the customer to the network and vice versa.

Energy networks were not designed for the two-way flow of power, so managing DER requires adjustments to smooth the flows of fluctuating power and ensure power reliability.

However there are also great benefits from DER. Well managed, it allows more renewable power onto the network, which is often cost-effective.

The quick rise of DER has also resulted in new technology being developed to help manage it, which will also let us embrace the benefits longer term.

Benefits of DER

It feels good to be able to make your own power, and as many customers can attest, it also means lower power bills, as you use the power you make for free, and then sell the excess back to the network.

As more people get solar panels, to keep the network stable, we’re going to need to find a way to store that excess so it doesn’t flood the network, which can then be used later.

This opens up opportunities for customers to both make and save money. Those with a DER asset like a battery could be paid by the network to store energy during times when locally made renewables are flooding onto the grid, meaning customers take an active role in ensuring network reliability.

Customers will also have more insights over their power use and costs with DER devices like smart meters, allowing them to make choices around their energy use that can further reduce their cost.

More broadly, the ability for a network like Endeavour Energy to tap into and co-ordinate the energy from DER could reduce network costs, lowering the price of energy for everyone.

Current types of DER

The DER shift is already well underway. For customers, the DER they are most familiar with include:

  • Rooftop solar, which is enabling customers to generate energy not just for self-consumption but also for grid export.
  • Battery storage, both in-home and community batteries, which is allowing customers to tap into stored power for on-demand consumption or grid export.
  • Home energy management systems, which enable better control and visibility over energy resources and appliances.

Less well-known are network level types of DER such as microgrids and virtual power plants.

How are we managing the challenges?

Endeavour’s modern grid strategy is highly focused on managing the challenges of DER so we can embrace the benefits. Managed right, DER can help make the network safe, more efficient, reliable and more sustainable.

At Endeavour Energy, we’re already looking at and investing in a range of DER technologies and innovations that will underpin the modern grid, which is resulting in some really interesting projects and initiatives.

At a network level, we’re using better data and analytics around load modelling so we know when and how we need to respond and manage DER power on the network.

We’re also investing in community batteries that can act as a power soak while also providing customers local to the battery with an opportunity to have energy storage services.

Longer term, we’re investigating options around electric vehicles and virtual power plants, which as well as helping us manage DER will directly benefit customers.

This is what is so exciting about DER. Although it throws up challenges, in finding solutions for the modern grid, each time we are finding new opportunities to benefit customers. It’s a win for everyone.