The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $3.7 million in funding to energy demand response specialist Enel X to demonstrate and scale flexible energy demand solutions in the commercial and industrial refrigeration sector.
The ‘Unlocking Flexible Demand in the Commercial Refrigeration Sector’ project is seeking to recruit 440 supermarkets and 13 refrigerated warehouses to aggregate 20.9 MW of flexible demand across the National Electricity Market.
The supermarkets and warehouses will participate within Enel X’s virtual power plant (VPP), supporting Australia’s electricity system and helping alleviate grid constraints.
At the same time they have the potential to be rewarded for doing so via Enel X’s VPP.
Managing Director of Enel X APAC Jeff Renaud said: “The energy market needs new ways to balance renewables and businesses need new ways to reduce energy costs.
“With ARENA’s support, we will prove that small-scale refrigeration systems, when plugged into a virtual power plant, can make a large-scale contribution to the renewable energy transition.”
Commercial and industrial refrigeration offer an estimated 500 MW of potential flexible demand across supermarkets, grocery stores, beverage shops and warehouses.
Flexible demand is the coordinated orchestration of electrical load to ease pressure on the grid.
Energy storage is one part of the equation, but shifting demand away from peak times and reducing demand at critical times is another.
Refrigeration offers a valuable source of flexible demand due to the thermal mass of facilities maintaining temperatures even when refrigerators and chillers are ramped down.
Small changes to power usage can have a large impact when aggregated to scale, with no noticeable change for users or impact on product quality.
Enel X has engaged a Tier 1 Grocery chain as an initial supermarket partner, with a 20 store pilot extending to up to 250 stores participating in the VPP.
Temperature-controlled logistics provider Lineage Logistics will also take part in the project with 13 refrigerated warehouse sites.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “Our electricity grid is changing, and a more variable supply requires more flexible demand.
“Commercial refrigeration can unlock this opportunity at a material scale.
“By demonstrating and proving the technology to prospective users, we’re hoping to see increased uptake as electricity users look to it as an attractive option.”
ARENA has previously supported Shell Energy Australia with a $9.1 million grant to trial flexible demand solutions across shopping centres, supermarkets and distribution centres.