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Victoria’s Solar Homes Program launches Virtual Power Plant Pilot

Victoria’s Solar Homes Program launches Virtual Power Plant Pilot

Victorian homeowners can now join a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) pilot program through the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes scheme.  The benefits of signing up for a Solar Homes approved VPP include a higher battery rebate and VPP financial incentives designed to reduce your electricity bills.

Joining a Solar Homes VPP means you get a boosted battery rebate of $4,174.  If you decided against joining a Solar Homes VPP, the highest battery rebate you could get is $3,500.  Both rebates are treated as a point-of-sale discount, reducing the upfront cost of your battery.

This post answers your questions on the Solar Homes VPP Pilot Program:

  • What is a Virtual Power Plant, or VPP?
  • What are the pros and cons of joining a VPP
  • Am I eligible to join a Solar Homes VPP Program?
  • What choice do I have with Solar VPP programs?
  • Which Solar Homes VPP program is best for me?

What is a Virtual Power Plant?

A Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is a network of homes with solar panels and batteries that are connected using smart software.

The purpose of a VPP is to:

  • share renewable energy
  • reduce participants’ energy bills
  • improve the resilience of the grid

VPPs draw on the power in your battery at times of peak demand when the electricity grid is under stress.  This is also the time when wholesale rates for electricity are at their highest.  In return for using power from your battery, the VPP will compensate you with credits to reduce your electricity bill.

VPPs are a great way to make the most of solar energy and solar battery storage.  Expect to see more and more VPPs in coming years.  VPPs will help reduce our reliance on centralised fossil fuel generators and fast-track the transition to greater use of renewable energy in our homes and communities.

Pros and cons of joining a VPP

VPPs have their pluses and minuses. 

If you’re getting a battery with energy independence as your #1 goal, a VPP may not be for you. That’s because with any VPP program, you’re giving the VPP operator the right to access the power in your battery, within the T&Cs of the agreement.

And that’s the catch!  Some VPPs programs will draw more power from your battery than others.  Reading the fine print is important.

For example, if you want guaranteed blackout protection, check whether that’s going to be compromised in anyway by your VPP operator.  The last thing you’ll want is your household plunged into darkness when there’s a power outage because the VPP has taken all the power out of your battery at that exact point in time.

On the other hand, VPPs provide several advantages, the main one being credits that reduce your ongoing electricity bills.  Some VPPs offer other incentives such as an upfront discount on your battery or a longer battery warranty.  Some even guarantee zero-cost electricity bills for a certain number of years.

Am I eligible to join the Solar Homes VPP Program?

To be eligible for the higher battery rebate, households must meet criteria including:

  • The property must already have a solar power system with a capacity of 5kW or greater. Alternatively, the property owner will install a solar power system of 5kW or greater at the same time as the battery.
  • The applicant is the owner-occupier of the property where the system is to be installed.
  • The applicant(s) have not already received a rebate as an owner-occupier under the Solar Homes Program – nor has the property.
  • The battery is on Solar Victoria’s approved battery list.
  • Distributed Network Service Provider (DNSP) approval has been received to connect a battery to the grid.
  • The combined household taxable income is less than $180,000 a year.
  • The property is valued at under $3 million.

In addition to Solar Homes criteria for the battery rebate, each of the Solar Homes approved VPP Programs have their own eligibility criteria.

If you’d like advice on the application process and eligibility, we’re happy to help.  Feel free to get in touch!

What choice do I have with Solar Homes VPP programs?

There are six VPP Pilot Programs currently approved by Solar Homes.  The main features of each of the programs is shown below:

Solar Homes Virtual Power Plant Pilot Programs, February 2022

VPP NameRegionKey benefitsContract period
Arcstream 100% Green by Q Cells

 

Eastern Victoria and eastern Metropolitan suburbs

 

·         Flat fixed rate electricity bills.

 

Exit anytime. No exit fees

 

Reposit “No Bill” by Reposit Power

 

Victoria wide

 

·         No electricity bill for the 5-year contract period.

 

5-year contract. No exit fees.

 

SonnenConnect by Sonnen

 

Victoria wide

 

·         $100 sign-up bonus.

·         Monthly bonus up to $24

 

1 year contract. No exit fees.

 

EDGE (Energy Demand and Generation Exchange) by Mondo

 

Hume region

 

·         $1,000 battery subsidy (on top of Solar Victoria rebate)

·         Minimum $1,000 participation payment

 

4-year contract. No exit fees.

 

Virtual Power Plant Reliability by Mondo

 

Hume region (for homes with history of outage issues)

 

·         $1,800 battery subsidy (on top of Solar Victoria rebate)

 

4-year contract. No exit fees.

 

Tesla Energy Plan by Tesla

 

Victoria wide

 

·         Up to $220 grid credits per year.

·         Extra 5 years warranty on your Powerwall, bringing it up to 15 years warranty.

·         Minimum 20% back-up reserve during a grid outage

·         Limit of 50 Powerwall discharge cycles per year

 

1 year contract. No exit fees.

 

 

Which Solar Homes VPP program is best for me?

Before answering this question, the key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does my home need complete blackout protection during a blackout event?
  • Would I be prepared to share any of the power in my battery if there’s a power outage?
  • How many times a year am I prepared to let the VPP charge and discharge my battery? (Note: with some batteries this can reduce the warranty period).
  • Would I be OK with the VPP changing my feed-in tariff or usage rates?
  • Am I happy to let them charge my battery from the grid whenever they want, at my cost?
  • Do I have specific brand preferences for a battery, or am I happy to accept whatever battery brand that’s provided by the VPP?
  • Am I prepared to relinquish control over the choice of Solar Retailer and Installer to a VPP? Or would I prefer to choose my own solar provider and find a VPP that’s OK with that?
  • How much financial benefit do I want in return for my battery being part of a VPP? Or is the wider environmental benefit more important to me?

There are no right and wrong answers to any of these questions.  That’s why there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all VPP.

If you’re wanting a guarantee of no electricity bills for 5 years, the Reposit VPP is worth looking at. The Mondo Plans offer an enticing upfront discount on your battery, but it’s not clear from the available information what brand of battery they’re offering.

Sonnen is a great battery and the company has a lot of experience in VPPs in Europe.  Their system works well, but you’d probably need more than one battery to power your home overnight.

If you’re a fan of the Tesla Powerwall battery, the Tesla Energy Plan is a great option.  The Tesla Energy Plan is Australia’s largest Virtual Power Plant and provides regular monthly credits as well as an extra 5-years warranty on the Powerwall battery bringing it to 15 years in total.  The plan also ensures you have a minimum 20% back-up reserve in your battery in the event of a grid outage.

With the Tesla Energy Plan, you can purchase the battery – and your solar panels – from the Solar Retailer of your choice.  And that’s a bonus if you’re shopping around for the best prices, best service and best warranty support.

Talking of which….

Get in touch for a quote and VPP advice

If battery storage and VPPs are on your to-do list, get in touch with us today!

SolarRun is a fully accredited Solar Battery Installer, a CEC accredited Solar Retailer and CEC accredited Solar Installer.  We only sell the leading battery brands, and we know which batteries work best for different homes.  Plus, we can help you decide whether joining a VPP is the right way forward for you!

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