Plico Team 14/09/2022 19 min read

What are Distributed Energy Resources? And Why Do They Matter?

Distributed energy resources (DER) are small-scale energy generation and storage systems connected to the electrical grid. They are often individually owned and can provide electricity when needed. They're part of the local energy distribution system and have been continuously growing in prevalence, with a particular boom over the last decade.  

Systems that can create and store renewable energy, electric vehicles, and technology which owners can use to manage their electricity demand, such as smart appliances, are all classified as DERs.  

So, why do distributed energy resources matter? Well, it's because the future of energy in Australia (and much of the developed world) lies in greater autonomy for the individual. With more Australians switching to solar and the majority choosing a 'smart' solar set-up that incorporates a solar battery and an app where users can track and monitor their solar energy generation and usage, the energy independence revolution is already underway. 

This means that Australia is slowly moving away from its reliance on large, centralised power stations, with these small-scale systems set to carry the load of Australia's future energy resources. Mechanisms are now being put in place to allow these systems to be able to deal with the demand and to ensure that the country will be able to create and sustain the amount of energy required. 


What do distributed energy resources look like in Australia? 

Solar + battery systems are among the most prevalent distributed energy resources, but Australia also uses technology like wind farms or electric vehicles (EV). (However, not all EVs can discharge their power, and you'll require a bidirectional charger.) Community batteries are an example DER initiatives taking demand off the electrical grid.

A community battery is a centrally-installed solar battery to which households can push their generated solar energy. It's stored and then pushed back to the home when they need it. Whole communities can sign up to use the battery (hence the name). The benefit in installing these batteries is the regulated flow of power and the decreased demand put on the grid, as well as providing an energy storage solution for its users.  

Australia's energy resource sector is currently in a transition phase. With the need to move away from fossil fuel energy resources and with these power plants showing consistent unreliability in recent times – continual shutdowns and maintenance issues being the cause of this – Australia needs to create a new and healthier energy system. The WA government has already indicated that it will shut its last coal-fired power plant before 2030. 


What is Western Australia’s distributed energy resources roadmap? 

The WA government has released and started working through the state's proposed DER roadmap – the initiatives WA is implementing to accommodate and grow the use of small-scale energy systems.  

The WA government has launched the EV Action Plan, designed to ensure that the rise of EVs will help, not hinder, the electrical grid and the state's energy system. For example, an increase in EVs could mean an increase in electricity used in peak demand periods, putting extra strain on the electrical grid (although some energy aficionados will be charging theirs with solar energy). An example of one of the initiatives outlined in the report is the state government's work with Western Power to try and lower the cost and accelerate the installation of EV charging points that will pull energy during the conversion of overhead to underground power in metropolitan areas. You can read the full report here. 

WA is also working to improve the inverter standard, which will mean improved and more autonomous inverters supporting the state's power system. There's also risk management in the proposed Emergency Solar Management plan that assesses and projects outcomes of power risks in the move towards more small-scale power, putting measures in place to mitigate any potential risks.  

Part of WA's DER roadmap features implementing small-scale energy sources within the state. The early work has been in installing solar pv and solar hot water systems in social housing properties, as well as installing solar in schools, with the goal to link these through a virtual power plant. 


Distributed energy resources and virtual power plants 

It's worth touching on virtual power plants (VPP) as they're part of the future of a healthy national energy system.  

The purpose of a virtual power plant is to create a balanced and regulated network of solar systems, batteries and other controllable loads, allowing for power supply and demand to be mediated and cohesive. They will become a vital component of Australia's energy future, which is why the WA government have incorporated them into their DER roadmap. 

Virtual power plants are small energy networks, each an independent entity. This is important as it means that any of life's inevitable unforeseen issues won't bring the power infrastructure to a halt.  

Members of a VPP can be paid for the energy they store in their battery. Different VPPs have different arrangements with their members, but the idea remains the same: a shared community of renewable energy owners, each helping the other out. It's a balanced energy system that meets everyone's needs. 


How will distributed energy resources affect me? 

DERs will impact everyone as our national infrastructure is adapted to accommodate (and celebrate) small-scale energy systems. Because renewable energy technology such as solar + battery systems benefit the owner – through financial savings and greater energy independence – it's been relatively smooth sailing in terms of incorporating these technologies into the fabric of society.  

Individuals who have already incorporated small-scale energy systems into their lives, such as a solar + battery system, will be ideally placed as Australia's energy infrastructure and DER roadmaps are implemented. It's no longer a question of whether to adopt renewable energy; the only unknown is when. What's certain is that Australia is gradually changing to renewable energy resources, with progress already underway. 


You can get a solar + battery system without the big upfront costs 

By installing a solar + battery system in your home, you'll be able to get to the forefront of Australia's energy revolution. The government knows that it's imperative we adopt renewable energy. And so, in the near future, we'll see more development in distributed energy resources and renewable energy infrastructure; by adopting solar, you'll be ready and protected from any disruptions to energy supply along the way. 

Many Australians struggle with the upfront cost of a solar + battery system. Additionally, the cost of solar technology has been increasing as demand outpaces supply. However, you needn't worry; Plico has disrupted the industry with a new payment model. 

From just one low weekly fee and no big upfront costs, you can have a solar + battery system installed and receive 10 years of ongoing support! We want everyone to be able to incorporate renewable energy into their lives, not just the select few who have the thousands in upfront costs. 

Use our Solar Savings Calculator to find out how much you could save with a solar + battery system, or chat with one of the switched-on Plico team on 1300 175 426 for more information (you can also fill out the form below). 


Interested in learning more about solar batteries and whether they're worth investing in? Click one of the questions below to find some answers! 


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Plico Team

Plico is a leading Australian clean energy company building a sustainable energy grid for the future. Born and bred in WA, our innovative membership model puts power back into the hands of the community, allowing our members to save money, enjoy blackout protection and generate their own clean energy, all for one low weekly instalment.