It seems it could be an option for the future which Ergon Energy hopes to research in a trial with the University of Technology (UTS) Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) Virtual Net Metering (VNM) project and with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

And for those customers physically restricted from installing solar PV and fitting a battery at one of their sites, virtual net metering could provide an alternative to going "off grid", which could result in Ergon's network being under-utilised in the future.

Virtual net metering would eliminate the need for customers to use large sections of our network and therefore reduce their network charges that make up a large part of their retail bills.

The economics of the idea are being explored as part of the research trials of Virtual Net Metering and Local Network Charges at five sites in Victoria, NSW, and Queensland to test how these work and the best and fairest way of calculating them.

Local network charges are tariffs for electricity generation that only uses part of the network and in many cases should reduce the network charge portion of electricity bills for local generation.

Ergon Energy Distributed System Platform Architect Tony Loveday said: "as distributed generation becomes more widespread and storage technology takes off, there is a risk that customers will opt to go off-grid, leaving behind an under-utilised electricity grid.

"Measures like these will help network providers like Ergon adapt to a future where distributed generation is commonplace".

For the University of Technology the trial is invaluable given new technologies that potentially could change the electricity industry paradigm.

"We will investigate how market changes could help consumers and network businesses benefit from local generation by providing alternatives for customers who might otherwise choose to disconnect from the grid altogether or use 'behind the meter' options," UTS Project Director Jay Rutovitz said.

The national study trial sites include councils, community sites and residential customers, with Ergon Energy trial taking place at an edge of grid community with a mixture of residential and small commercial loads and small generation, such as rooftop solar PV.