Innovation

Partnering for innovative solutions

We look for ways to innovate energy supply products and business approaches in cooperation with partners, including other electricity retailers. These partners work with us for mutually beneficial results and information sharing.

We welcome joint partnerships in new areas of learning which will add value for our customers as well as our business. Such partnerships have already improved our understanding of:

  • enabling more connections of customer solar PV systems
  • use of battery storage systems on the network and in customers' premises
  • commercial and residential energy management
  • the use and benefits of electric vehicles (see below).

We are supportive of innovative energy supply products that can be connected to our grid. Where appropriate, we may consider pre-assessment, special inverter listings, and/or other processes to help launch and progress trials.

For more information please contact the Manager of Emerging Markets on (07) 3851 6362.

Electric vehicle friendly network

Our strategy, Electric Vehicles: Driving EVolution (PDF 806.8 kb), aims to expand customer choices as Electric Vehicles (EVs) grow in popularity in Queensland. We will provide an 'EV friendly' network and encourage EV recharging in a way that doesn't increase peak demand on the electricity grid.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following two options for recharging EVs:

  1. Time of Use tariffs give customers choices for charging at low cost times or charging when the EV needs a recharge.  These tariffs offer customers the most flexibility for EV charging needs
  2. T33 or Controlled Load tariffs offer customers a 'set and forget' way to charge their EVs. The T33 control options lower the cost of charging for customers, and in return allow us to manage the times when the EV can be charged.  The main downside of T33 charging is less choice in charging times and the need for a dedicated EV connection, in line with our connection standards.

While the choice is limited at this stage, we feel its important to give customers options for their EV charging, to allow both flexibility and incentives to charge outside of peak times. We will work with regulators to deliver customer choice and an open access platform.

Benefits of electric vehicles

EVs are a low cost, low carbon form of transport, and also provide the opportunity for energy diversity and security in transportation.

They can be used for passenger, fleet and non-road (eg. material handling equipment) transportation. The 'plug-in' varieties - which can be recharged from an external source of electricity – can be divided into two types:

  1. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) – contain a built in battery pack which is charged by electricity from the grid, and have no other engine or fuel tank
  2. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) – are driven by an electric motor and also have an internal combustion engine (ICE), allowing the battery to be charged from either the grid or the ICE1.

The range of EVs available in Australia is growing.  Our poster, Electric Vehicles the future is here (PDF 394.1 kb), shows the BEV and PHEV models currently in market.

Popularity of electric vehicles

To date, EV sales in Australia have been slow, however in other countries EVs are starting to grow in popularity. By September 2014 there were over 600,000 EVs worldwide, with at least 22 models available. Countries such as USA, Japan, China, and the European member states are leading EV purchases2 .

Electric vehicle trial

Our employees and customers in Townsville have trialled the Mitsubishi i-Miev EV. Watch our videos to find out more.

Transcript

A test driver for Ergon Energy's electric vehicle trial, Dean Condon has spent more time behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi i-Miev than most people. He rates it as an ideal commuter car and work pool vehicle.

(Dean Condon, Technology Innovation Engineer) "For a small, 'round town car it's absolutely perfect. It's quiet, it's small, it's easy to park, easy to drive, quite zippy."

At standard rates, a full charge will typically take about seven hours and take you about 90 kays. They're promoted as clean and green, but in greater numbers electric vehicles could be a significant drain on our network.  

(Glenn Walden, GM Emerging Opportunities and Technology Development) "An electric vehicle, even a small one, is going to be very roughly equivalent load in kilowatts and kilowatt hours to a normal home at the moment – a typical Ergon Energy connected home." 

To stay on the front-foot, Ergon Energy is investigating any potential issues well before the electric car trend shifts into over-drive, in trials that have implications for the entire network.

Energy Sustainability and Market Development are road testing a fleet of electric vehicles, including two converted with advanced smart charge control, which encourages off-peak charging.

In addition, they boast vehicle-to-grid capability.

(Dean Condon) "So it has the ability to provide energy onto the network not just draw from it."

Five Mitsubishi i-Miev's will mainly be used to promote public awareness and education.

(Glenn Walden) "We want to facilitate the vehicles, but we have to make it work for the whole community."

The data they collect will be used to influence government policy, legislation, standards and consumer education.    

The trial is expected to drive home the importance of shifting the load, encouraging commuters to charge off-peak, not as soon as they get home from work when demand is already at its peak.

Transcript

Ergon Energy's electric vehicles are in the hands of five families at Mount Low in Townsville.

Energy Sustainability and Market Development is the driving force behind the residential trial, which is investigating the potential impact of a concentration of electric vehicles on our network.

(Glenn Dahlenburg, Senior Engineer Distributed Energy) "It's the older areas that we consider to be more at risk if there is high penetration of EVs."

So it makes sense to test the worst case scenario in an older, outlying suburb that runs off the original overhead network with small transformers. 

The main purpose of the trial is to investigate people's charging habits and whether they can be discouraged from plugging in the vehicles as soon as they get home from work, when the oven and air-conditioners are usually turned on too.  

(Glenn Dahlenburg) "We intend to trial different charging mechanisms, so we can put people on a simulated tariff 33 and determine whether we can move charge to off-peak and give people the freedom of an EV without the impacts on peak demand."  

Take a drive to nearby North Shore and you'll see Ergon Energy and developer Stockland joining forces to tackle peak demand reduction on the home building front.

(Andrew Astorquia, Stockland) "At North Shore the whole streets, lot layout has been designed to capture the north-east breeze. So the biggest thing for us is getting people to position their living areas on the right side of the house so they have less reliance on air-conditioning into the future."

At the display village and in a free handbook, prospective home builders can find advice on everything from choosing the coolest roof colour to energy-efficient appliances and solar panels.

Ergon Energy has installed advanced metering to monitor and manage the input and output of those solar panels. This Energy Sense partnership has been so successful it's likely to be replicated at Stockland developments across the country.  

(Tony Pfeiffer, GM Alternative Energy Solutions) "The implications for future housing developments hopefully are that in fact we can get housing developments that have a lower peak demand requirement and as a consequence it means the infrastructure that we need to build to supply those developments into the future and the upstream infrastructure can in fact be reduced and that can take some pressure off prices at the end of the day."

Footnotes

  1. Energy Supply Association of Australia (2013). Sparking an Electric Vehicle Debate in Australia. Melbourne: ESAA.
  2. Cobb, J. (2014, October 22). Global Plug-in Car Sales Now Over 600,000. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from hybridCARS.
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