This con­tent has been writ­ten col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly by the Project Part­ners of Alice Springs Future Grid, led by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy. Please sub­mit your ques­tions, which will be answered in due course and shared on this plat­form if rel­e­vant and appro­pri­ate. You will be noti­fied via email when the answer is post­ed. Terms and con­di­tions are detailed on the sub­mit a ques­tion page. Fur­ther FAQs specif­i­cal­ly about the Solar Con­nect Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant tri­al are addressed in this doc­u­ment

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What is the Solar Connect VPP trial?

Solar Con­nect is a town-wide solar and bat­tery tri­al link­ing house­holds via a Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant (VPP). House­holds in the VPP will share solar and bat­tery pow­er in ways that ben­e­fit the Alice Springs grid and form the next gen­er­a­tion of more sus­tain­able ener­gy solutions.

What will happen during the Solar Connect VPP trial?

During the trial you’ll have access to an energy monitoring app, giving you greater visibility over your energy use.

You will also receive monthly updates on your household’s performance in the VPP from Jacana Energy, an Alice Springs Future Grid project partner. A quarterly update which will show the performance of the VPP itself will also be provided, so you can see how your participation fits into the bigger picture.

Future Grid’s Community Engagement team at ALEC will be in touch from time to time with surveys, updates and details of events and other opportunities.

What will happen to my premium feed-in tariff if I sign up to the Solar Connect trial?

As per the Northern Territory Government’s advice when the feed-in tariff was updated in April 2020, anyone who upgrades their system will be transferred to the standard FiT which, at the time of writing, is 9.13c kWh (GST Inclusive).

From July 1 2022, those who have been on the Premium FiT for four years will transfer to the standard FiT.

Participants who have a battery will have already transferred to the standard tariff, and will be invited to opt for a variable (7-11) trial tariff if that is their preference.

Participation in the Solar-Only trial may or may not require system upgrades. Your FiT will therefore depend on what needs to happen to enable your participation in the VPP.

As upgrades to ageing solar systems will be required eventually, the VPP may represent a good opportunity to take advantage of the sign-up bonus and VPP credit. However, it is recommended that you seek independent advice to choose the best value solution for your household.

Will the Future Grid project have an impact on low socio-economic demographics, people in town camps, or remote communities?

The Arid Lands Environment Centre is leading a study which will investigate some of these areas. It is recognised by the project team that solar has the effect of enabling those with the financial means to do so to reduce their power bills, while those who would arguably benefit more from a reduction in power bills are left behind. The study seeks to address this disparity and identify ways to reduce the gap. To take a broader view, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the grid – which is shared by the whole community – does have a positive impact on everyone in Alice Springs, regardless of demographics. This is why it’s important the project leverages existing publicly owned infrastructure, rather than deploying an expensive single technical intervention.

How does this project differ from what is happening in South Australia or anywhere else in the world?

There are other projects around Australia carrying out investigations in many similar areas to Future Grid. The difference is that Future Grid looks at a series of interventions in aggregate and how they integrate as a system on a technical, economic, and regulatory basis. This is what makes Future Grid fundamentally different – bringing public utilities together with leading industry experts, and local organisations. We collaborate in a way that is simply not possible in other locations. For comparison, if we look to WA; Horizon Power has demonstrated many of the technical interventions we are working towards, but they are doing it in the context of being a vertically integrated energy supply company, so its activities don’t require complex engagement with other entities. In other areas, such as South Australia, there are fundamental differences in the market structure, which provide economic signals that are not available in the NT. What Future Grid does, which is different to other projects, is to work out how to bring parties and interventions together to collaborate.

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