Peer-to-Peer transactions, increased grid stability or what about donating your energy to your children? These are all examples of how Canberra-based Reposit Power sees the future. A company that is passionate about solving problems in what they call an “exciting market”. A company that puts consumer involvement at the core of their business model and seeks to develop products and services that reward them. I had the opportunity to interview Lachlan Blackhall, Co-Founder and CTO at Reposit Power.
What about the Current State of Motion of the Transition?
Whenever companies like Tesla are entering a market, it means that there is plenty of room for total disruption. These companies aren’t entering a market to comply with a business as usual scenario. No. These companies are pushing their limits and seek opportunities to shake up all market mechanisms. Take Tesla for example. This company isn’t just a car manufacturer like most people think. This company is an energy company that develops batteries and seeks innovative ways to integrate these batteries in society.
To date, there is a lot of momentum being built here in Australia. One of the biggest changes that has slowly happened over the last few years is that people believe in the importance of clean energy. Through through companies like Tesla, consumers are being increasingly involved. The benefits for consumers are twofold: supporting renewables, clean & green and actually direct consumer participation. Consumers are finally becoming part of this transition and, potentially, even are the main driver of the whole clean energy movement right now. Why? Because consumers can finally buy sexy devices and have them in their homes!
“I definitely think that our clean energy transition is consumer-driven at the moment. If you only look at the political situation in the last few years, it was a mess! We’ve had a federal government that really wasn’t supportive of addressing the challenges of a predominantly fossil-fuel economy!” – Lachlan Blackhall –
Now that prices of such innovative technologies are coming down, energy is becoming more expensive and there’s a rising opportunity for consumers to participate, people are willing to become more involved! Some Australians are even entirely getting rid of their retailers…
What Do you Think about the Potential of Storage?
Reposit Power thinks that if you look at the potential of storage it actually suits best at the end of the grid. Why? From a grid perspective, this is where most of your problem starts. And what better solution can you come up with than solving the problem right at its source? I Agree!
Surprisingly, large-scale renewables are slowly becoming more apparent around Canberra. Even though incentives are still relatively low. The main reason for this to happen is that Canberra currently has the ambition to become 100% renewable by 2025. Did you know that there’s actually a “battle” going on between 4 different cities in Australia on who’s going to be the first city that is 100% renewable? Why don’t we have such ambitious goals in Holland? This is a call to all big cities in Holland: Just start creating your own ambitious 100% renewable targets! Why not? It certainly helps!
Clearly, there’s an interesting shift going on. Ideally, all the network companies would like to combine these large-scale renewables currently built with grid-based energy storage. It’s actually most efficient to store this electricity with grid-based storage. However, this won’t happen soon. Why? Network companies are a slow acting movement because of their natural monopoly and regulation moves against them. Their tariffs are capped and they can’t charge any more money of consumers. This means that they can’t invest in additional public infrastructure like grid-based storage. Okay…, but what about their objective to guarantee a safe and secure supply of electricity. It all comes down to innovation! It’s becoming a complete different ball game and they know that they have to innovate in order to solve this problem. Although network companies can’t deal with consumers directly, some are looking at ways they can work with consumers around the operation of customer-sited energy storage.
The role of consumers becomes really important. They are the solution to integrate such battery storage into the grid. And If you look at consumers, they’re like “Cool, I’ll buy a battery!”. It permits them to become more independent. Because of this shifting role of consumers, retailers are entering the business of batteries as well. They’re afraid to lose market share and want to protect their customer base. Basically, they are entering a market that potentially could put them out of business if they do not change their current business models.
“There is a huge potential for consumer investment in residential storage. Over the next four to five years there are estimates that over 100.000 residential energy storage systems will be installed. That represents consumer investment of over AUD 1 billion!” – Lachlan Blackhall –
So How Does Reposit Power Fits into this Picture?
Reposit Power is the actor that returns the power back into the hands off the people. Did you know that before the Industrial Revolution the energy system was highly decentralized and consumers had all the power in their own hands? Of course you know!
Reposit Power can be seen as the key figure in the triangular relationship between the consumers, retailers and network companies. When consumers invest in customer-sited energy storage or simply said batteries, they’re basically investing in public infrastructure because of their connection to the grid. From this point of view, Reposit Power started thinking about a way to reward consumers for the fact that they’re actually investing in and contributing to public infrastructure. And… A company was born: Reposit Power.
They help consumers with solar panels to effectively operate their battery and permit them to provide additional services to themselves and to the grid. Think about grid stabilization! Consumers can actually assist network companies in stabilising the grid! You could say that Reposit Power is the orchestrator of customer storage. They create a market that allows networks and retailers to actually have a financial relationship with customer-sited energy storage. This means that they provide consumers with a way to operate their battery in a financially more valuable manner. It’s Reposit Power’s mission to bring back transparency in the way electricity is traded and exchanged and, most importantly, they want to empower the consumer and lower their electricity bills. A consumer should not only be paying for electricity, they should be involved in the transaction in a more valuable and beneficial way. Essentially, batteries were all about saving costs, but it turns out they effectively enable people to make some extra money. To date, one household in Sydney has already turned itself into a so-called mini power station: they operate solar, integrated a Tesla Powerwall and Reposit’s software does all the rest.
“Our software acts similar to an autopilot on a plane. It tells the plane where to fly to get from point A to B.” – Lachlan Blackhall –
The software tells the battery when to charge, when to discharge and how much to charge and discharge continuously throughout the day. And… By making those decisions it chooses for the financially most optimal one! Imagine you’ve got solar panels. If more solar is generated than required the excess electricity can be either stored or sold to the grid. Conversely, if less solar energy is generated than required you can always rely on you battery to power your house instead of buying it from the grid. This saves you seriously money! This is only one solution.
Another solution could be discharging your battery when prices on the wholesale market are high during for example peak demand, or discharging when retailers need additional generation capacity or to assist network companies in stabilizing the grid. Reposit Power offers all kinds of different service contracts based consumers’ preferences. At some point it even becomes interesting for consumers that don’t have solar panels. You just provide them with different contracts. Theoretically, it even makes financially sense to charge your battery during off peak prices to avoid prices during peak demand. Awesome!
The software has an optimizer that knows all about the different contracts and determines what the financially most viable option is at certain moment during the day. It does so by determining per customer separately what the financially optimal thing for him is to do.
They could even operate as a virtual power plant… A virtual power plant is a system that clusters different distributed generation systems and bundles them together to collectively act as a generation asset to give a reliable power supply. However, Reposit Power emphasises that even when working as a virtual power plant it is important that consumers get rewarded fairly for their participation in providing these services. They truly think from a customer perspective!
“We act as a transaction layer between consumers, retailers and network companies. We are already working with a number of retailers and recently announced a special storage tariff with Diamond Energy. Customers still have a retail tariff, but if the retailer would like to purchase additional energy from the customer, then our customer will get paid 100 cents per kWh, which is about double the price of a peak tariff!” – Lachlan Blackhall –
And What about the Biggest Hurdles so Far…?
Obviously, the technology is still in its early adopter phase. This means that currently payback times on average are between 5-8 years for consumers that operate solar. The more people adopt batteries, the lower prices will get.
One big problem so far is the availability of storage. There’s a lot being talked about it, but there’s not a lot being shipped so far, however that is about to change. Another important aspect is the fact that people do not really understand the value of why they should do it. It’s a difficult story to explain for people that don’t actually now how the whole electricity system works.
“The moment you tell a consumer that they can actually participate in stabilizing the grid, they get really excited!” – Lachlan Blackhall –
More and more different companies start manufacturing batteries. That’s a good thing! At the same time this makes choice difficult. Reposit Power set itself a goal to make these batteries all meaningful and create sexy software around it! As a customer you can easily see how much money you’ve made through the use of an App. It’s all about transparency and visibility. People do not longer want to encounter unexpected costs. An important aspect is that people want to understand what’s actually going on. Companies like Reposit Power want to be trustworthy. They want to simplify such complicated markets while at the same time they educate consumers and give them the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
What about the Impact of Batteries on the Longrun?
The more renewables will enter our system the bigger the Merit Order Effect will get. Eventually, wholesale prices will get lower and lower. Energy storage makes sure that the supply of electricity remains stable and secure. Today, wholesale prices for electricity can seriously deviate. Some times the prices can get as high as $14 per kWh. And when it goes to $14 per kWh our software makes sure that every battery discharges rapidly. In such way energy storage can directly compensate for high electricity prices. In the future energy storage will only get more important to efficiently operate the grid at low cost. Reposit Power will continuously seek new ways of getting consumers involved in applying their batteries to support the grid. Most importantly, you should always strive to get consumers at the core of your business model!