The shift to low-emissions energy production has gained significant traction in Australia and around the world. Community Renewable Energy (CORE) projects are on the rise, reflecting the desire of communities to take control of their own energy goals, and embedded networks (ENs) are emerging as part of the CORE movement.
An EN is operated by an EN operator (ENO), who can purchase electricity at the parent point and on-sell it to customers within the EN. This provides the opportunity for innovative internal electricity tariff structures to be designed that can help meet community goals such as increased local renewable energy and improved equity impacts.
This study aims to understand the implications of Community EN arrangements and tariff design for the financial, environmental and social outcomes of those connected to the EN. An energy sharing EN model is used to simulate financial outcomes for participants and the ENO in a Community EN of 60 households as a function of:
- EN PV penetration, and
- internal retail tariff structure
It was found that with the appropriate internal settings all solar and non-solar customers could save an average of approximately $200 at all levels of PV penetration. However, arrangements with PV penetrations above approximately 50% were not viable as the ENO lost profitability since EN loads could be fully met by internal solar generation.
These results indicate that there may be some conflicts between Community EN financial, renewable and equity goals. While achieving all goals simultaneously can be difficult, it is apparent that the ‘Community EN with energy sharing’ model is a credible option in the CORE space to help meet community goals, and careful internal design can help ensure that the desired goals are prioritised. In addition, both non-solar and solar customers are able to benefit through a scheme such as that explored here, addressing a key inequity in the energy industry.