Dr Ben McGarry

Enhancing SA Grid Resilience

Associate (Future Energy), Aurecon; PhD (Comp Sci), BE (Mechanical), University of Queensland

Energy no longer consistently flows in one direction from large centralised generators to consumers. Instead, ‘prosumers’ can now produce, store, consume and export their own electricity using, for instance, rooftop solar photovoltaic and battery systems.

The opportunities and risks are enormous, and as Technical and Specialist Adviser to the South Australian Government, Dr Ben McGarry spearheaded the performance requirements supporting a future virtual power plant (VPP) that is to be distributed across thousands of homes to enhance grid resilience.

McGarry was stirred by a request from the South Australian Government to support its ambitions to bring about a VPP as a key part of its energy plan.

To set the ‘VPP-capable’ standards for the subsidy scheme, McGarry led stakeholders to negotiate an agreed set of requirements.

In making the complex simple, McGarry helped his client deliver a subsidy scheme that provides value for money and is safe and reliable.

The challenge was to find a bridge between a range of competing interests and to translate the specialised languages of: energy technologies; commercial drivers; market behaviours and capabilities; electricity grid connection protocols and operations; state strategic and policy considerations; and safety and product accreditation agencies; as well as the imperative to protect consumers and provide value for money for South Australian residents.

McGarry’s engineering breakthrough was to broker agreement from this broad range of stakeholders that would support a complex distributed energy system that doesn’t yet exist, accommodating a range of battery configurations from dozens of potential competing technology providers.

He negotiated a plain language set of universal requirements for VPP-capable, future-ready residential battery systems that are being deployed today and which will support tomorrow’s VPP.

In making the complex simple, McGarry helped his client deliver a subsidy scheme that provides value for money, is safe and reliable, and enables rapid uptake of the residential battery system that underpins what could be the world’s largest VPP.

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