Always on: how to avoid downtime in case of a power outage

Enel X Australia Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 17 June, 2020



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The risk of electricity outages and disturbances has and continues to increase. Now, more than ever, it’s important to ensure your business is protected.

Australia’s electricity grid is not as reliable as it once was, while the transition to renewable power has great benefits, it’s posing new risks to both reliability and the cost of power. The grid is operating with greater uncertainty, variability and a tighter supply-demand balance. This is driven by increased renewable generation, an aging thermal generation fleet, and unexpected retirement of capacity which is increasing the risk of forced outages.

In the case of food and beverage companies, a grid outage can result in disruption to production, idle staff, temperature control issues and undesired waste without an adequate backup system and testing regimen.

At Enel X, we work with government, the electricity market operator and many organisations along the food chain including agriculture, food and beverage processing, manufacturing companies, cold storage warehouses and transport facilities to reduce the risk of interruption. In addition to mitigating grid reliability concerns, the companies we work with improve their resiliency and confidence that they can continue operating year-round, and get paid for it.

We do this by enrolling them in our Virtual Power Plant (VPP), where organisations contribute to supporting the grid as a collection of distributed energy assets — including onsite backup generation and equipment — a service known as Demand Response.

Businesses within Enel X’s VPP can receive advanced notification of risks to the grid, enabling them to provide a controlled Demand Response service that strengthens the grid at times of stress whilst simultaneously protecting operations and contributing to their sustainability objectives with respect to waste reduction.

Food organisations typically participate by switching to backup generation or powering down certain equipment when required. Importantly, the assets serve their full operational purpose. By temporarily reducing demand during critical grid events, these organisations can earn a significant new revenue stream from assets which are typically sunk costs. For example, one of our large cold storage clients earned $200,000 last year from participating in multiple programs.

Food and beverage companies are well suited to joining a VPP as many already have backup generation assets and an electricity demand that can provide meaningful support to the grid and, by extension, our communities. Commonly, participating businesses further minimise disruption through automation with investments quickly repaid from the new revenue.

Our national bakery client said, “The headline reason we joined the VPP was to ensure business continuity including reduced wastage, and management of risk. We are risk averse and always looking to proactively manage it, especially if a plant were to go offline. We had existing capabilities around backup generation, but only through Enel X’s program we realised our site’s risk profile was bigger than expected.”

Elevating your backup systems testing

Many businesses have backup generators in case of a grid emergency, however in our experience they are infrequently used and not tested often enough to be sure they will work when called on.

By switching to backup generation as part of our VPP, you are much more likely to identify any issues with your backup system while having the safety net of the grid to switch back to.

Everything from your filters, batteries, fuel quality and coolant to automated transfer switches and alarms will be regularly tested. In the event something does go wrong, you’ll be able to safely transfer back to grid power.

Michael Versteden, Director of Verstedens Egg Farm said, "We had concerns over the reliability of our primary back up unit, and participating in Enel X’s programs helped us understand our exposure. The high likelihood of power outages combined with the risk of our previous, less reliable backup generator, could’ve left us very exposed.”

“If we were to lose power for an extended period, it would be very dangerous for our chickens and could result in many dying, plus a large number of eggs that could no longer be sold. Another benefit is the returns from participating, which will fund almost 30% of the cost of a new generator which we have now purchased.”

Join a VPP in time for next summer

At Enel X we operate the largest VPP in Australia (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2019), and have been aggregating customers’ energy load to support the grid since 2004. We’ve had a number of learnings that help our participating customers ensure resiliency and uninterrupted power supply year-round.

We understand each business has unique operations and infrastructure needs. To join by summer — the time where outages are most likely, and where you can earn the most revenue — it’s important to get started by the end of June.

If your backup generator is ~500kVA and supports significant site load, this is a strong opportunity for you.

To learn more, get in touch with our consultant Andrew Sutherland at asutherland@enel.com or download our guide, which details the VPP opportunity and how it enhances emergency preparedness.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/industrieblick

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