Monash Net Zero Initiative

Monash: A state-of-the-art micro-grid

A state-of-the-art micro-grid, a key part of Monash University to achieve zero net emissions in 2030

Monash University in Victoria, the largest in Australia, hosts the “Net Zero Initiative” project to achieve zero net emissions by 2030, completely transforming the use of energy and totally eliminating dependence on fossil fuels. A key element to achieve this challenge is the implementation of a state-of-the-art electric micro-grid at the Clayton campus (Melbourne), carried out by the company Minsait in collaboration with the university center, as the basis for the development of a generation model and consumption based on sustainability and energy efficiency.

The collaboration between Monash and Minsait is showing how a network powered by renewable sources and with a strong penetration of distributed energy resources such as batteries, electric vehicles or photovoltaic generation, can operate safely and efficiently. The direct consequence is a greater capacity to integrate renewable energies and support the electrification of consumption, including transport, which results in a lower environmental impact and supports a more decarbonized economy without sacrificing the objective of more affordable energy for the customer.

Active Grid Management

The network is being managed by Active Grid Management (AGM), the Internet of Things Industrial (IIoT) solution developed by Minsait to facilitate the dynamic, proactive, distributed and intelligent operation of medium and low voltage networks. It is a solution with high penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs) that allows to balance, automatically, generation, operation and demand, reducing costs and environmental impact and improving the reliability of the system.

The project uses existing DERs on the Clayton campus, including a main substation, 11 secondary substations, 20 buildings some of which have automation systems (BAS), 2.5 MW solar photovoltaic (PV), 1 MWh storage energy and electric vehicle (EV) to control and operate the integrated intelligent network.

Active Grid Management is part of Onesait Utilities Grid, the solution of Minsait for the management of distribution networks and the integration of distributed energy resources, and is based on intelligent nodes that allow real-time monitoring and control of the quality of energy. network energy by analyzing data at the point of connection with each DER and in the centralized distribution management system.

Additionally, AGM acts as a middleware to distribute data in real time through other systems, such as the energy management system and the energy transactional platform, thus allowing the interaction of these components and the visibility of the resulting effects on the performance of the microgrid

Three stages

Giovanni Polizzi, manager of Energy Solutions of Indra in Australia, differentiates three stages in this project. Currently the initiative is immersed in the 

first stage, which began in October 2018 and will continue until next June. In this initial phase it is allowing to connect each network asset to Active Grid Management. The data is processed in each node and distributed selectively through the middleware according to the needs.

The software that exists in each node is capable of running Docker containers so that third-party software can share the common data space created by the middleware. This opening allows collaboration with experts from Monash University involved in the development of asset management and energy quality assurance algorithms.


Efficient and reliable supply of electricity

The second stage, which will start in January 2020, aims to develop an energy management system capable of operating the assets towards the efficient and reliable supply of electricity within the technical limits of the microrred. For this, the current flexibility of the system and the availability of generation, storage and loading of each DER will be taken into account, which will be shared in the common data space of the work team.

The next steps will be the development of prediction algorithms in collaboration with Monash experts, which will be executed in each node and centrally, as well as the management of communication with the external network to respond to network requests, such as those made by the wholesale markets to cover the demand.


Transactive energy market

The final stage, which will start in May 2020 and end in October of that year, aims to demonstrate how each connected building can participate in a transactional energy market by providing a flexible use of energy in real time to respond to the price signals of the network market, both locally and from the wholesale market.

Giovanni Polizzi explains that in this phase will also show the advantages of the use of blockchain technology to record and track each energy exchange and manage the remuneration, which is an important opportunity for experts from Monash University to study the application of intelligent contracts in a historically rigid field due to complex regulations and poor adaptability.

Experts from Minsait expect that by 2020 the university will generate seven Gigawatts / hour of electricity, enough to supply 1,000 homes for a whole year.

In particular, Minsait provides, in addition to the experience and knowledge of the electricity sector, the supply quality management platform, the optimization of the use of DERs as well as the aggregation of energy services of the DERs and the interface with the transactional platform for the energy exchange between clients.

“The Monash initiative is showing how a network powered by renewable energy sources can provide greater security in the operation and be more efficient thanks to the joint action of distributed energy resources,” says Minsait’s energy manager.

Awards and recognitions

The “Net Zero Initiative” project has received several recognitions. Last December, within the framework of COP24 (the Climate Change Summit of Katowice in Poland) was distinguished by the United Nations Secretariat for Climate Change with the “UN Momentum for Change Award”, for being ” an innovative, scalable and practical example of a large-scale response to climate change “.

In addition, in Spain the micro-grid project also received the Enertic 2018 Award in the category of “Smart International Projects” in December “At the Enertic Awards, awards that recognize organizations and managers who promote, through innovation and technology, energy efficiency and sustainability in the digital era.

Zero emissions

Hundreds of classrooms, conference rooms, gyms, laboratories, restaurants, a pool, and even a cinema, are concentrated in the Clayton campus of Monash University, with all the energy consumption that entails. In order to achieve the goal of zero emissions, Monash University has committed to invest 135 million dollars in the energy transformation over the next 13 years, which will include energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, electrification of the campus, on-site renewable energies and external renewable energy purchase agreements.

According to the calculations, the resulting energy savings will result in a considerable reduction in costs that would be 15 million per year in 2028.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) also supports the project with its funding. The findings will inform ARENA, and therefore Australia, to move towards the transition of distributed energy.

“Micro-networking is an essential element to achieve this goal, since it helps the university to precisely control when and how energy is used throughout the campus”, underlines Giovanni Polizzi. Beginning with the Clayton microgrid test, the Monash plan aims to power all campuses with zero renewable energy emissions by 2030.