As Australians increasingly convert to lower emissions energy systems, major energy retailer EnergyAustralia is looking to offer smarter energy solutions to its 2.5 million customers by making a AU$9.3 million strategic investment in Brisbane-based solar energy startup Redback Technologies.
The funding will help Redback accelerate the development of a new technology that will allow Australians to have greater control over their energy consumption, save costs, and contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Philip Livingston, founder and managing director of Redback Technologies, said the partnership with EnergyAustralia also accelerates the company's strategic plan of "leading the disruptive change required for mass adoption of renewables."
"Today marks a new day for the clean energy sector in Australia, and we at Redback could not be happier," Livingston added.
Globally, Australia has the highest proportion of households -- 16.5 percent or 1.5 million -- equipped with solar panels. At the same time, electricity bills are among the biggest household concerns for Australians, according to Choice's latest Consumer Pulse Cost of Living report.
"We know electricity costs are a concern for many households and the ability to manage consumption is a key to keeping bills low. With the Redback system the customer can make the most of the energy captured on their own rooftops -- they decide if they want to use the energy right away, store that energy, or even sell it to the electricity grid," EnergyAustralia executive Andrew Perry said in a statement.
According to the Australian government research paper, The potential for renewable energy to provide baseload power in Australia, investments in peaking gas plants and other traditional electricity sources are reliant on wholesale electricity prices rising to a high point on hot summer days when consumers bump up their air conditioners. It suggests that this new era of affordable solar panels is set to overhaul this because hot, sunny days are when solar photovoltaics perform at their best.
The Redback Generation 2 Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter System -- which EnergyAustralia will promote to its 1.7 million customers in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia -- is said to be "scalable, easy to install, and offers a faster return on investment than other competitors in the market".
The inverter can be run remotely from a smartphone, through Redback's cloud-enabled intelligent system called the Ouija Board, and is also battery and solar panel agnostic, which means it works with existing systems.
Hosted on Microsoft's Azure IoT Suite, Redback's solar solution uses machine learning to gather intelligence over time, learning from user preferences as well as drawing data from external factors such as the weather.
"It is Redback's mission to build infrastructure for the future grid, infrastructure that enables grid stability without reliance on centralised fossil generators. Democratising access to clean energy by shifting reliance to decentralised renewable generation, whereby allowing consumers to monitor, store and control their own solar energy assets as a means of ensuring power is there when they need it," said Livingston.
Redback was founded in 2015. Earlier this year, the startup partnered with Queensland-based and Indigenous-owned renewable technology company AllGrid Energy. The partnership saw AllGrid adopt Redback's core hardware and software suite for application in remote communities.
Redback also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The University of Queensland, aimed at accelerating the commercialisation of Redback's affordable solar solutions. The University of Queensland received equity in exchange for exclusive licenses of all technologies developed under the research partner agreement.