What is an Embedded Network and How Does it Relate with Commercial Solar Power?
28th Feb 18
Cameron Quin

Electricity metering is simple when a commercial building is fully occupied by a single company: all that is needed is a main meter at the point of connection to the electricity network. However, when a commercial property has many tenants, electricity billing is more complex because users have different energy consumption patterns. This can be simplified by deploying an embedded network: a power distribution system with a parent connection to the electricity network and a main meter, combined with private sub-meters for internal billing.

The traditional approach has been to equip each tenant space with a power meter, each having a separate account with the local energy retailer, but this creates several management challenges:

  • Tenant spaces are not flexible: If a company needs to rent many of them, they also have to manage multiple accounts.
  • Electricity rates become very high: Even if the facility consumes a large amount of electricity, the individual demand of each tenant may still be small. This represents a lost opportunity to pool energy consumption and get bulk discounts.

An embedded network provides more flexibility because it is managed internally. If a large company requires many tenant spaces, the measurements from the respective power meters can simply be added. On the other hand, if there are plans to split a large space to accommodate many smaller tenants, the property management company can simply add new electricity meters.

Embedded Networks and Commercial Solar Power

Another issue with separate metering is that commercial solar power can be very difficult to deploy. If the property management company equips the facility with a solar photovoltaic system, how can tenants achieve savings? Unless an embedded network is deployed, there is no single connection point where solar power can be supplied, and providing a connection between the solar array and each tenant would be impractical and too expensive. The property management company could also connect the solar power system to the main network and export energy, but that would drastically reduce the financial benefit; Australian feed-in tariffs are 2 to 4 times lower than the retail kWh price.

Connecting a commercial solar power system with an embedded network is as simple as deploying a residential installation, only at a larger scale. There is no need to measure how electricity from the solar array is split among tenants; it is simply subtracted from the main power bill associated with the parent meter. In addition, there are two measures you can deploy to reduce kWh prices, which are not possible with separate metering:

  • Getting bulk discounts from energy retailers.
  • Deploying commercial solar through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Instead of purchasing the array, you purchase energy from an array installed on your property, which is owned and serviced by the provider. With separate metering, each tenant would have to sign their own PPA at a smaller scale.

The combination of an embedded network, bulk discounts and “solar as a service” can drastically lower the kilowatt-hour price in commercial and industrial facilities, making them much more attractive for potential tenants.

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Cameron Quin

28th Feb 18
Cameron Quin

Cameron Quin has been heavily involved in business development from an early age. After founding and selling two online companies, Cameron found a strong passion for renewables and the opportunities it brings for the commercial and industrial sector. Sharing the possibilities of solar and the knowledge from the Solar Bay team is his favourite pastime.