How will prosumers affect mainstream energy policy?

A growing number of Australian households are converting to solar power, which is setting into motion a number of changes within the energy industry. Solar power is a useful tool for helping to reduce your energy bills, and the leaders of many electricity providers have gone on the record stating that companies will be playing a bigger role in getting this renewable resource into the hands of Australian consumers.

Solar power: A symbol of energy independence

Many Aussie households have gone off-grid in recent years, and some thought leaders predict that this trend will continue to grow. In fact, at the 2014 Annual Energy Users Association of Australia conference, Australian Energy Regulator (AER) CEO Michelle Groves said that the prosumer movement will undoubtedly affect the energy market in coming years.

Prosumerism is closely correlated with off-grid living, a lifestyle in which individual consumers use private resources and technologies to power their homes. Solar panels, wind turbines and small-scale hydroelectric generators are all common tools for creating an energy-independent lifestyle.

For most of us, however, off-grid living isn't particularly appealing. What does appear to be gaining popularity in the mainstream is the use of solar panels and other renewable technologies to supplement energy supply.

How will renewable energy sources change the market?

Regardless of whether or not you're interested in adding PV panels to your home, the trend will likely affect the way you receive energy. AGL Energy, the country's oldest provider, has said that it wants to refocus its efforts to include distributed generation. This is a piecemeal approach to energy that includes battery power, solar panels and smart-control systems, and allows users to both obtain energy from the grid and generate it independently.

Marc England, head of group strategy and new energy for the power supplier, told The Australian that company figures indicate that 2.5 million Aussie households could include off-grid energy elements by 2020. The company wants to ensure it can provide the type of power consumers are demanding as it makes future business plans.

"AGL needs to create a more sophisticated business model," he told The Australian."Today we have a very centralised grid business model, but we see the consumer changing and in order to meet consumer needs we need to change our business model. We want to have a distributive generation presence in one million homes by 2020."