Rooftop solar trial for renewables-rich South Australia

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is backing a trial of a system in South Australia which will enable electricity retailers to manage consumers’ rooftop solar output to maximise benefits to customers and increase network flexibility.

With SA leading the country in terms of the penetration of solar and wind power – and rooftop solar the largest generator in the state – the trial will see retailers and electricity networks collaborating to help customers to maximise the value of their solar resources.

ARENA will provide $1.02 million in funding to distributor SA Power Networks and partner retailers AGL and Simply Energy to trial retailer solar management offers to work in concert with networks’ flexible connection offers or ‘dynamic operating envelopes’.

Most rooftop systems are not responsive to market signals with retailers Simply Energy and AGL planning offers that reward customers for enabling their solar to be responsive to wholesale energy market pricing.

The focus of the $2.1 million project will initially be on helping inform design of the integration between these new customer offers and SA Power Networks’ Flexible Export connections for rooftop solar, which will be progressively rolled out as a standard service offering from July 2023.

Combining flexible export connections with innovative retail market offers aims to maximise the opportunity for customers to participate in the market while ensuring power flows don’t exceed the technical limits of the network.

In the future, there is the potential to extend this approach to support other ‘behind-the-meter’ equipment such as batteries and electric vehicles.

If successful, the solutions developed could be adopted in other states in the National Electricity Market and potentially unlock wholesale market and network benefits.

Demand and generation flexibility offers opportunities to reduce energy costs, moderate peak and minimum demand and move energy loads to when there are high amounts of renewable energy. It can be implemented in real time in response to market signals, generation shortfalls or network constraints.

SA Power Networks EGM Strategy & Transformation Mark Vincent said: “SA Power Networks has been working across the energy sector with inverter manufacturers, solar companies, energy retailers and regulators to develop a smart way to allow even more solar on our network so that everyone can benefit from the availability of cheaper daytime energy.

“In the longer run, we are enthusiastic about how customers can benefit from actively participating in the energy market and assist in managing the peaks and troughs of demand.

“This trial is a crucial step in understanding how we can take that next step.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the smart management of rooftop solar is a potential long-term solution to ever increasing amounts of renewable energy entering the market.

Miller said: “SA Power Networks’ project represents a small, but focused trial that will help inform the design of future mechanisms for the orchestration of rooftop solar PV as well as other customer owned energy assets.”

Picture: SA Power Networks/rooftop solar is the is the largest generator in South Australia

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