Community solar power record year

2020 has been a breakthrough year for distributed energy, as rooftop solar and behind-the-meter energy assets are deployed at record rates.

To help manage the transition ARENA has led the Distributed Energy Integration Program (known as DEIP), bringing together government agencies, market authorities, industry and consumer associations.

The group is working together to navigate the growth of distributed energy resources (DER), sharing information and building consensus on reforms that are needed to achieve the maximum value for all energy users.

How popular is community solar power?

With Australian rooftop solar installations passing the 2.5 million mark mid-year, the challenge of integrating consumer-owned energy is growing.

To help accommodate the rapid growth of consumer-owned energy, the group explored what the future two-directional electricity networks might look like, considering ways to provide access to the grid for people with capacity to generate electricity, and how much that access should cost.

The collaboration has proposed changes to the National Electricity Rules that aim to create incentives for networks to invest in increased solar hosting capacity and for those costs to be recovered fairly.

Working out when and where it is cost-effective to invest in network hosting capacity is complex, so the AER and ARENA commissioned CSIRO and economic and engineering consultants Cutler Mertz to develop a methodology to streamline the process for networks to estimate the benefits from new investment.

DEIP’s work is already paying off, supporting real-world deployments like Project Edge, which will orchestrate distributed energy assets from 1000 residential, commercial and industrial energy users across north-east Victoria to make the grid stronger, more reliable and maximise the value of DER for energy users.

Strong participation

DEIP’s 2020 workshops focused on access and pricing and dynamic operating envelopes. Interest was strong, with the four events attracting 330 attendees.

Three workshops focused on the development of ‘dynamic operating envelopes’ — the agreed limits for exporting energy to the grid so stability and reliability aren’t threatened, while still allowing the benefits of DER to be maximised.

Attendees at one of the DEIP workshops
Attendees at one of the DEIP workshops.

The outcomes will feed into next year’s work plan to develop the various technical, commercial, regulatory and critically, the customer engagement dimensions required to implement them.

A working group on electric vehicle grid integration looked at tariffs for charging – an area of growing interest as AGL and Origin embark on trials to manage EV charging without negative impacts on the grid.

Another working group on DER standards, data and interoperability progressed work in DER device standards and data interfaces with an aim to draft implementation guides for industry communications protocol, cyber and product standards.

ARENA’s Business Development Director Craig Chambers said DEIP embodies industry collaboration.

“By co-designing solutions with input from industry, government and consumers, we are better delivering customer-centric results to create a fair and equitable DER future,” he said.

Focus on 2021

As consumer-owned energy becomes more popular and uptake increases, the benefits of DEIP’s implementation work will continue to grow. This will be a focus for DEIP in 2021, with the aim of bringing the right people together to focus on the priority issues for both consumers and the energy industry.

Building on the Energy Security Board’s Post 2025 Market Design Review, DEIP will work on the technical challenges associated with the large share of DER, developing standards that allow the system to operate securely, while ensuring that market incentives, and the physical requirements of the power system, are closely aligned.

Dr Bryn Williams, Future Network Strategy Manager at SA Power Networks said that DEIP has been effective in bringing together people to build national consensus on issues facing the energy sector.

“Through initiatives like the DER Access and Pricing review and Dynamic Operating Envelopes Working Group, DEIP is helping to guide the evolution of our electricity infrastructure and markets to meet the needs of energy consumers in a more distributed, renewable energy future.”

View of homes with solar panels on roof
More than 2.5 million Australian homes have installed rooftop solar panels.

The program is focused on making sure the future energy system remains fair for everybody, whether they own DER or not.

Kellie Caught, Senior Advisor on Climate and Energy at the Australian Council of Social Service participated in the workshops and says DEIP is helping to ensure everyone gets value from the reforms undertaken.

“The DEIP Access and Pricing project enabled a true co-design process with consumer groups and key stakeholders, that put consumers at the centre of developing reforms to support greater DER penetration and maximise benefits in an equitable way.”

Stay up to date

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