Right now we need every solar watt-hour of solar electricity possible to be injected into our grid.
Our planet can’t afford for us to keep burning fossil fuels.
So it concerns me that AEMO and DNSPs are so focussed on gaining the ability to reduce the output of solar power systems.
I get that there are occasions where grid stability means we need to address a supply/demand imbalance.
But reducing the supply of renewable energy seems absurd when we’re in a climate crisis.
And the current focus on transmission and storage mega-projects is a high-risk option that could backfire.
We need more distributed generation now, not less.
Distributed generation doesn’t need the consent of every landowner along a 1000km line.
Distributed generation doesn’t require risk tunnelling equipment and millions of dollars of geotechnical studies.
Distributed generation doesn’t require cutting down trees in national parks.
Distributed generation isn’t exposed to grid-connection risks, delays, or marginal loss factor adjustments.
Distributed generation doesn’t impact scenic outlooks or endangered species.
Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need the low-cost energy from every form of grid-scale renewable energy generation to be efficiently transported to our load centres.
BUT if we wait around for mega-projects to facilitate those grid-scale generation projects, we run a big risk of thwarting the rapid transformation of our energy supply.
If projects are delayed then supply and demand get harder to manage. Old, unreliable power stations are kept open.
If projects are delayed then electricity prices rise. Angering consumers. Risking social investment in energy transformation.
And all the meantime, those coal power stations continue to pollute. And electrifying transport homes and industry no longer looks so green.
Yes we need transmission and mega-projects to succeed as they provide least-cost energy, when they come online at the end of this decade.
But we risk getting derailed before we reach that point.
Distributed generation de-risks the decarbonisation of energy.
Distributed generation is available now.
Distributed generation reduces prices for everyone.
Distributed generation unlocks billions of dollars of private investment.
Distributed generation already Australia’s biggest success story.
So why on earth are governments reducing incentives for distributed generation?
Why are we slowing down the one thing that’s working best of all?
We should extend the SRES, expand SRES to include commercial up to 1000kW, and make solar batteries eligible.
How to get more solar electrons into our grid.
Why on earth is there a focus on turning down rooftop solar systems?
That should be the last resort.
There’s so many better things to do first.
I understand… all of those EVs, Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps, batteries, and PV systems will present plenty of challenges, and plenty of opportunities.
There will be sunny springs days with low grid demand.
The grid of the future will be require controls to ensure stable operation.
And the solar industry must roll out solutions that are capable of remote control.
But before pulling that lever, how about:
- Reduce the voltage of the distribution network to where it should be. This will facilitate more solar uptake before voltage rise becomes an issue to manage
- Soak up those available solar electrons by increasing load, simply by switching on electric hot water systems, air-source heat pumps, EV chargers, and batteries.
- On a similar note, those devices should be the focus of VPPs, and its more important (and pleasing) those solutions can be switched on than PV be switched off.
- Soaking up power in the middle of the day will flow through (via wholesale electricity prices that are higher in the day and lower in the evening) to feed-in tariffs, incentivising uptake of PV.
- Further increase the network hosting capacity with transformers capable of dynamic voltage control. Like I said, we need every solar electron we can absorb.
- Create a national subsidy for home batteries, which further facilitate more solar uptake and production. The cost of that subsidy should be weighed against the risk of stalling the energy transition.
- An EV battery is a smart load, but further grid support could be unlocked with bi-directional chargers.
- So: Subsidize the cost of bi-directional EV chargers. Doing so will bring down their cost fast.
- Subsidize EVs with Vehicle-to-grid capability, which will stimulate more vehicle manufacturers to unlock this capability.
All of that will “extend the runway” of the PV hosting capacity of our distribution networks.
Then and only then it makes sense to occasionally reduce the peak of PV generation, in order to to accommodate more PV on average.