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ARENA Announces Funding for South Australia Power Networks

In Australia’s upcoming renewable energy landscape, there will be fresh prospects for cooperation between electricity networks and retailers to assist customers in optimising the potential of their own energy resources.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), acting on behalf of the government, has revealed that it will grant AU$1.02 million to SA Power Networks along with two energy companies to collaborate on creating and testing retailer solar management offers that are capable of functioning alongside the flexible connection offers of electricity networks (also known as ‘dynamic operating envelopes’). The aim is to provide customers with Consumer Energy Resources and a smooth and seamless experience.

Despite rooftop solar being the biggest source of energy generation in South Australia, the majority of systems are not capable of reacting to market signals. However, energy companies are striving to transform this by introducing innovative offers that incentivise customers to make their solar power responsive to pricing signals in the wholesale energy market.

The primary objective of the AU$ 2.1 million project is to facilitate the development of an integrated design for the new customer offers and SA Power Networks’ Flexible Export connections for rooftop solar. The rollout of this integration will begin in July 2023 as a standard service offering.

The integration of flexible export connections with innovative retail market offers is intended to optimise customers’ market participation opportunities while maintaining power flows within the technical limits of the network. This approach could potentially be expanded in the future to support other “behind-the-meter” equipment, such as batteries and electric vehicles.

Should the solutions developed prove effective, they could be adopted by other states within the National Electricity Market, thereby potentially unlocking wholesale market and network benefits.

Demand and generation flexibility present opportunities to lower energy costs, regulate peak and minimum demand, and shift energy loads to times when renewable energy is most abundant. This flexibility can be put into action in real-time, as a response to market signals, generation shortages, or network limitations.

According to the CEO of ARENA, intelligent management of rooftop solar has the potential to serve as a long-term solution for accommodating the growing influx of renewable energy into the market. He added that the project undertaken by SA Power Networks is a targeted and limited trial that will aid in shaping the development of future mechanisms for managing rooftop solar PV and other energy assets owned by customers.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water In the year 2020-21, renewable energy sources constituted 8% of Australia’s total energy consumption. While the production of renewable electricity has more than doubled over the last ten years, the combustion of biomass such as firewood and bagasse (the leftover pulp from sugar cane crushing) accounts for just under 40% (38%) of Australia’s overall renewable energy consumption.

In the year 2021, 29% of Australia’s overall electricity generation was derived from renewable energy sources, which comprised solar (12%), wind (10%) and hydro (6%). This represented the highest percentage of renewables in the country’s total electricity generation to date, with the previous record of 26% having been set in the mid-1960s.

Over the past decade, solar and wind power have been the primary forces behind the expansion of renewable generation, with their output having more than doubled. Small-scale solar generation saw a growth of 29% in 2021 and an average of 28% per year over the last 10 years. Wind generation, on the other hand, grew by 19% in 2021 and by an average of 15% per year over the last decade. In contrast, hydropower output has remained relatively consistent, subject to fluctuations due to rainfall and market conditions, and has decreased in importance as other sources of generation have diversified.


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