Monday, April 19

Australians could be charged to export energy from rooftop solar panels to the grid | Solar energy

Australian homes with rooftop solar panels could be charged to export electricity to the electricity grid at times when it is not needed under proposed changes to the national electricity market.

The recommendation is included in a deliberation project by the Australian Energy Market Commission which is designed to prevent electricity “traffic jams” at sunny times that could destabilize the grid.

The commission, which sets the rules for the electrical system, said the change was necessary to allow more solar home systems and batteries to connect to the grid and make the system fairer for all electricity users.

Benn Barr, the commission’s executive director, said the average solar home with a 4-6 kilowatt system was expected to still save about $ 900 a year in energy bills after the switch, about $ 70 less than currently. .

He said it would cut bills for 80% of non-solar households as they would no longer have to pay for solar energy export services that they are not using.

“We can decarbonize the electricity sector faster and cheaper by connecting more small solar customers and making it worthwhile for them to install batteries,” he said.

“Within 10 years, half of all energy users will use energy options like solar. We must ensure that this seismic shift leaves no one behind because all Australians, solar powered or not, deserve an affordable and sustainable energy system. “

The “traffic jams” are the result of a fundamental transformation of a network that was designed to flow power from large generators to homes and distributed businesses, and not the other way around. About 20% of homes, 2.6 million in total, have solar energy, up from 0.2% in 2007.

Some household solar energy groups oppose the proposal, worried they would have to pay more for electricity than they expected when they installed photovoltaic panels on rooftops. Consumer group Solar Citizens said it would be “another hand brake for Australia’s energy transition.”

“As we transition our energy system and clean our power supply, we must encourage more solar energy on rooftops, not penalize people for putting panels on the roof,” said the group’s national director, Ellen Roberts. .

Barr said the alternative was to block people’s solar exports when the grid was under stress, but that would cost more and mean less cheap renewable energy in the system.

Another alternative studied was the construction of more poles and cables to allow greater solar traffic. Barr said that would be “very expensive and would end up on all of our energy bills, whether we have solar power or not.”

The commission’s draft deliberation, released Thursday, was a response to proposals by energy distribution company SA Power Networks and wellness groups such as St. Vincent de Paul and the Australian Council for Social Service, which had argued that the Homes without solar power could face an unfair burden under the current system.

He recommended bi-directional pricing that better reward battery and solar owners who send power to the grid when needed, and new incentives that would give customers more reasons to buy batteries or configure their homes to consume the power they generate within hours. tip. In the net.

They would include power grid owners offering a menu of pricing options to customers that could, for example, allow free export of power to the grid up to a certain level or a paid premium model that would guarantee consumers that they would be paid for export during peak hours. times.

He said that if a grid wanted to introduce a change for solar energy exports, it would need to consult extensively with customers and have a transition plan approved by Australia’s Energy Regulator.

Barr said networks should offer “custom options, not blanket solutions.” The goal was to allow more Australians to install solar power, he said.

“We expect networks to deliver price proposals in close consultation with consumers, which may include options where they do not have to pay for exports,” he said.

The commission is receiving comments on its draft determination until May 13.

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