No-cost electricity can solve grid problems

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

Providing zero or low-cost energy during the solar peak is a way of dealing with stability problems in the Alice Springs electricity grid, says Anthony Seipolt of Cadency Consulting, an international expert on renewable power.

The News asked him to comment on the two-year $12.5m Future Grid research project which provided public information last week. The report, which was due in October, is expected to be released soon.

“In parallel with system controls, there is also the need to support better price signals to customers,” says Mr Seipolt.

“If there is too much energy being produced then the customers should see prices that incentivise them to use more energy.”

Called dynamic export limits “this is a very simple thing to do, and we are seeing new tariffs emerging across Australia that offer zero or low-cost energy during the solar peak.

“It was not clear if this was being proposed in Alice Springs.”

Mr Seipolt says the video paints a very stark picture for the stability of the Alice Springs grid over the next three to five years: “I strongly endorse actions to stabilise this risk in the short term, and establish a dynamic export management model in the longer term.

“As noted in the slides, the adoption of rooftop PV is creating a risk around minimum demand in Alice Springs.

“This is when there is more energy being created by the rooftop systems than is being consumed within the Alice Springs grid.

“The slides suggest that the grid is already very close to this minimum demand risk point and that the risk is increasing every year.

“If not addressed, there is the very real likelihood of widespread outages. The good news is that the video identifies a range of measures that are being actioned to reduce this risk.

“I use the term ‘reduce’ here as there is always risk on a grid and it is impossible to remove all risk. 100% reliability cannot be guaranteed.”

This issue of minimum demand is also evident and being addressed in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland at the moment.”

The actions being taken also include voltage management – increasing the overall voltage on the grid to force rooftop PV to disconnect at times of minimum demand risk, and disconnection of rooftop PV systems – using smart meters, ripple control or other means to remotely turn off the PV at times of minimum demand risk.

Dynamic export limits – over-the-internet signals to reduce household exports (internal use is not limited) – are strongly favoured by Mr Seipolt: “I am strongly in favour of the  model being implemented as it supports better outcomes for all consumers, increases overall PV production and allows customers flexibility in how they use their solar.

“This model is endorsed by ARENA and being rolled out in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.”

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