Why is the Government of South Australia making these changes?
The changes are designed to both increase the amount of rooftop solar generation in the future and to assist the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to maintain the required supply and demand balance and avoid a potential black out if South Australia is separated from the rest of the National Electricity Market (NEM).
South Australia also (currently) has more than 1,300 megawatts (MW) of installed rooftop solar capacity, which is more than the largest grid generator being Torrens Island Power Station at 1,280 MW. AEMO runs the market to ensure that large generators (such as gas and wind) are only dispatching the amount of energy needed in the market to meet demand in real time. The vast majority of rooftop solar does not have the capability to have its output controlled.
What are the new standards and requirements?
From 28 September 2020, several new technical standards and requirements apply:
- All new solar systems being installed require the technical capability to be remotely disconnected and reconnected to help manage risks to the electricity system during times of emergency. The new standards will only apply to existing solar systems if any declared part of the existing system (for example the inverter) is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).
- The systems above require an authorised agent to be nominated who can act on instructions to manage rooftop solar output in a power system emergency.
- All new smaller energy generators being installed via an inverter, such as solar systems and energy storage systems, must be capable of remote communications. The new standards will only apply to existing generators if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).
- All inverters being installed must comply with new undervoltage ride-through performance standards designed to minimise the risk that they disconnect immediately following a technical fault on the system causing grid voltage to reduce below normal operating standards.
- All new smart meters are required to be able to separately measure and control generation and any controlled load (for instance, hot water systems), from the general electricity supply.
- Electricity retailers operating in South Australia will be required to offer retail plans which, through lower prices, encourage shifting electricity demand to periods of low demand and/or high rooftop solar generation (for example during the middle of the day).
Additional changes are also being proposed for the future. These include:
- All new smaller energy generators being installed via an inverter, such as solar systems and energy storage systems, connecting to the distribution network must be capable of export limitation to provide for fair sharing of network capacity. The new standards will only apply to existing generators if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).
What do I need to know about these new standards?
When you install a new solar system you are now required to appoint an approved party (relevant agent) who is authorised to remotely disconnect (and later reconnect) when they have been lawfully directed to manage rooftop solar output in a power system emergency.
When purchasing rooftop solar, a consumer should ask the seller what technology will provide the remote disconnect and reconnect capability and who is the relevant agent for that technology.
The new standards will only apply to existing solar systems if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).
What is a relevant agent?
The relevant agent is a party who has been authorised by the owner or operator of an electricity generating solar system connected to the distribution network to remotely disconnect, and later reconnect that solar system when directed by a party with the legal right to issue such a direction.
The role of the relevant agent is to activate the remote disconnection and reconnection capability of the electricity generating solar system for which it has been appointed, when legally required to do so.
Who are the relevant agents and what are their responsibilities?
Note that assessments of prospective relevant agents are underway and this list will be frequently updated.
What do I need to consider when choosing a relevant agent?
The owner or the operator of the solar system must provide written authorisation to a relevant agent to manage the disconnect/reconnect requirement on their behalf.
There may be costs involved for the relevant agent to provide the service to remotely disconnect and reconnect the solar system for the life of the system. You need to consider these costs when selecting a relevant agent. It is likely that the solar seller may provide their consumers with information on proposed remote connect and disconnect technology as well as proposed preferred agent and costs at the point of sale.
What if I don’t agree to provide consent or appoint a relevant agent?
The owner or operator must give a relevant agent written authorisation to remotely disconnect the system from, and reconnect the solar system to, the distribution network in circumstances where the owner or operator of the solar system is lawfully directed to disconnect or reconnect the solar system.
Under the new regulations, SA Power Networks is not permitted to connect a system without a relevant agent having been first appointed by the owner or operator of the plant. The owner or operator must indicate who the relevant agent is on the small embedded generation (SEG) approval form.
Under what circumstances and how often will my solar system be remotely disconnected and then reconnected?
This measure will only be used as a last resort to rebalance the energy system. In extreme circumstances, some people’s solar may need to be interrupted for a few hours on a few days a year.
Will the new standards impact my feed-in tariff or return on investment?
These new standards do not mean eligible households will lose their feed-in tariff(s) and, since export reduction or disconnection will only occur during extreme circumstances to avoid the risk of blackouts, the new standards should have a negligible impact on power bills or return on investment.
Will my solar system and/or battery still operate when I am remotely disconnected from the grid?
Dependent on the design and initial set up of your solar system and/or battery, you may still be able to power your home from the system while it is remotely disconnected from the grid. However, not all solar and battery systems offer this function, and you will need to request this feature from your system provider/installer and ask them for information on how it works and what it will be able to power.
What do I need to do if I no longer own the solar system (for example, I sell my house)?
The owner or operator of the solar system must notify their relevant agent of a change as soon as practicable within 7 days of the change. The relevant agent will then be required to notify the Technical Regulator, so that the Technical Regulator can update and continue to maintain the register of relevant agents.
The relevant agent must also notify the new owner or operator of the solar system in writing of their existing role as the relevant agent for the solar system and seek the new owner or operator’s authorisation for continuation of the arrangement. We consider this an important requirement to ensure the new owner or operator is aware of the need to appoint a relevant agent.
The new owner or operator of the solar system may authorise the existing relevant agent to continue or may authorise another relevant agent.
If the existing relevant agent is unable to secure continued authorisation to act as the relevant agent for the solar system, the relevant agent is required to notify the Technical Regulator.
What if I have to replace part of my solar system under warranty?
The regulations or guidelines will exempt any product replacements undertaken under warranty from these new requirements.
Who can customers, installers and businesses contact for enquiries regarding these changes at the Department for Energy and Mining?
- We will produce materials to assist installers in communicating the new requirements on Regulatory Changes for Smarter Homes.
- Phone the Office of the Technical Regulator on 08 8226 2108 (Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Energy Advisory Service also provides guidance to consumers on a range of energy related matters on 1800 671 907 (free call from fixed lines) or at email@example.com
Who do I contact if I have an issue or complaint about my relevant agent?
Any issues or complaints can be directed to the Office of the Technical Regulator in the first instance on 08 8226 2108 (Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do these requirements affect systems above 200 kW that are already controlled by SA Power Networks?
The new requirements are only applicable to new installations or those which have had a component replaced or upgraded in an existing installation that is included in the list of declared components to be published by the Technical Regulator.
In relation to new solar systems larger than 200 kW, engagement with SA Power Networks is underway to determine whether they register as the relevant agent.
What happens if a company acting as an agent becomes insolvent?
In such circumstances, the Technical Regulator will engage with the liquidator, administrator or receiver. From a customer perspective, the Office of the Technical Regulator will work with impacted customers.
For further information regarding the regulatory changes for smarter homes please contact the Office of the Technical Regulator: