Several new technical standards and requirements for installing smaller energy generators (such as rooftop solar) come into effect from 28 September 2020 that you need to be aware of.

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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 installers need to know about these changes?

The Department for Energy and Mining has developed a fact sheet for installers and sellers (PDF, 194.8 KB) summarising the new requirements.

What information should I provide to customers?

Consumers affected by these changes should be made aware of the new requirements commencing from 28 September 2020.

The customer/owner should seek information upfront on any associated charges for maintaining the disconnect/reconnect agreement.

The Department for Energy and Mining has developed a fact sheet for consumers (PDF, 173.8 KB) that can be downloaded and provided to customers giving a summary of the new requirements.

What if the customer refuses to appoint a relevant agent or provide consent?

The owner or operator must give a relevant agent written authorisation to remotely disconnect the plant from, and reconnect the plant to, the distribution network in circumstances where the owner or operator of the plant is lawfully directed to disconnect or reconnect the plant.

Under the new regulations, SA Power Networks will not approve the connection of electricity generating plants to sites that do not meet these obligations.

Will installers be required to verify the customer has assigned a relevant agent prior to install? And how will this be enforced?

Installers must ensure that the system includes technology that is capable of being remotely disconnected and reconnected, and the customer/owner has nominated a relevant agent in relation to that technology.

This information once verified, will be required to be entered into the electronic Certificate of Compliance (eCoC) by the installer through the selection of the appropriate relevant agent within the eCoC.

Likewise, SA Power Networks will not be able to approve the connection of a solar system unless these requirements are met.

Where can I find a list of approved relevant agents and assets?

A list of relevant agents (PDF, 131.0 KB) and the technology they can control will be maintained by the Technical Regulator on the Regulatory changes for smarter homes page and updated on a regular basis as additional inverter models are certified.

Do these changes impact solar sellers current Terms and Conditions or those in line with the Clean Energy Regulators Code of Conduct?

A solar seller may wish to consider adding a clause in their terms and conditions regarding the requirement for authorisation of a relevant agent.

In the case that a solar seller has certain relevant agents it works with in packaging up or bundling new solar installation sales, the terms and conditions may cover the written authorisation by the customer to the relevant agent.

What if a customer/owner is replacing part of the generating plant under warranty?

The regulations or guidelines will exempt any product replacements undertaken under warranty from these new requirements.

How will it be ensured that customers do not inadvertently have multiple agents? For example, if a customer appoints an agent on installation and then subsequently signs up for a VPP.

Customers may only have one relevant agent per generation plant. The Office of the Technical Regulator maintains a register of electricity generating plants and their agents which is reviewed for compliance.

Who can customers, installers and businesses contact for enquiries regarding these changes at the Department for Energy and Mining?

  • The Department for Energy and Mining will produce materials to assist installers in communicating the new requirements on the Regulatory Changes for Smarter Homes page.
  • The Office of the Technical Regulator can respond to queries on 08 8226 2108 (Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm) or via otr.smarterhomes@sa.gov.au
  • 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 energyadvice@sa.gov.au.

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 otr.smarterhomes@sa.gov.au

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/receiver. From a customer perspective, the Office of the Technical Regulator will work with impacted customers

Further information

For further information regarding the regulatory changes for smarter homes please contact the Office of the Technical Regulator: