AEMO has released a report detailing improvements to DER performance standards that can support both consumers and the network.

When energy flows through the electricity grid it’s similar to cars driving on a busy road. Cars have to slow down or speed up as they react to congestion and must have certain capabilities like lights, indicators and window wipers, to prevent crashes, as well as airbags and other preventative features to maintain safety.

Energy is much the same. It’s required to slow down, speed up, and for the generators to have certain capabilities to support the energy network. We call these performance standards.

At AEMO we’ve been doing a lot of thinking, in partnership with stakeholders and consumer groups, about how to make the vehicles we’ll rely on in the future – household solar and batteries – perform properly within a system designed to be driven by the old fleet.

The generation fleet helps us keep the power system in balance. They can keep generating when there is a small bump and can make minor changes to how they generate in order to provide support when frequency and voltage change too quickly. We call these ‘system security services’ and without them in place the lights can go off.

So, when there are more and more household solar and batteries connected, or Distributed Energy Resources (DER), and less and less of the old fleet on the road, then we need to make sure DER also have the capabilities needed for the system to stay up and running.

The proliferation of DER means that Australia’s power system is becoming less ‘centralised’, as new technology, cost reductions, knowledge and innovation in the market place are accelerating us towards a two-way electricity grid.

To use a real example, when lightning flashed over the system on the Queensland-New South Wales border area it was estimated that around 40% of household solar systems installed under the latest performance standard, in an area approximately 180,000 square kilometres in size, stopped generating. If that had happened when 40 or 50% (or even more) of our energy was coming from these systems, there would have been significant consequences. Therefore, adopting some immediate improvements to existing DER performance standards, to ensure reliability of supply to all energy consumers, is imperative.

But the upside of addressing and resolving these issues will be the positive impact for everyone on the grid. Optimising the interactions of DER across the power system is key to enabling more affordable energy and keeping costs lower for all customers - those that install DER, those that don’t, and those that haven’t yet.

To return to our car analogy, when vehicles are out on the road, we need to look out for each other and most of the time drivers do that automatically. The improved frequency and voltage capabilities we are proposing allow DER to do this better (and increase the number of DERs allowed on the network), automatically, and in a way that is much fairer for everyone, because everyone can be using their DER in a way that lets them export their own energy without jamming the network.

The grid and how we use energy in Australia are evolving, and as technology continues to improve and consumers become more energy self-sufficient via DER and other advancements, it’s paramount that industry, in partnership with consumers, takes the appropriate action now to ensure consistency of supply, at an affordable price, in a way that works for customers both with and without DER.

The giant electricity highways between states are called interconnectors and over the next decade we need to make sure we maintain control over them in an orderly way (despite any congestion) keep the system safe and reliable. Directing energy is like using traffic lights to direct cars, some coordination is needed for you to speed up on an orange or sometimes stop on the red.

Without these capabilities, the alternative will be that some new customers are not allowed to export from their DER into the grid, or DER keeps turning off, or we need to build a much bigger system that is only needed for a small period of time. This is what happened when air-conditioners became more prevalent and the cost of consumer energy increased because of its use during short periods of high demand during the year.

The grid and how we use energy in Australia are evolving, and as technology continues to improve and consumers become more energy self-sufficient via DER and other advancements, it’s paramount that industry, in partnership with consumers, takes the appropriate action now to ensure consistency of supply, at an affordable price, in a way that works for customers both with and without DER.

The best part is that the capability to talk to and direct DER will also provide consumers even more benefits. New products that respond to wholesale price signals are emerging, and so is the ability for consumers to participate in energy markets through DER, taking advantage of these new capabilities. This is what’s called a two-sided market place, and the aim is to allow consumers to optimise the way in which they can extract value from their DER and their load.

AEMO has published a report about this and has started working with industry and consumer groups to develop new DER performance capabilities, including;

  • Disturbance withstand requirements
  • Improved voltage and reactive power controls
  • Improved over and under frequency response
  • Interoperability

And we want to do all this in alignment with international best practice, so Australia’s power system can have the best performance standards and consumers can reap the benefits. 

For more on DER check out ARENA's animated video explainer below:

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