Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households
15 November 2021: Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households
The Western Australian Government wants to switch off rooftop solar systems as a ‘last resort’ measure for stabilising the grid, but has given no detail on other steps to be taken first, how much it would cost, how often it could happen, or how solar households could be affected.
The WA Government is seeking to fast-track a recommendation by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to give AEMO the power to cut off solar homes and businesses from exporting to the grid when abundant solar generation and low demand combine to make it hard for AEMO to manage any system issues. The change would apply to all new and upgraded solar systems sized 5KW or under, with systems over 5KW to face different rules yet to be announced by Western Power.
“WA has a great challenge. Many households and businesses are embracing solar but AEMO has not been prepared for this and is now seeking to control small household solar systems.” said Dr Gabrielle Kuiper, an adviser to the Smart Energy Council.
In July, the new AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman announced a tiered approach to periods of extreme minimum system load, a protocol equivalent to the lack of reserve (LOR) notices used for the Reliability & Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) scheme for periods of extreme peak demand.
Dr Kuiper said, “What is disappointing is that there is no sign of this new Minimum System Load protocol in WA, nor the new approach to collaboration and consultation with consumers that Mr Westerman also announced.
“AEMO and Western Power have not seemingly prioritised ‘first resort’ changes such as working with commercial and industrial users to increase loads or with large generators to decrease generation at low load times” said Dr Kuiper.
Last week, 127 members of community advocacy group Solar Citizens made submissions to the WA Government, calling for more investigation of alternatives to switching off solar to ensure it really is used as a last resort.
“The WA Government and AEMO want the go ahead to cut off people’s solar, but we need more transparency around when it could be used or what the financial impact could be for solar homes and businesses,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts.
“AEMO is right in saying that switching off solar should be a last resort, but they want to push ahead without a clear plan for what the first, second, or third resorts might be.
“Solar homes and businesses are doing much of the heavy lifting to transition our energy system and bring down emissions. Rushing to cut off solar could waste all of that abundant and cheap clean energy.
“We need to see a real plan from the WA Government to roll out smarter solutions first, like more community and household batteries, incentives for households and businesses to use more power during the day, electrification of gas hot water and appliances and dynamically managing solar exports.”
Ellen Roberts (National Director, Solar Citizens) 0408 583 694
Dr Gabrielle Kuiper: 0410 324 942