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Rooftop solar pushes South Australia to record low grid demand – in spring!

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SA-10th-Sept copy

Source: Climate and energy college.

Spring is barely two weeks old and the sun had yet to pass the spring equinox (September 23), but already South Australia has set a new record low for electricity demand from the grid, thanks to its increasing supply of rooftop solar PV.

The record low demand – 786MW – was reached around 2pm on Sunday and was cited by Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman as an example of how the grid is transforming.

At the time, rooftop solar accounted for 36 per cent (445MW) of electricity demand in the state. There is 761MW of small-scale rooftop solar on homes and businesses in South Australia, as at the end of August, according to industry statistician SunWiz.

The new record is notable for two reasons: firstly, it confirms that record low demand has shifted from the night to the middle of the day; and second, it did not occur in summer, as had been forecast by AEMO, but in early spring.

According to an AEMO analysis released in July, the previous record low of grid demand in South Australia occurred on November 6, 2016, with 800MW.

(We should point out that this is not total demand, but grid demand. It means much of the demand is delivered by rooftop solar and is not seen by the grid).

AEMO has predicted that by 2019, record low demand may fall to just 354MW, and within 10 years the grid demand may fall to zero because of the increasing amount of rooftop solar, particularly as South Australia has high grid prices, due to its historic legacy of an elongated network and the lack of competition in wholesale market.

“Minimum demand generally happens in summer,” it suggested. Not this time, though, because it occurred just 11 days after the end of winter.

South Australia is the first region where rooftop solar PV has caused a shift in minimum demand from night time to the middle of the day (most states still have electric hot water being switched on at night, when it would make sense to use the “solar sponge” as Queensland has suggested).

A similar prediction of zero minimum demand is made for Western Australia, which also has excellent solar resources, and is adding rooftop solar at a record rate and has overtaken South Australia with 771MW.

This is despite the price of electricity being subsidised (up to one-third of the true cost) by the state government, which owns all the infrastructure but now finds itself unable to balance the budget because of it.

Zibelman told a Melbourne public forum on “2017 energy sector strategic priorities” on Tuesday that she had “spent the weekend” watching the load curve in South Australia, “the lowest curve we’ve ever seen, because of all the solar.”

She used this to explain how the grid was changing because of these new technologies. “This is not a bad thing,” she said, but it required a different approach to the grid and improved management.

One option was to store this excess power and export it to other states, or as ARENA and the state government are suggesting, using excess renewables to export energy to other countries.

As we note in our updated story about prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s rooftop solar and battery storage system in his Point Piper mansion, AEMO predicts that around 40 per cent of Australia’s supply could come from “distributed generation”, which effectively means rooftop solar and storage.

Using this resource would be critical for AEMO in managing a grid that has decreasing amounts of “baseload” generators and needs more flexible and reliable “disptachable generation”.

This is where demand response mechanisms come in – but Zibelman insists that this does not mean that people would have the lights and their fridges switched off at random.

“It’s about managing demand more efficiently, using our resources better, to create a more efficient system.”  

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  • Joe

    Looks like Premier Jay’s ‘ideology and idiocy’, Two Tongue Turnbull’s quote, isn’t so idiotic afterall. It might be a ‘cherry pick’ but fair is fair and it is a counter to all the cherry picking from Two Tongues Turnbull, his hand puppet Joshie and Coalman 2.0 Treasurer Scotty.

  • Rod

    We (S.A.) still have lots of water heating at 11:30pm creating its own mini duck curve.
    The problem with dumb meters is they need to be adjusted manually.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/23f5e4cc1f1ce7cca7691d338ca4586d40c5c12b3fe8099de2038152a6fdbce4.jpg

    • brucelee

      How much would it cost, can’t be too expensive, we need to get in with it!

      • Rod

        You mean cost to change the meters/timer?

        SAPN had a voluntary scheme to install smart meters but I understand meter responsibility is about to be handballed to retailers so, who knows?

        • brucelee

          Just to change the timer.

          Incentivise electricians to change it when they attend a residence with a tax rebate. So if a sparky is called out they for any reason they offer it to customers.

          Have a range of time slots in the middle of the day and allocate them to spread the load.

          • Rod

            Could work. Maybe they are hoping storage electric water heaters will die out soon.

          • Mike Shackleton

            Best option is to replace the electric resistive water heater with a heat pump based system, and install an energy diverter that detects when solar panels are exporting and switches on the heat pump instead.

          • Rod

            Yes, for individuals, but I’m a little hesitant to jump on the heatpump for water bandwagon just yet. New tech and pretty big price.

            My 3 x flat plate collectors and 300 ish storage tank do a great job 9 Months of the year. Even a bolt on heatpump to boost doesn’t make a lot of financial sense, yet. I get the PFiT so not using that to heat water.

    • Greg Hudson

      Has anyone else noticed how conveniently the dotted forecast disappears as the solid blue line catches up? It makes it look like the forecasts are 100% correct all the time, and obfuscates the ‘historical’ forecast data (In other words, we can’t really see if supply matched the forecast). Just my observation & opinion…

      • Rod

        Yes, the solid lines are actuals and you don’t see how they compared to forecast.
        I guess we will find out how accurate their forecasts are if they go to a day ahead market.

  • Bill Gresham

    How come there is peak demand at 1am on Sunday morning?

    • Off peak controlled Hot water load. They have thought about moving it to the day-time, as per the Queensland “solar sponge”, but something about meter issues.

      • brucelee

        That’s ridiculous, it needs to move!

      • Nick Thiwerspoon

        Yeah, I wondered why demand would peak at 1 a.m.

        A hangover from the days of baseload power.

      • BushAxe

        Manually retime the meters to 1300 start is not hard!

  • Fiha

    Looks like on 03/09/2017 @ 12:00 demand was even lower, at ~665MW from AEMO data?

  • wayne

    Dreamers. More likely the truth is the reduction due diectly to the wind down of INDUSTRY – the Holden Plant and Ship building facilities. Jobs lost in a state of decay with a premier in denial and emergency plans to prop up a system that would have been perfectly fine, maintained employment at Leigh Creek and guaranteed security of supply had they kept Port Augusta online a few years more. FOOLS. So ……lets PLAN then execute rather than execute then try to plan with your pants down? It is called KNEE JERK leftist polity…….oh and AGL still get paid for their services as best mates do. Oh wait……lets look lovingly into Elon Musks eyes, join hands and say halaluha. But wait there is more, lets build a Nuclear waste facility on Flinders Ranges.

    • GlennM

      Keep taking the medication Wayne, eventually you will calm down…

      • Alastair Leith

        Wayne is annoying and pretty off topic for sure but I don’t think it’s great to trivialise mental health issues, or mock people who do need (or think they need) medication for illnesses.

        • wayne

          How is off topic disputing false claims about Energy with fact. It is extremely disrespectful to any people to respond to comments that they are mentally unfit and it is plain disrespectful to any people who might be. In fact it is not all that rational. So please stick to the facts, provide facts as to any errors in fact, do not diinish other Australians who disagree and stop using derogatory statements to overcome gaps in your own arguments. The energy issues are of importance to us all and Political ideology and Discrimination should have no place. In fact it demonstrates a certain inadequacy to maintain a dilaogue.

          • Alastair Leith

            No sure why you are responding to me wayne, I just said we shouldn’t joke about mental illness in a derogatory way, it’s bad form for sure and unhealthy as a society to see that kind of thing. Your comment was a rant none the less, full of it’s own kind of disrespect and irrationality.

            As for ideology and discrimination, you might have missed the bit where the fossil fuel lobby have the Federal govt and half the state govts in their pockets. We have a PM and federal Energy Minister lying about energy issues on an almost daily basis at this point in the national “debate” including verballing the latest AEMO report. It’s quite pathetic and a poor reflection on Australian politics, society and intellectual capacity.

          • Bernard Finucane

            He’s trolling to keep you off topic. Block him.

      • Bernard Finucane

        This is deliberate trolling, don’t respond. Just block him.

      • Greg Hudson

        He won’t calm down as long as the FF industry keep feeding his ICE addiction (pun intended).

    • Andy Bowe

      Okay apply logic to your statement, Holden hasnt wound down yet? Ship building is still happening BUT this report is on day to day figures as of now so unless between Saturday & Sunday this massive drop off happened, then your argument is wrong. So how about you think logically and base your discussions on science and not superstition and fear.

      • wayne

        Logic, Holden closed down all but one line, Commodore, and have wound back that to a trickle for complets closure in a matter of weeks. 40% reduction in energy needs. (surce Holden) South australia has dispatched the first AWF Destroyer and is waiting on construction catch up for the next so is not demanding power. Has no Collins work goindg at the present. There are mininimal other ship building and the Patrol pogram ha snot started. So how about you think logical and base your comments on FACTS rather than wishful thinking.

  • Nick Thiwerspoon

    36%!!! From rooftop solar alone. Wow.

  • Ian

    Check this out regarding smart meters and domestic demand management: https://www.canstarblue.com.au/energy/electricity/vic-providers/get-paid-for-cutting-power/

  • Тихон Смотрящий

    only rooftoop is not it

  • Alastair Leith

    So just to be clear with the graph, this is all (blue + yellow) grid demand (only), and rooftopPV exporting to the grid is servicing the yellow part or it? No behind the meter consumption estimates included, right?

  • neroden

    One word: batteries.

  • Greg Hudson

    All we need now is to make home PV installs a mandatory ‘tick’ to gain a 7 star (or higher) energy rating.