South Australia's stunning transition to consumer-powered grid | RenewEconomy

South Australia’s stunning transition to consumer-powered grid

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rooftop solar expected to provide more than 20% of local generation by 2025, ushering in transition to consumer focused grid in South Australia. Meanwhile, S.A. begins to benefit from renewables, with prices so far in 2017/18 lower than coal-dominated Victoria and NSW.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

fig 16. daily supply average.

South Australia is already being hailed – or in some quarters demonised – for its leadership on renewable energy technology. But a new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator highlights how far out front it is in the tradition to a consumer-powered grid.

The new AEMO report highlights that 9.2 per cent of the electricity generated in the state over the last financial year came from small-scale (sub 100kW) of solar PV on the rooftops of households and businesses in the state.

(The graph above illustrates an average day in South Australia over the last year).

That level of rooftop solar penetration is a record for any major grid in the world, and the contribution of rooftop solar is likely to have been well over 10 per cent in the last year when larger rooftop solar installations of more than 100kW are included.

The total will likely at least double over the next 10 years – according to AEMO forecasts – to more than 20 per cent, at which time rooftop solar will be pushing “minimum demand” from the grid to zero on occasions.

It’s already having an impact. As we report here, rooftop PV sent grid demand to a new record low of 554MW on Sunday, just six weeks after a previous low – which had in turn beaten the earlier low set a week earlier than that by nearly 25 per cent.

It’s a taste of what is to come. Major studies by the likes of the CSIRO and the networks association predict that by 2050, half of all demand will be met by what they describe as “distributed generation” – a mix of rooftop solar, battery storage, and “localised” generation.

This represents a major shift from the recent and current state of the industry from centralised energy controlled by major corporations, to local supply and demand – leading to new players and new business models.

But in South Australia – as is the case with so much of the energy transition – it could come quicker than that. By 2025/26, AEMO says rooftop solar could generate 2,500GWh a year. That would be around 22 per cent of total demand in the state.

Add in the proposals by the Liberty OneSteel, the new owners of the Whyalla steelworks, and more than one third of the state’s demand could be met by such distributed solar, and possibly up to half if its plans for 600MW of solar – for itself and other business users – comes to fruition.

The low levels of grid demand on both Sunday and Saturday in South Australia pushed prices firmly into negative territory. Prices were as low as minus $1,000/MWh on some occasions and averaged minus $120/MWh for two hours on Saturday. It also created record low demand on the grid.

electricity price and demand.

Indeed, average South Australia wholesale prices in the first four months of 2017/18 are lower than the coal-dependent states of Victoria and NSW.

It would have been cheaper than coal dependent Queensland too had not the state government instructed the state-owned generator to lower their prices.

Professor Ross Garnaut, the eminent professor whose solar and storage company Zen Energy is at the heart of the Liberty Onesteel proposal, describes this as an “historic re-ordering of South Australia’s position in the National Electricity Market”.

In a speech in Perth on Friday, Garnaut noted that the S.A. had always had higher prices than other states – in 2000 they were twice the price of other states due to the small number of powerful generators that could set the price in the market.

SA updates.

This was now changing as more renewables came into the market, and he said concerns about the reliability of the grid in S.A. were also overblown. (See this slide from his speech above).

“I think perceptions are a bit out of date,” Garnaut said.

Garnaut said the politicisation of the state’s system black last year – from a unique cyclonic event in a non cyclonic state – did focus attention on the need to run the grid in a different way. But it was clear that this was now being managed.

“South Australia gets half of its electricity from wind and solar …. and they are in the process of overcoming their problems and making systems of high penetration of renewables work,” Garnaut said. That is of  international interest.”

Table 8 - SA - energy source graph -

Indeed, the AEMO report notes that more than 48 per cent of South Australia’s generation in 2016/17 came from wind and solar.

And apart from the likelihood of adding another 12 per cent from rooftop solar over the next 10 years, there were significant new large-scale solar projects and wind projects, which would likely take the state to 70 per cent by 2020 and beyond in the years that follow.

These included the 220MW Bungala solar farm now being built, plus two other solar farms totalling more than 200MW near Whyalla, another 100MW solar farm at Tailem Bend, the 150MW solar tower and storage project near Port Augusta, and the Spencer Gulf pumped hydro storage.

All told, AEMO noted there were some 3,178MW of new wind and 1,515MW of solar projects in the pipeline, although it is not clear that this includes all of the 600MW of solar projects unveiled by Liberty OneSteel, or its battery and pumped hydro storage.

While contemplating these new additions, the AEMO did not sound the alarm bells, or suggest that this development should be stopped.

It did point to the need to find different sources of synchronous generation – saying it was no longer appropriate to rely on traditional thermal generation for non energy services such as voltage control, frequency control, inertia, and system strength.

This could either be sourced from technologies such as wind, solar and storage, or from other sources such as demand response and synchronous condensers. It noted rooftop solar and energy efficiency was likely to cause residential demand to fall by 2 per cent a year, despite population growth.

AEMO noted that the risk of “unserved energy” in South Australia this year – the subject of so much political posturing – is forecast to reduce substantially from 2018–19.

This is because peak demand will be moderated by increasing rooftop PV uptake and energy efficiency, and the addition of more large-scale renewable generation.

“Renewable generation can help meet peak demand, even without significant firm capacity (which can supply electricity at specific times), and continued development of renewable generators can lower the risk of USE (unserved energy),” it said.

“However, if this renewable development was to lead to earlier retirement of existing thermal generation, the risk of USE would increase without additional firm capacity.

Worryingly, it suggested the biggest risk was from the lack of availability of large thermal units, and it noted that 240MW of gas and diesel generation has been made unavailable since AEMO’s main forecasting report released in September.”

“The balance of supply and demand in Victoria and South Australia is sufficiently tight that the extended unavailability of any further capacity, delays in connection of renewable generation, or failures in generator fuel supplies over the peak summer months would likely lead to further supply shortfalls, well above the reliability standard.”

Battery storage will also play an interesting role. South Australia has the Tesla big battery under construction – and due to be in operation in three weeks – as well as two other grid-scale batteries at Wattle Point wind farm, and proposed for Whyalla.

Homes and businesses are also expected to install solar, although AEMO forecasts varied considerably from a slow take up of 120MWh by 2026 to a fast take up of 600MWh.

Bizarrely, the estimates did not include the retrofit market. Apparently the modeller it uses, Jacobs, doesn’t think that battery storage will be attractive to households already with solar.

Given that South Australia grid prices are extremely high and even the local grid operator considers that the combination of solar and storage will be around 15c/kWh – half the cost of the grid within a few years – this appears an heroic assumption, or just plain wrong.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. Joe 3 years ago

    Go well Premier Jay and the good citizens of SA. RE is the here, now and future and the last laugh will be with you as Turnbull’s COALition will again be looking like fools.

  2. BushAxe 3 years ago

    Some of the info in the AEMO’s SA report is ‘outdated’ because it is based on market info at 1st July since then there’s been the Aurora CST, Willogoleche WF and the Zen/Liberty announcements which will have a massive impact on the market. The big three are going to get belted in SA if they don’t pull their finger out (not before time really).

  3. PacoBella 3 years ago

    I think the “Jacobs?” modelling outfit really needs to have another think about the market for households interested in retrofitting existing solar with batteries. We are off-grid because we built our house 2 years ago and the cost of batteries was about the same as the cost of connecting to the grid 200 metres from the house (plus I could see what a bloody mess the electricity policy/industry was in and didn’t want to have anything to do with it). My solar contractor ECoast Energy I have been talking about the market for retrofitting existing housing in urban areas with solar, batteries and grid-connected software/switching gear. The retrofit needs to also include basic house renovation steps like insulation, window treatments, internal and external blinds/shading. We are putting together a range of solutions and design ideas that we think will receive overwhelming support, particularly when we can show householders how they can avoid the 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm price spike shown clearly in Fig 16 at the top of this article.

    • Vicki Stevens 3 years ago

      While you are at all your great retro-fitting, please design an easy to plugin / plugout system for the rental property market. These individuals get left paying the high prices and polluting the atmosphere through no fault of their own. Mobile solar systems (akin to those used for caravans/camping etc) to suit homes would be invaluable.

      • Diana 3 years ago

        I was listening to a radio show the other day that basically said many of the more transportable solar arrays weren’t that good. There was a guy who brought a sort of plug in, or otherwise non-permanent but fixed solar power idea for houses to TAFE, which they were rapt about but it got so few takers it never got off ground. I agree with you, Vicki, we must come up with something for renters that is NOT dependent on what a developer, landlord, or local community scale co-op/retailer agrees to allow us access to at X price, because it is likely to be profit, recoup cost or market-based but with no light at end of pay-off tunnel. It will still be a distinction between home owners and renters, many of whom will rent interminably now.

      • PacoBella 3 years ago

        Hi Vicki. I recently saw a video and read a brochure on the Sirius Energy Storage system by a Melbourne company called Arvio Pty Ltd. Next year they will be selling a storage solution in a box with graphene supercapacitors. The box can be unplugged and moved when you move. I know that doesn’t help with panels on the roof, but there are schemes coming to address that issue as well.

        • Vicki Stevens 3 years ago

          Thanks PacoBella, I will check this out – although when thinking portable solar, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the roof if there is a back or front yard with plenty of sunlight.

      • Mike Dill 3 years ago

        Vicki, I am currently watching a company called orison. They are attempting to build a plug-in storage unit. No product yet but a lot of promise(s).
        I would also like to know about similar alternatives.

        • Vicki Stevens 3 years ago

          Thanks Mike, I will check them out. There are a lot of clever people out there coming up with great solutions – renewables definitely are the future!

    • Diana 3 years ago

      Hi PacoBella, I did the window treatments, insulation etc before getting solar, but have to say when I come home 4.30-7.30pm, no matter what I do (in WA), I’m plain hot, fed up, hit with humidity and just want the aircon on. If I sit and do nothing than I can handle a cooled house, that’s now passive until the spike passes, but that’s not how I live life. On retrofitting, does anyone know where we are at with how easy and affordable it will be, with differing systems, panels, inverters, etc to whack a battery on to an existing system?

      • PacoBella 3 years ago

        We have 1 x 7 KW, 1x 3.5 KW and 3 x 2.5 KW Mitsubishi Electric airconditioners with R32 gas and 7 x Aerotron 503 DC ultra-efficient fans. We live off-grid in a semi-rural area outside Brisbane where we normally get cool nights in summer. We leave the windows open until 7 am. By mid morning our batteries are 100% full and we can turn as many airconditioners on as we like (normally only a couple) until sunset. The fans move the pre-cooled air around, so we can stay in the 18 degrees to 24 degrees band all year round. Even though it gets down to 2 degrees in winter, we hardly used the aircon for heating all winter. With all the home automation gear around it should be possible to turn your aircon on before you get home. I think the idea of solar and batteries should be to get enough power to live a comfortable modern lifestyle, including airconditioning. As we move into the now-normal cycle of 4 or 5 week-long heatwaves every summer, airconditioning is a necessity, not a luxury. A more equitable distribution of income in this country is required to make sure that the families at the bottom of that distribution can live with the same thermal comfort as the rest of us expect.

  4. David Dixon 3 years ago

    Does anyone else think the lack of appreciation for Home Storage is ridiculous? It only takes ~9900 Tesla Power Walls (or equivalent systems) to be installed to = the Tesla Big Battery (9900* 13 kWh ~ 129 MWh), unless my maths is wrong. I personally know many South Aussies that are / already have them installed. Many with Solar will definitely get batteries as a result even the 600 MWh by 2026, seems ultra conservative. Australian Citizens are far ahead of both the Utility and Commercial, which is a fantastic example to show the politicians where Australians view the future of energy.

    Happy to discuss the above.

    • George Darroch 3 years ago

      They’re as good for storage and load-shifting. Less useful for ancillary services, at least with current management devices and software.

      • David Dixon 3 years ago

        Hi George, completely agree. In context to load shifting, residential uptake of storage might be so great that the evening peak is no longer the peak time during the day, perhaps it becomes early morning (with the exception of winter).

        • Mike Dill 3 years ago

          I definitely agree. With a single PW, on sunny days, I will be almost ‘net zero’ for everything except the household cooling and heating. With two, and a few more panels, even that goes away.
          Perhaps the grid ‘peak’ will be late in the evening.

          • neroden 3 years ago

            I’m guessing the ‘grid demand peak’ will be around dawn, actually, as the batteries will get people through the evening and through the low-usage hours of the night. The grid’s wind farms will have to store electricity to release in the pre-dawn hours.

          • Carl Raymond S 3 years ago

            Hah. The ultimate excuse to sleep in and postpone coffee till sun up.

    • Jonathan Prendergast 3 years ago

      Agree. Look at how much rooftop solar has outpaced solar farms. 6GW compared to 0.3GW.

      People will have a lot of excess storage capacity in their household batteries on low demand and high sun days. We need the market to allow usage and reward of this storage capacity in households to bring down energy prices.

      • Mark Roest 3 years ago

        Ask and ye shall receive! You can save even more money using solar via a stationary battery to charge your car (or your business’ vehicles), than to power your house! It will only get better as battery costs decline to US$100/kWh by 2022, and cycle life climbs with no end in sight, as next-generation batteries enter and take over the market. You can use the Bosch Captive Column to build strong, light-weight canopies over parking, or over work or recreation spaces, in addition to the space on your roof, to hold more solar panels, so you can do both!
        When you have paid off the systems with your savings, in a few years, you can get most or all of your energy needs free, for the following 20 to 30 years.
        It’s all good, mate!

    • Greenfanatic 3 years ago

      13 kWh battery has continuous output of 5 KW. So, we need 20,000 units of batteries to make that 100 MW capacity.

  5. Vicki Stevens 3 years ago

    70% renewables by 2020!! – fossil fuel propaganda obviously doesn’t work in a state full of intelligent, forward thinkers and investors. Not sure how long it will take fossil fuel industry to wake up to the fact that they should be divesting as renewables are the future, despite how much they pay our policy makers to say otherwise! Might have to move to the ‘lucky’ clean state.

    • Michael Murray 3 years ago

      I think the fossil fuel industry know. It just seems to be the right of the LNP who haven’t caught up yet.

      • neroden 3 years ago

        Even Adani is divesting from coal and putting its money in renewables.

        Of the oil companies, the European ones are divesting; the American ones are run by head-in-the-sand idiots from Texas and will go bankrupt.

      • Greg Hudson 3 years ago

        Not all the FF industry are laggards… Look what Shell is now doing, charging 25p for 1 Kw (and that is a 50% discount for a limited time). Who in their right mind would pay 50 UK pounds to fill a 100kWh Tesla for example. Talk about a ripoff… They must have been watching the Australain gentailers…

    • Ray Miller 3 years ago

      I agree, the current big players are very slow and reserved, one would think they would be going full belt to get involved, lead and get a major slice of the market. Instead they are spending most of their energy fighting the transition!
      Go figure? Horse and buggy come to mind.

  6. Oliver Scheidegger 3 years ago

    Hi Giles, you may want to re-check your figures. The second chart shows the 5-min dispatch bids, rather than the final 30-min spot price. So the actual final market price only went as low as minus $183 on Sunday morning and minus $249 on Saturday morning.

  7. Malcolm M 3 years ago

    It’s a pity AEMO are hamstrung in their export limit from SA via Heywood. The recent transformer upgrade at Heywood was meant to increase the flow both ways to 650 MW, but for reasons that are unclear the SA to Vic flow is still constrained to 500 MW. This may be related to stability concerns within SA, but these concerns should be overcome by the big battery. Other data on the AEMO website indicate that the transmission line and transformer thermal capacity is about 650 MW for each of 2 circuits, so it is being managed well below its potential.

    There are proposals for additional high voltage lines between SA and Horsham, and from SA to Buronga. But there doesn’t seem to have been a cost-benefit comparison with other options such as utilizing the existing line to its thermal capacity, or upgrading it to DC between Heywood and Tungkillo. A DC upgrade typically achieves a 30% increase in capacity.

  8. Chris Harries 3 years ago

    I’m a bit puzzled by the chart. If this represents an average day in SA, then the yellow bit (solar pv) peaks at about 10 percent of demand during daytime hours, but averages out at a small proportion of total demand over 24 hours. i.e. Very small when compared to the sustained wind component. The article’s figure of 9.2 percent seems faulty.

    But SA efforts are impressive, all the same.

  9. Ray Miller 3 years ago

    Jacobs is using a very “Brave” assumption, as Sir Humfrey would say.

  10. Hettie 3 years ago

    At last I get to today’s RE.
    Consumed by the Manus crisis.
    GO SA. A light in the darkness of fossilised feds.
    Who look like being mortally wounded by their own arrogant negligence.
    Joyce, Nash, Parry, Hawke and now Alexander.
    Almost certainly there will be more. Almost certainly all will be Coalition.
    Oh dear. How sad. Bloody ripper.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Ah young Hettie you spotted the latest citizenship circus performer in….Pommy Johnny ( John Alexander, Member for Bennelong ). You can’t trust anyone in this Government anymore. They all signed electoral declarations that they comply with the Constitution. Every time the tree is shaken…. down drops another ‘dual citizenship candidate’. We need a fresh election to clean out the illegals and then priority number 1 is to reset energy and climate policy. Disband The NAIF, veto Adani and get on with 100% RE.

  11. Michael Murray 3 years ago

    The new AEMO report highlights that 9.2 per cent of the electricity generated in the state over the last financial year came from small-scale (sub 100kW) of solar PV on the rooftops of households and businesses in the state.

    Does that 9.2 count all the power being generated by rooftop solar PV including that which is consumed on site behind the meter or is it what is output to the grid after some is used on site ? I’m assuming the former. But if that is the case how do they know what is used on site behind the meter. Does an on grid rooftop solar PV system provide that information to the retailer the house is connected to ? Or are they guessing ? There is an obvious extrapolation of the Figure 16 you could do to remove the middle of the day dip.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      I maybe corrected on this, but it would have to be based on actual output to the grid as they couldn’t possibly measure what is used behind the meter.

      • Michael Murray 3 years ago

        I did a bit of a hunt around and found this

        which explains how the solar PV part of the NEM watch data is generated. It seems there is a sample of PV installs that are checked at 5 minute intervals and a register of all installs and the sample is used to interpolate over all the installs to estimate total production. I guess that data could have been used by AEMO to get the 9.2 % figure.

  12. David Klemitz 3 years ago

    South Australia is already being hailed – or in some quarters demonised –
    for its leadership on renewable energy technology. But a new report
    from the Australian Energy Market Operator highlights how far out front
    it is in the (tradition) transition to a consumer-powered grid.

  13. neroden 3 years ago

    Sooooo, the global growth rate for solar deployment is about 40%-50% growth per year. South Australia is a great location financially for solar deployment, so we should expect it to do this well. Let’s use the conservative estimate, which doubles production every two years. In 2018-2019, this means about 20% of electricity production from rooftop solar. In 2020-2021, about 40%. Wind will grow too of course. With a push from the state government to speed things up and install batteries, the state could be 100% renewable *and* exporting before 2020.

    • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

      Unfortunately then doubling of global deployment doesn’t reflect Australian deployment. It’s paltered to linear growth about 5 years ago, even in SA.

  14. Alastair Leith 3 years ago

    Is the rooftopPV energy indicated in yellow region on the graph all consumption BTM or is it exclusively exported energy used at other locations? Or both?

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.