One of the many archaic rules that has caused significant blockages to proposed wind and solar projects has finally been modified in a move that will allow wind and solar farms to share connection points with others.
The changes to the Direct Connection Access regime will also make it easier for the developers of large wind and solar projects to build them in stages, without having to go back to the regulators each time they want to add new stages.
Developers such as Acciona, which is building the country’s biggest wind complex of more than 1GW at MacIntyre in Queensland, said the old regime meant it was not possible to stage projects or to effectively share dedicated connection assets between projects or stages.
“As a result, many projects are either not possible or would not be financially viable,” it wrote.
The Australian Energy Market Commission says its new rule is a “win, win” because it will make it easier for generators to share assets such as power lines.
“It is expected investment in transmission infrastructure will become more attractive to developers and investors as the new rule enables sharing of transmission assets as well as connection costs.”
It said shared access makes connection costs lower for generators than under the existing rules, and will encourage more generators to join the network.
The rules relate to transmission infrastructure built to connect a wind or solar farm – or any other generator for that matter – to the grid.
The single connection point created obstacles when multiple generators have sought to share assets, because they had to agree on one set of technical performance standards, a joint bidding strategy, share one transmission loss factor, and more.
This effectively prevented multiple parties from sharing and led to under-usage of the existing infrastructure and a disincentive to invest in new infrastructure, the AEMC said.
“With the new rule, these assets will be treated as part of the network, allowing the creation of multiple connection points so multiple generators can connect using their individual settings.”
Wind and solar developers were broadly supportive of the draft ruling, but critical of some aspects.
In response, the AEMC agreed to fast-track the implementation date of the new rule to July 22, rather than a six month delay as proposed in the draft rules.
And while it resisted calls to apply the new rule to “material additions” of transmission lines of 30kms or longer, it said shorter lines would be able to opt into the new framework.
It is not immediately clear if other concerns have been adequately addressed in the final decision.