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The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Clean Energy Council (CEC) have launched an initiative in response to grid connection issues plaguing renewable energy and hybrid projects in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

The Connections Reform Initiative builds on existing work the CEC and AEMO have led with CEC members, transmission and distribution businesses and other industry stakeholders to address systemic issues of the connection process. 

AEMO’s Chief System Design Officer, Dr Alex Wonhas, said that an industry-wide effort to help address transition issues was welcome and timely.

“AEMO and the CEC have a shared purpose to further improve the bankability of renewable energy and hybrid projects attempting to connect to the NEM,” Dr Wonhas said.

“With the Connections Reform Initiative, we will work with industry to co-create solutions to overcome the systemic issues that are impacting efficient and timely grid connections.

“This new initiative compliments work AEMO already has underway on a number of fronts, to improve the connections process for developers, acknowledging that renewable generation and battery storage are critical as we prepare the system for coal-fired generation retirements.”

The initiative is a joint project by the CEC and AEMO, involving CEC members, NSPs, industry and market body representatives, including the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Energy Security Board (ESB). 

The joint project is focusing on a number of common goals, such as: 

  • A consistent and predictable connections process that delivers repeatable outcomes, reducing rework
  • Improving efficiency and quality of information
  • Creating a collaborative working model between industry, AEMO and the NSPs

CEC Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, believes that grid connection is the most significant challenge facing large-scale renewable energy projects, with substantial delays and changes in technical requirements impacting projects and the confidence of investors. 

“It is critical that the connection process be reviewed and reformed to ensure it is fit-for-purpose to give renewable energy project proponents the clarity and certainty that is necessary,” Mr Thornton said.

“This joint initiative allows experts from across AEMO, the clean energy industry and beyond to explore these complex technical issues and collectively develop a connection process which delivers far better outcomes for everyone.” 

Associated work began in February 2021, including 16 workshops –  contributing to the Connections Reform Initiative which has helped identify five key priority areas. 

Groups have been established to work through the priority areas in parallel, identifying the problems and co-designing solutions.

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