The South Australian Government has released a plan, A secure transition to affordable renewable energy, detailing its strategy to securely get to 100 per cent renewable energy.

The State Government commissioned report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) identified the SA-NSW interconnector as a priority for the state’s energy security.

South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said, “The single most important finding of AEMO’s report is that the SA-NSW interconnector is critical to the long-term security of South Australia’s electricity system.

“The delivery of the 800MW Project Energy Connect will enable the continued growth of household solar installations whilst driving down the price of power and keeping the entire electricity system stable.”

The Clean Energy Council said stronger network interconnection was integral to a 21st-century energy system, and that the South Australian Government’s commitment to Project EnergyConnect would modernise the grid, drive down power prices and unlock the next wave of large-scale and household-level renewable energy.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said, “The project has been burdened by a regulatory process and RIT-T that is no longer fit for purpose.

“Accelerating Project EnergyConnect is key to addressing the challenges identified in the AEMO report, as is continued investment in energy storage at the household, community and utility-scale.”

The South Australian Government said that Project EnergyConnect was a critical part of the national transmission plan, with AEMO declaring it a “no regrets” measure that will boost security and cut prices. 

The South Australian Government said it is already underwriting early works to accelerate the project as fast as possible.

The South Australian Government also outlined a strategy to arm the state’s electricity network against a possible state-wide blackout due an unprecedented spike in household solar usage.

AEMO identified the threat of another system blackout in its report unless short, medium and long term improvements to the system were implemented.

“The State Government will also introduce new smart solar standards in South Australia, ahead of national changes, to ensure that new solar supports the grid during disturbances and can be managed like any other generator when needed to support energy security,” Mr van Holst Pellekaan said. 

“The State Government is also underwriting a $10 million investment in voltage management by SA Power Networks. Bringing forward this investment will allow South Australia to securely host more rooftop solar and improve the quality of power received at people’s houses.”

The South Australian Government said this would also provide AEMO with a necessary backstop in times of emergency to manage the output of rooftop solar systems.

SA Power Networks’ Manager Corporate Affairs, Paul Roberts, said, “While we see our State’s energy transformation as an exciting opportunity, South Australia has some very specific challenges in managing our electricity system due to high levels of rooftop solar generation and comparatively low levels of energy demand.”

Mr Roberts said the challenges impact all levels of the State’s energy system and ultimately put the security, reliability and quality of supply at risk.

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks welcomed specific initiatives announced by the state government that will assist in managing the issues in the distribution network and support actions already underway, including:

  • Making it mandatory for retailers to offer customers innovative network tariffs to soak up daytime solar
  • Establishing consistent solar, inverter and appliance standards for manufacturers and ensuring installer compliance
  • Working with Virtual Power Plant (VPP) proponents in SA to ensure they assist in managing network issues

The South Australian Government commissioned cutting edge power system modelling by AEMO on how to manage low demand conditions due to a decade of unmanaged rooftop solar uptake.

AEMO, SA Power Networks, ElectraNet and ESCOSA have all collaborated with the South Australian Government to address the risks to the SA grid until Project EnergyConnect is delivered.

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