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Electricity distributors warn excess solar power could destabilise grid

Related Story: Construction to begin in NSW on two of country's biggest solar farms

With almost 1.8 million Australian homes and businesses relying on power from rooftop solar panels, there is a fight brewing over the impact of solar energy on the national electricity grid.

Key points:

Andrew Dillon of Energy Networks Australia says the way customers are charged has to change
Economist Bruce Mountain says solar power is threatening power distribution models
ENA has acknowledged there is frustration with rooftop system size limits in the solar industry

Electricity distributors are warning that as solar uptake continues to increase, there is a risk excess solar power could flow into the network, causing blackouts and damaging infrastructure.

But is it the network businesses that are actually at risk, as customers turn away from centrally produced electricity?

This is what three different parties have to say:

Networks say excess solar is a risk

Andrew Dillon of the network i..

Related Story: Construction to begin in NSW on two of country's biggest solar farms

With almost 1.8 million Australian homes and businesses relying on power from rooftop solar panels, there is a fight brewing over the impact of solar energy on the national electricity grid.

Key points:

  • Andrew Dillon of Energy Networks Australia says the way customers are charged has to change
  • Economist Bruce Mountain says solar power is threatening power distribution models
  • ENA has acknowledged there is frustration with rooftop system size limits in the solar industry

Electricity distributors are warning that as solar uptake continues to increase, there is a risk excess solar power could flow into the network, causing blackouts and damaging infrastructure.

But is it the network businesses that are actually at risk, as customers turn away from centrally produced electricity?

This is what three different parties have to say:

Networks say excess solar is a risk

Andrew Dillon of Energy Networks Australia

Andrew Dillon of the network industry peak body, Energy Networks Australia (ENA), told 7.30 the way customers are charged for electricity has to change, or expensive upgrades to poles and wires will be needed to keep solar customers on the grid.

"The engineering reality is once we get too much solar in a certain space it does start to cause technical issues," he said.

"If there is too much energy coming back up the system in the middle of the day, it can cause frequency voltage disturbances in the system, which can lead to transformers tripping off to protect themselves from being damaged and that will cause localised blackouts.

"There are pockets of the grid already where we have significant penetration and we are starting to see technical issues."

However, he acknowledges that excess solar power has yet to cause any blackouts, or damage electricity infrastructure.

Economist says solar power threatens distributors' business model

Bruce Mountain, energy economist

The director of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre, Bruce Mountain, said when too many people rely on solar it threatens the very business model of the companies that own Australia's poles and wires.

"When the customers use the network less to buy centrally produced electricity, they ship less product," he said.

"When they ship less product, their underlying business is undermined, they need to charge more to the customers left and that leads to what has been called a death spiral.

"We are seeing rapid reductions in consumption at the point of use per household."

But Mr Dillon denies the distributors are acting out of self-interest.

"I absolutely reject that claim," he said.

"We, as networks, have an interest in is running a safe network, running a reliable network, enabling the transition to a low carbon future and doing all that while keeping costs down as much as possible."

Solar installers say the networks are holding back business

Around Australia the poles and wires companies can decide which solar systems can connect to the grid.

Small systems can connect automatically, but in some areas, those wanting a larger system can find themselves caught up in red tape.

The vice-president of the Australian Solar Council, Glen Morris, said these limitations were holding back solar installation businesses and preventing the take-up of new battery storage technology.

"If you've already got a five kilowatt system, your house is full as far as the network is concerned," Mr Morris said.

"You go to add a battery, that's another five kilowatts and so they say no you're already full … so you can't add storage to your solar system."

Mr Morris also said the networks had the capacity to solve the problem of any excess solar flows into the grid, and infrastructure upgrades were not necessary.

"They already have the capability to turn off your solar invertor whenever they feel like it," he said.

"If they choose to connect that functionality, it's there in the inverter. The customer already has it."

ENA has acknowledged there is frustration with rooftop system size limits in the solar industry.

"What we are seeing is solar installers and others slightly frustrated at different requirements for different networks and sometimes they are unclear on the reasons for that," Mr Dillon said.

"Limitations are in place across the country to make sure the network stays safe and we don't have sudden rushes of people connecting to the grid that causes outage issues."

But Mr Mountain is unconvinced, calling the limitations "somewhat spurious".

"The published, documented, critically reviewed analyses are few and far between, so it is very easy for engineers to make these arguments and those in policy circles only have so much tolerance for the detail," he said.

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Australia

Relive days two and one at the Parkes Elvis Festival in our live blog!

Are you ready to Rock and Roll? Were all shook up this year over the 2019 Parkes Elvis Festival. Theres a program full of non-stop entertainment, competitions, dancing and a lot of black leather, and were going to be following it from the trains, to the Wall of Fame and much more. During each day of the festival the Parkes Champion Post will bring you the best content – if you cant be here in Parkes we will make you feel like you are part of the crowd, and if you are make sure you keep an eye out for your photo and details from the days events. READ MORE Want to know whats coming up next? Find the program below!

Are you ready to Rock and Roll?

Theres a program full of non-stop entertainment, competitions, dancing and a lot of black leather, and were going to be following it from the trains, to the Wall of Fame and much more.

During each day of the festival the Parkes Champion Post will bring you the best content – if you cant be here in Parkes we will make you feel like you are pa..

Are you ready to Rock and Roll? Were all shook up this year over the 2019 Parkes Elvis Festival. Theres a program full of non-stop entertainment, competitions, dancing and a lot of black leather, and were going to be following it from the trains, to the Wall of Fame and much more. During each day of the festival the Parkes Champion Post will bring you the best content – if you cant be here in Parkes we will make you feel like you are part of the crowd, and if you are make sure you keep an eye out for your photo and details from the days events. READ MORE Want to know whats coming up next? Find the program below!

Are you ready to Rock and Roll?

Theres a program full of non-stop entertainment, competitions, dancing and a lot of black leather, and were going to be following it from the trains, to the Wall of Fame and much more.

During each day of the festival the Parkes Champion Post will bring you the best content – if you cant be here in Parkes we will make you feel like you are part of the crowd, and if you are make sure you keep an eye out for your photo and details from the days events.

Want to know whats coming up next? Find the program below!

This story Relive days two and one at the Parkes Elvis Festival in our live blog! first appeared on Parkes Champion-Post.

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Australia

Cotton Australia, irrigators hit back at criticism over fish kill

IRRIGATORS and cotton growers have hit back at suggestions they, in combination with government policy, were somehow responsible for the fish kill that took out as many as a million fish early this week near Menindee Lakes. NSW Irrigators Council chief executive Luke Simpkins and Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray have both defended their respective organisations water use, while lamenting the fact such a disaster occurred. Both blamed drought for the fish kill. “What has happened is as a result of the drought and no water flowing into the rivers. This drought is a devastating time for all of us. This is not about diversions, but about inflows,” said Mr Simpkins. “Without inflows, blue-green algae events will continue to kill fish. This was predicted in December in an ABC report and algal blooms have killed fish before,” he said. “It should be remembered that irrigation farmers on the Upper Darling have not been allocated any water from the system for 18 months because of ..

IRRIGATORS and cotton growers have hit back at suggestions they, in combination with government policy, were somehow responsible for the fish kill that took out as many as a million fish early this week near Menindee Lakes. NSW Irrigators Council chief executive Luke Simpkins and Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray have both defended their respective organisations water use, while lamenting the fact such a disaster occurred. Both blamed drought for the fish kill. “What has happened is as a result of the drought and no water flowing into the rivers. This drought is a devastating time for all of us. This is not about diversions, but about inflows,” said Mr Simpkins. “Without inflows, blue-green algae events will continue to kill fish. This was predicted in December in an ABC report and algal blooms have killed fish before,” he said. “It should be remembered that irrigation farmers on the Upper Darling have not been allocated any water from the system for 18 months because of the drought.” He said general security allocations (meaning the percentage of a water licence farmers are able to use) have been at zero per cent in both the Gwydir and Lower Namoi valleys. “The water simply isnt there for anyone. “As we approach the state election in March and the federal election in May, it is understandable that MPs seeking re-election and candidates seeking election will want to raise their profiles by allocating blame. “Ultimately it is their credibility that will evaporate when they seek to deny the existence of the drought and the lack of rainfall/inflows,” said Mr Simpkins. Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said cotton growers should not be blamed for this weeks fish kill, nor those last month. “New South Wales is in the grip of a long and devastating drought. This drought is impacting all agricultural sectors, including the cotton industry where this seasons crop is forecast to be at least half of last seasons,” he said.. “On the Barwon-Darling, the impact on cotton production is even more devastating with no cotton being grown in Bourke this season, down from 4000 hectares the year before. “Further upstream at Dirranbandi (home of Cubbie Cotton), just 300 hectares of cotton has been planted, which is 1pc of what can be planted in a very good season. “Cotton Australia is very proud of our industry that produces a quality fibre that is in demand both here at home and around the world, but as an industry we are tired of being the whipping boy for all the problems that are being brought on by this crippling drought. “About 18 months ago, 2000 gigalitres of water was in the Menindee Lakes before the Murray-Darling Basin Authority took the deliberate decision to accelerate releases from Menindee to meet downstream requirements and reduce overall evaporation losses from the lakes. “In hindsight, this was probably a poor decision, but it does highlight the incredibly difficult task of managing flows in a manner that minimise losses, but ensures enough water is available for communities and the environment during extended severe droughts. “Since July 1, 2017, irrigators have extracted just 16 gigalitres out of the Barwon-Darling – an amount that would have evaporated out of Menindee in just 16 days. “Coupled with the extensive drought and the simple fact there has been little to no rain, the release of water from the lakes has exacerbated the conditions leading to these fish deaths,” said Mr Murray. “What this issue highlights is how difficult the management of the Menindee Lakes is.” You can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Daily Liberal. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up to our free or subscriber only newsletters below:

NSW Irrigators Council chief executive Luke Simpkins and Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray have both defended their respective organisations water use, while lamenting the fact such a disaster occurred.

Both blamed drought for the fish kill.

“What has happened is as a result of the drought and no water flowing into the rivers. This drought is a devastating time for all of us. This is not about diversions, but about inflows,” said Mr Simpkins.

“Without inflows, blue-green algae events will continue to kill fish. This was predicted in December in an ABC report and algal blooms have killed fish before,” he said.

“It should be remembered that irrigation farmers on the Upper Darling have not been allocated any water from the system for 18 months because of the drought.”

He said general security allocations (meaning the percentage of a water licence farmers are able to use) have been at zero per cent in both the Gwydir and Lower Namoi valleys.

“The water simply isnt there for anyone.

“As we approach the state election in March and the federal election in May, it is understandable that MPs seeking re-election and candidates seeking election will want to raise their profiles by allocating blame.

“Ultimately it is their credibility that will evaporate when they seek to deny the existence of the drought and the lack of rainfall/inflows,” said Mr Simpkins.

Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said cotton growers should not be blamed for this weeks fish kill, nor those last month.

“New South Wales is in the grip of a long and devastating drought. This drought is impacting all agricultural sectors, including the cotton industry where this seasons crop is forecast to be at least half of last seasons,” he said..

“On the Barwon-Darling, the impact on cotton production is even more devastating with no cotton being grown in Bourke this season, down from 4000 hectares the year before.

“Further upstream at Dirranbandi (home of Cubbie Cotton), just 300 hectares of cotton has been planted, which is 1pc of what can be planted in a very good season.

“Cotton Australia is very proud of our industry that produces a quality fibre that is in demand both here at home and around the world, but as an industry we are tired of being the whipping boy for all the problems that are being brought on by this crippling drought.

“About 18 months ago, 2000 gigalitres of water was in the Menindee Lakes before the Murray-Darling Basin Authority took the deliberate decision to accelerate releases from Menindee to meet downstream requirements and reduce overall evaporation losses from the lakes.

“In hindsight, this was probably a poor decision, but it does highlight the incredibly difficult task of managing flows in a manner that minimise losses, but ensures enough water is available for communities and the environment during extended severe droughts.

“Since July 1, 2017, irrigators have extracted just 16 gigalitres out of the Barwon-Darling – an amount that would have evaporated out of Menindee in just 16 days.

“Coupled with the extensive drought and the simple fact there has been little to no rain, the release of water from the lakes has exacerbated the conditions leading to these fish deaths,” said Mr Murray.

“What this issue highlights is how difficult the management of the Menindee Lakes is.”

Would you like more Dubbo and regional news?

You can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Daily Liberal. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up to our free or subscriber only newsletters below:

This story Cotton Australia, irrigators hit back at criticism over fish kill first appeared on Daily Liberal.

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Australia

Marise Payne declines to put timeframe on Rahaf Alqunun’s asylum claim

Marise Payne has declined to put a timeframe on how soon Australian authorities will be able to reach a decision on whether to offer asylum to Saudi teenager Rahaf Alqunun.

Key points:

The Foreign Minister said Australia was accessing Rahaf Alqunun's claim for asylum
Ms Payne said there were “a number of steps” still to be taken in the assessment process
She said she had also spoken to Thai government officials about the detention of Hakeem AlAraibi

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was speaking in Thailand after talks with Thai Government officials, said Australia was engaged in the process of assessing Ms Alqunun's claim for asylum.

But she stopped short of saying how long the claim would take to be processed.

“There are, as I have just said, a number of steps in the process, including in terms of that assessment,” Ms Payne said.

“They are required to be taken and they will be completed within due course and then that matter will be resolved.”

The Department o..

Marise Payne has declined to put a timeframe on how soon Australian authorities will be able to reach a decision on whether to offer asylum to Saudi teenager Rahaf Alqunun.

Key points:

  • The Foreign Minister said Australia was accessing Rahaf Alqunun's claim for asylum
  • Ms Payne said there were "a number of steps" still to be taken in the assessment process
  • She said she had also spoken to Thai government officials about the detention of Hakeem AlAraibi

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was speaking in Thailand after talks with Thai Government officials, said Australia was engaged in the process of assessing Ms Alqunun's claim for asylum.

But she stopped short of saying how long the claim would take to be processed.

"There are, as I have just said, a number of steps in the process, including in terms of that assessment," Ms Payne said.

"They are required to be taken and they will be completed within due course and then that matter will be resolved."

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed on Wednesday that the United Nations refugee agency had referred Ms Alqunun's case to Australia for consideration.

Ms Alqunun's asylum application was fast-tracked, partly because of security concerns, after the young woman's father and brother arrived in Bangkok and asked Thai police to see her.

Ms Alqunun, 18, flew into Thailand from Kuwait on the weekend, saying she had a ticket onwards to Australia where she had hoped to seek asylum over fears her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

But when she arrived in Bangkok she said a Saudi diplomat met her at the airport and tricked her into handing over her passport and ticket, saying he would secure a visa.

The teenager then barricaded herself inside her room at an airport hotel, and requested to speak to the United Nations refugee office.

Ms Payne said she had also spoken to Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about the detention of Hakeen AlAraibi, and his possible return to Bahrain.

She said Mr AlAraibi had been visited by officials from the Australian embassy on a number of occasions and the Australian Government was engaging with his legal team.

"We are, as I've said, very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of Mr Araibi to Bahrain," she said.

"I have reiterated those concerns to both ministers."

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