Unlocking distributed generation

SEANZ chairman, Brendan Winitana, comments on some changes needed for the success of a consumer-centric distribution of power in the energy market in this recent Electrolink article. 

SEANZ (Sustainable Energy Association New Zealand) is driven by its vision of delivering a low-cost, low emissions, and reliable energy network that can drive New Zealand's economic success. SEANZ and its members in the group are enabling solutions that empower households and businesses to more actively participate on both sides of our energy market.

Fundamentally, the electricity sector must adapt to accelerate electrification and decarbonisation and SEANZ is playing a key role in this change.

SEANZ is driving this vision through promotion, support, and innovation of Distributed Energy Resources (DER). Utilising the flexibility that DER provides, allows for the safe, secure, reliable, resilient and affordable operation of networks and the market.

SEANZ is independent and represents stakeholders - manufacturers, system integrators, distributors, retailers, technology companies and end-users of solar, batteries, home and building energy management systems and associated consumer-centric energy technology - tools and applications for self-generation and demand management. Our members are on the front lines designing, building, and delivering solar, wind, and water generation, battery storage, and integrated systems solutions at residential, commercial, and utility-scale - systems that empower energy consumers and ensure everyone can participate in our low cost, low emissions energy future.

Like other countries, New Zealand will embrace DER, to not only reduce our carbon emissions, critical to reversing rising global temperatures, but to build resilience in the system by reducing load from the grid and level off the impact of supply issues and increased demand from electrification.

Business as usual will not meet the needs of our current situation. That's why we’re promoting DER solutions to provide zero-carbon energy generation that can help us manage the energy production challenges we face now and in the future.

Solar and batteries play a key role in this vision and their accelerating uptake is fueling the opportunities available for the industry.

With currently 37,000 ICPs connected to the grid we’re targeting 300,000 by 2030 - rapid growth is underway. Add to that those who now operate off-grid and the market development continues attested by the growth in numbers of the SEANZ group.

Grid-connected residential installations continue to grow (36% YoY) with the biggest gains being seen in commercial installations with businesses large and small realising the economic and sustainability benefits of installing solar. It’s not only allowing them to reduce energy costs, it’s also allowing them to play more active roles in building resilience and could soon be viewed as another revenue stream. With installations happening now around the country consumers are providing excess energy back into the grid for other consumers, during times of high demand.

One such example is Forest Lodge Orchard in Otago who, during last year’s Grid Emergency, was playing their part in reducing demand and exporting excess energy back into the grid, working with Aurora Energy (local distribution network company) - and could have done more if the right protocols were in place. And as will be standard they could still keep the lights on, the house warm, and make a cup of tea while watching Netflix. The electrification of business saves costs, reduces carbon, and provides a market-based competitive advantage, using distributed energy resources, like solar PV and batteries, mixed with grid supply. Added services using a flexibility market approach is obvious including arbitrage for excess generation. It's exciting technology and exciting times for the industry.

SEANZ addresses standards and advocacy as 2 key pillars of operation. With representation on the joint standards group Aus NZ EL-042 Standards Committee, SEANZ works to ensure not only that our workforce are safe, but also that consumers can rely on the safety and security of distributed energy resources in their homes and workplaces.

However, this has its challenges, as attested by the Electricity Authority insisting on non cited changes to inverter standards that compromise consumers with solar. A recent analysis of 2000 solar installations, shared with regulators proved that over 80% of solar installations would have their production compromised with lost renewable energy generation - in a time where New Zealand seeks more renewable generation capability. Why? The Authority claims they are providing network businesses with a 5 year window to bring their networks up to scratch, yet enable cost reflective pricing (assumes a lower cost to consumers) and make their networks capable of dealing with greater amounts of DER. So the solar user consumer today gets compromised for the benefit of network distribution businesses who have not invested in their networks in the past, especially in the LV part of their systems. SEANZ and its members have greater visibility of LV networks than their owners in most cases, a point lost on the owner and regulators.

As an aside, the SEANZ analysis also proved what we all know but the industry, including regulators, refuse to acknowledge it (for obvious reasons). The variation of voltages across New Zealand’s electricity distribution networks is way beyond the legal requirement under the Electricity Act of 230V + or - 6%. Our data shows variations measured by the inverters that far exceed this legal requirement by well over 12%. What is the impact? Who is responsible? How is this being managed? Is it part of the 5 year get your networks right approach? Questions abound with no answers.

SEANZ engages across the sector to address the barriers and unlock the significant universally acknowledged potential of DER. Our on-going engagement with Ministers and policymakers aims to ensure electricity market settings reflect how we are and will use electricity and energy in the future, not how we have in the past. This has revealed a number of key areas that can drive greater uptake of DER across the market segments more quickly. So what are some of the immediate points we need to unlock DER and to build a flexibility market in New Zealand?

  • Disallow network companies from charging for exporting power to networks, an anti-competitive behavior. Solar PV prosumers don’t charge for locational generation or providing services to support the network and supply other consumers

  • Implement an online universal connection agreement across all network distribution companies in New Zealand where cited New Zealand standards are used as the default for the technologies

  • Activate instantaneous net metering for 3-phase connections with solar PV/ storage, to stop wasted generation

  • Enable further and legitimise the Multiple Trading Relationships (MTR) initiative, a process that allows con- sumers to buy energy from multiple sources - a retailer, a solar aggregator, your next-door neighbour or a business down the road that has solar PV, to reduce costs

And at a political ministerial level:

  • Publish an Updated National Energy Policy that details DER and the flexibility market.

Members in the SEANZ group are out there every day helping build a part of the electricity system and market that New Zealand needs to cope with the heavy lifting required for the forecast rapid electrification and uptake of renewable, distributed energy resources. SEANZ moves to pave the way. For that to happen we need regulatory change.

What does SEANZ do?

SEANZ’ goal is to advocate for and facilitate the development of a low-cost, low-emission and reliable energy network by establishing and maintaining the platforms on which the technology, stakeholders, legislation, policy, events and standards operate.

The association is independent of government and the electricity supply industry (ESI) and represents manufacturers, system integrators, distributors, retailers, technology companies and end-users of solar, batteries, home and building energy management systems and associated consumer-centric energy technology including tools and applications for self-generation and demand management.

Its members design, build and deliver solar, wind, and water generation, battery storage, and integrated systems solutions at residential, commercial, and utility scale.

– Brendan Winitana Executive chairman, SEANZ


This article is from ElectroLink Magazine - Issue 148 March - April 2022


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