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. 

For many years power generation was a government-owned monopoly. If we needed more power, we dammed more rivers or built
coal or gas-fired generators. The environmental movement opposed all of this, advocating for wind, solar and sustainable generation instead.

But it wasn’t until solar power technology improved to become self-funding that the country began to accept that surplus generation on the other side of the power meter should be integrated into distribution networks.

This new model requires a more consumer-centric approach, and
the Sustainable Energy Association New Zealand (SEANZ) was firmly established by 2010 to provide solutions that empower households
and businesses to more actively participate on both sides of the energy market.

However, roadblocks at government and network level still provide barriers to the implementation of this new shared model. SEANZ chairman, Brendan Winitana, comments on some changes needed.

If we are going to flatten the demand for large-scale power generation by harnessing the surplus energy generated by consumers, the electricity sector must adapt and provide safe mechanisms for electricity to flow both ways on current networks.

SEANZ is driving this vision through the support and innovation of distributed energy resources (DER). This includes smaller, consumer-owned generation units such as solar photovoltaic, wind generators and battery storage.

vides, we can ensure the safe, secure, reliable, resilient and affordable operation of networks and the market.

Like other countries, New Zealand will embrace DER to not only reduce our carbon-emissions, but to build resilience in the system by reducing load from the grid and level off the impact of supply issues and increased demand for 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 fuelling the opportunities available for the industry.

With currently 40,000 ICP solar connections to the grid – we’re target- ing 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 percent 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.

The electrification of business saves costs, reduces carbon, and provides a market-based competitive advantage using DER, 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.

Roadblocks

To get the right protocols in place, SEANZ addresses standards and advocacy as two key pillars of our operation. With representation on the joint Australia New Zealand EL-042 standards committee for renew- able energy power supply systems and equipment, SEANZ works to ensure that not only our workforce is safe, but also that consumers can rely on the safety and secu- rity 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 percent 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 five- 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 net- work distribution businesses who have not invested in their networks in the past, especially in the LV part of their systems. SEANZanditsmembershavegreatervis- ibility 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 acknowl- edge 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 percent.

Our data shows variations measured by the inverters that far exceed this legal requirement by well over 12 percent. What is the impact? Who is responsible? How is this being managed? Is it part of the five- 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 policy makers aims to ensure electricity market settings reflect how we are using 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 actions we need to unlock DER and to build a flexible market in New Zealand?

  • Disallow network companies from

    charging for exporting power to net- works, an anti-competitive behaviour. 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 who has solar PV, to reduce costs

    And at a political ministerial level:
    • Publish an Updated National Energy Policy that details DER and the flexibil
    ity 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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