For over a decade, South Australians have been the world’s most active adopters of distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar.

There are approximately 288,000 homes in South Australia with rooftop solar panels installed as of October 2020, with an additional 36,000 new solar rooftop systems expected to be installed in the next 14 months.

It’s been months since the new mandatory Government regulations in South Australia were implemented to help stabilise the grid. Here is what you may have missed.

28 September 2020 marked the start of SA Government’s new initiatives, known as “Smarter Homes” Regulations, where all customers installing or upgrading rooftop solar systems in the state are required to appoint a Relevant Agent (listed here) who will be in charge of disconnecting and reconnecting the system during State electricity security emergencies.

You’re probably wondering why the Government of South Australia made these changes?

The changes are designed to both increase the amount of rooftop solar generation in the future and to assist the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to help the required supply and demand balance and avoid a potential blackout if South Australia is separated from the rest of the National Electricity Market (NEM).

South Australia also has (currently) more than 1,300 megawatts (MW) of installed rooftop solar capacity, which is more than the largest grid generator being Torrens Island Power Station at 1,280 MW. AEMO runs the market to ensure that large generators (like gas and wind) only dispatch the amount of energy required in the market to meet demand in real time. The vast majority of rooftop solar does not have the capability to have its output controlled.

New standards and requirements: What you need to know

Several new technical standards and requirements for smaller generation systems, such as rooftop solar, have been implemented in South Australia following recommendations from AEMO and are in effect as of 28 September 2020. These include:

  1. Voltage ride through standards for generating systems connected via an inverter
  2. Remote disconnection and reconnection requirements for prescribed distributed generating systems.
  3. Export limit requirements for prescribed distributed generating systems.
  4. Smart meter minimum technical standards
  5. Tariffs to incentivise energy use in low demand periods

This means if you install a new solar system, you are now required to appoint an approved party (relevant agent) who is authorised to remotely disconnect (and later reconnect) when they have been lawfully directed to manage rooftop solar output in a power system emergency.

When purchasing rooftop solar, a consumer should ask the seller what technology will provide the remote disconnect and reconnect capability and who is the relevant agent for that technology.

Note that the new standards will only apply to existing solar systems if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).

Wanting more information?

Details of these requirements, including Frequently Asked Question, can be found on the Department for Energy and Mining’s website. A fact sheet for installers can be downloaded here.