Rooftop solar is emerging as the latest threat to South Australia’s energy system security, as network operators and suppliers predict that it could soon supply SA’s entire energy requirements according to ABC.
1 in 4 South Australian homes already have rooftop solar panels and the numbers are growing. As it has been reported, South Australia lost power on September 29 due to severe storms which toppled transmission lines. It resulted in a chain reaction that knocked nine wind farms out of the grid and cut the state’s connection to Victoria’s backup power supply.
As repairs continue, Electanet, the owner of the state’s power transmission network has warned that the latest risk to the system security is not the weather but the anticipated massive uptake of solar and solar batteries. The company also said that the state was at its most vulnerable to another blackout on days of minimum demand when people are using the least amount of power and all of the power is being drawn from solar.
According to Matthew Warren, Australian Energy Council chief and representative of existing energy suppliers and retailers, it could be as early as 2023 when the energy coming from rooftop systems in South Australia is all the electricity that the state needs to run the grid. He also said that while it is interesting, it poses technical challenges such as how to keep the grid stable.
Their challenge is how to pay for a grid that is increasingly being used as a backup, as energy users switch to a mix of solar power systems and solar battery storage.
Meanwhile, across the country, trials are underway to explore ways of including battery storage systems into the future energy mix. The primary goal is to reduce the need to spend more on infrastructure and to enhance energy security. According to Warren, in the short term, it doesn’t reduce the risk of those days of minimum demand and the state still requires a more secure power source.
Warren said that the state government’s solution is more gas-fired generation. A second interstate connection could actually push up prices, pushing even more people to solar batteries.
South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said that he had a few effective levers he could pull and has called for the Federal Government to create a combined climate and energy policy.
The Federal Government also has commissioned its chief scientists to look into energy security and they are expected to deliver an initial report by the end of the year.
Featured Image Credit: KJ Photographie