Analysis of whether Australian market frameworks efficiently support the connection of embedded generation has repeatedly identified issues with inconsistent technical standards for grid connection. This is a major concern raised by industry stakeholders including Clean Energy Council members.

The challenge

With more than 15,000 businesses having installed solar PV systems at the end of 2014, commercial-scale solar PV is rapidly growing, increasing the need to improve consistency in the technical outcomes for the connection of these systems.

Work to date has analysed the opportunity for these standards to be developed, and identified the benefits of doing so. The next critical step is to identify the priorities that such standards must address.

The response

The Clean Energy Council has released a new report, the ‘Priorities for inverter energy system connection standards’ study completed by Clean Technology Partners. The report examined the major technical challenges with the connection of commercial-scale inverter energy systems such as solar PV and storage to networks across Australia. It identified that grid connection requirements are a clear gap that is not addressed by the forthcoming revision of AS 4777 and confirmed that requirements vary significantly across Australia.

Outcomes for various industry stakeholders

The study has identified priority areas for standards to address, including:

  1. Protection requirements
  2. Post installation, commissioning/testing and maintenance requirements
  3. Technical assessment tests for IES connections
  4. Guidelines for the connection of hybrid/battery IES

The report has revealed that, although challenging to do so, resolving these issues would lead to improved outcomes for all stakeholders by increasing the confidence of distribution network service providers in the performance of IES, increasing certainty for IES connections and reducing administration, risks and costs in the connection processes – outcomes which clearly align with market objectives.

Electricity industry stakeholders should consider the following outcomes from this work.

  • The report's findings are crucial for suppliers of IES equipment and reinforce the need for very close engagement with these stakeholders in the development of standards for grid connection.

    Inverter characteristics are a core consideration when assessing the connection requirements for any generating system. This report summarises these characteristics in the context of grid connection requirements which should inform the need to promote or reinforce current and emerging inverter capabilities and design.

  • This report is a must-read for any solar installer or developer looking to connect commercial-scale IES as it provides detail on the technical requirements for connection as implemented across Australia and much of the reasoning behind these requirements.

    While this is important background material for the connection process, it is equally as important that these stakeholders remain engaged in the standards development process as it proceeds beyond this task and consider the benefits of standards and addressing the priorities identified in this report.

  • This report provides much technical content relevant to DNSPs, including the background on IES characteristics and the treatment of these characteristics by technical connection requirements.

    While there are locational characteristics and varying regulatory conditions occurring across Australia it is important that the development of standards for any purpose is underpinned by sharing knowledge. This report provides a reference for DNSPs to consider in evaluating their own connection requirements.

    It is important that the benefits of standards development are not targeted at a single stakeholder group. DNSPs should reflect on the benefits that they could realise from the development of IES connection standards, including increased confidence in equipment and efficiency in connection assessment processes.

  • Governments have been leading the development of these standards for some time. Although a reprioritisation has occurred, it is important that decisions makers in government and regulators don’t lose sight of the benefits of these standards. As the need for them is increasing so too are the expected benefits and these should be promoted by governments.

    The role of government in an industry-led standards development process remains strong and governments are encouraged to remain engaged throughout these processes.

The role of this study in the FPDI program

This assessment of the priorities for standards development fits within the FPDI project’s ‘Technical Challenges and Best Practice’ work stream which has the objective of understanding the interface and technical solutions to deliver network outcomes efficiently, and develop a whole-of-industry roadmap to addressing technical challenges for the ongoing integration of generation and storage technologies.

This work complements previous studies into the feasibility of creating a national standard for the connection of embedded generation to Australian distribution networks, along with the FPDI project’s Technology Testing Survey. Its contribution to these studies is to provide a detailed assessment of the next steps for the development of standard for the connection of commercial-scale inverter-based energy systems.