Inverter Manufacturers Hit Back On QLD Emergency Backstop

QLD emergency backstop - solar power

Several major solar inverter manufacturers have expressed their concerns over Queensland’s plans to introduce a very blunt tool to manage some new solar and battery systems remotely.

QLD Government owned Energy Queensland is planning to introduce a safeguard for its electricity system called the Emergency Backstop Mechanism. It involves a requirement for new and replacement rooftop solar and battery storage systems of 10kW or greater capacity to be fitted with a bit of kit called a generation signalling device (GSD).

This could affect many new installations once introduced as 10kW solar systems (and larger) are becoming increasingly common in the state.

Connected to the inverter, the GSD will enable Ergon Energy and Energex to remotely switch off systems as a last resort in emergency situations; such as when mains grid demand is so low it threatens system security and could result in state-wide blackouts in a worst-case scenario. When the threat has passed, another signal will (hopefully) switch these systems back on.  The GSD devices rely on old- school Audio Frequency Load Control (AFLC) technology.

It was originally intended the GSD requirement would come into play this month after a (very short) industry consultation period that ended in early October. But at this stage the requirement has been pushed back until 6 February 2023; meaning it will apply to systems installed/replace from that point.

“Costly And Archaic” Hardware Solution

Among the submissions during the consultation period was one made on behalf of the Intellihub Group and inverter manufacturers SMA, Fronius, Goodwe, Enphase and Growatt, and Greensync.

While acknowledging the need for an emergency backstop mechanism for use as a last resort, the companies state GSD is not the way to go.

For starters, there’s the cost side of things. While the GSD devices cost around $70 wholesale, that doesn’t include installation. And it’s the installation where costs really add up due to the fiddling and farting about required. Intellihub’s submission estimates the total cost to the installer to meet the requirements will be a minimum of $300 and up to $1,000 where additional configuration is required. This cost will of course be passed on to the end consumer.

Another issue is supply of the GSD. It’s a device that can only be purchased from a single supplier and this creates risks of monopoly pricing – the cost of the gadget could potentially increase, and perhaps significantly. A single source of supply also means in a situation where supply is interrupted, it will delay the connection of new solar power and battery systems.

The submission also expresses concerns about how much power Energex and Ergon will have in implementation of the emergency backstop, with little or no regulatory oversight in place at this point.

The companies have pointed to South Australia and Western Australia as examples of how emergency backstop disconnection and reconnection should be approached; with both states allowing multiple technology solutions and sufficient oversight.

While the GSD hardware solution is a simple on/off switch, inverter manufacturers have been investing in secure software solutions that also enable advanced features such as flexible solar exports.

Basically, the GSD is unnecessary.

“Instead of prescribing the specific equipment that must be used to implement the emergency backstop, a best practice regulatory regime would specify the outcomes that must be achieved,” states the submission.

The Intellihub et. al. submission can be viewed in full here. Earlier, we reported on AGL’s submission that expressed a number of concerns about the emergency backstop mechanism as proposed. As for the Clean Energy Council’s submission – which also contains a bunch of concerns – it can be found here.

The GSD approach as proposed is really appearing to be a half-baked one.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Shouldn’t there be some form of national approach to this rather then each state coming up with their own rules?
    Must be hard to be an inverter manufacturer and having to make different adjustments depending on the state it is sold.

    • George Kaplan says

      Each state tends to run its own power grid so each state looks for its own solution.

      And with GSD installation adding up to $1,000 that’s going to make batteries even less desirable than they are now given the current ROI is about 1/2 over the course of 10 years.

      Curious how governments seem to be increasing everything, whether intentionally or no.

    • Absolutely, could not agree more.

      1. We should have a federal level of monitoring/controlling DER
      2. Inverters should be equipped with internationally recognised communications protocols

      Similar to Australia’s building codes, there exists a common construction framework across AU but with slight variations for each state. If we adopt this approach for DER, there should be minimal changes needed to offer inverters and storage solutions across each state. This significantly hampers residential PV/storage growth, aside from ignoring the latest innovations that inverter companies or the likes of Greensynch etc. bring to the table, which is informed by the latest international innovation and trends and requirements.

      Inverters equipped with internationally recognised communication protocols would also open up the market for more global products coming into AU, more importantly minimising trade barriers due to AU specific requirements. And accelerate the energy transition! One example is the AU DRM0 protocol that is not implemented anywhere else in the world and OEMs have to scramble to find solutions that work with their products.
      Disclosure, I’m the MD for SMA Australia

    • Can someone explain in simple terms what systems will be impacted. For example, would something like a 8.0kW Fronius Symo Gen 24 plus and BYD battery (10kW or so) be subject to this stupidity?

  2. So, instead of turning off solar when demand for fossil fuel powered electricity is low due high solar availability.

    The very same energy companies can send the ripple command to everyone’s hot water system to turn on during the day and soak up the excess energy that would be destabilizing the grid.

    Honestly it’s not rocket science. Energex and Ergon have that control and ability now. No new infrastructure cost, no increased complexity to the system. No voltage spikes or dips due sharp input energy disconnections.

    Just turn on people’s hot water system on the cheap tarrif to soak up the excess. The majority of them are resistive loads anyway and there is virtually no risk.

    • Hi Mark, with regard to your suggestion about turning on hotwater systems during the day to soak up excess energy. In theory it sounds ok…

      How would that go for people that have solar diverters such as CatchPower?

      I have one and I’m already using solar for heating and it wouldn’t use the ‘cheap tarrif’ during the day to put energy into the HWS as my water would already be heated.

      Maybe someone from CatchPower could speculate on impacts to the grid and solar diverter users if such an idea was adopted.

      • Geoff Walduck says

        Hi Tim,
        From what I can find out it would require only a small % of all HWS systems to be turned on to introduce a large enough load to the grid to prevent instability. The HWS introduced load would be a distributed load as would be the solar PV imputs. From what I limited data is available to me Catch Power systems do not constitute a significant part of the total system so would have a fairly small impact overall. As has already been pointed out the power distributors can already regulate HWS power. While it may not be the complete answer it is available, viable, simple and almost costless. The current Queensland legislation is another classic case of bureaucratic overreach.
        Does anyone know where one might source more data on this specific issue?

    • The article seems to suggest solar arrays over 10kw would need to comply. You haven’t mentioned your array size but going by what you’ve listed you’ll probably need to comply.

      • (Old blog, I know)
        My reading of the Qld govt announcement is that systems of 10kVA or greater will need to have the emergency backstop mechanism fitted.

        I decided to look up the difference between KvA and kW – the result is 1kVA = 0.8 kW (power factor of 0.8)

        So 10kVA = 8kW

        In order to avoid the installation of the kill switch, your system should be less than 8kW. (unless i’ve used an incorrect conversion factor)

        Are installers using the same power factor?

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Hi Ross,

          A few inverter makers are rating their machines at 9.999kW just because of the GSD. Better approach is to opt for flexible exports which are available now and coming to Victoria soon.

          • Does that address the 10kVA issue with the QLD carriers? If my research is correct, then only an 8 kW system would go unhindered, not a 9.99 kW system.

  3. Hi I had a 10kw lg battery installed at my house and and was connected with Discover Energy and there practice was to empty the battery prior to peak and pay a pittance for the power they took and then charge me the peak price to sell it back so to my way of thinking it is a total scam. So I decided to change companies to Red energy and guess what they have the same practices. It appears to me that the only people that benefit from me or anyone else installing a battery on their home is the power company. So I buy the solar panels and the battery and the power company makes the money. I would appreciate it if you could advise me if there is a better way like fitting some sort of switch to stop the power company from pilfering the power.

  4. Richard Courtenay says

    If it’s all too hard, convert your system to off grid with changeover switching to grid and a grid feed box for your electric car. Those who have done this bypass all the government tripe. You still have constant power day and night and during blackouts.
    I enjoy being as indipendant as possible from the whims of government “experts”

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