South Australian Government Push Ahead With Ill-Conceived Inverter And Smart Meter Rules

South Australia new inverter and smart meter rules

The SA government wants to unilaterally pick technology winners, write inverter standards and architect new grid control schemes. God help us!

This seems to have snuck under the radar: last week, the consultation period for proposed new South Australian smart meter and inverter rules closed and as far as we can tell, even in the renewable energy specialist media it attracted no attention.

The announcement of the consultation is here, and there are three relevant consultation papers (all in PDF):

As far as we can tell, these proposals passed pretty much unnoticed, which is a pity since the consultation period ended July 10.

The government’s reasoning is that we’re heading into another challenging summer for the South Australian grid, so the Department of Energy and Mining wants the three new standards to come into effect from September 2020. That’s right, this year!

CEC: don’t get out of step with the rest of the country

The Clean Energy Council isn’t happy. As CEO Kane Thornton said in a recent newsletter

“Inverters will need to be retested (and possibly redesigned) and all inverter stock currently held by businesses could become obsolete and worthless in SA from September. At this stage, there are no inverters that have been tested to the new requirements, the final version of which the Australian Energy Market Operator does not propose to publish until July. To make matters worse, obsolete stock might not be usable for replacement under warranty because SA Power Networks prohibits ‘like for like’ replacement unless the inverter meets its current grid connection requirements.”

 

“At this stage, the best advice we can give small retailers and installers in SA is to run down your inventory, be cautious when buying inverters that do not meet the new requirements and stay in touch with your inverter supplier regarding their plans for redesign (if necessary) and retesting.”

As we mentioned earlier this week and as noted in this media release, the proposals could put South Australia out of step with other states. The media release notes:

“The SA Government is proposing to prematurely force onto the industry its own special and unique requirements for dynamic export limitation, picking technology winners in advance of an Australian Standard or even an industry best practice guideline.”

In the media release, the CEC says adoption of IEEE 2030.5 should be the national objective, rather than South Australia creating its own technical standards.

In an e-mail, the CEC’s Director Distributed Energy Darren Gladman said:

“We question whether dual-element smart meters should be mandatory if a better solution can be achieved using the inverter (or other means). We support a technology-neutral approach to enabling remote curtailment. We don’t think the SA Govt should be dictating the technical solution.”

 

“Other states are likely to use more advanced technology that utilises the capability of inverters. SA risks taking a retrograde step if they mandate multi-element smart meters when there are better alternatives available,” he added.

Intellihub: use off-peak hot water to soak up excess PV

What might those better alternatives look like? South Australian metering company Intellihub helped out with its suggestions. It endorses the role of smart meters in managing demand. As group CEO Adrian Clark told us, smart meters: 

“Are the most cost-efficient, reliable and scalable solution to help manage the risks associated with minimum demand in South Australia”.

Do you remember the era when electric hot water was demonised as an environmental horror because of the amount of power it consumed? In a renewable-powered world, Clark explained to SolarQuotes in an e-mail that South Australia’s roughly 200,000 electric hot water services offer a huge opportunity to help stabilise the grid – if they’re attached to smart meters. Clark’s e-mail said: 

“Intellihub analysis indicates that there are approximately 200,000 electric hot water systems across South Australia representing a potential combined demand of 720MW. With intelligent scheduling and staggering enabled by smart meters, these systems can deliver a continuous aggregate demand of 200 to 300MW to help maintain grid stability when solar generation is highest.”

In other words: when solar energy generation is at its peak, rather than curtailing solar panel system outputs, the extra power should be diverted to electric hot water services that are currently served under the outdated “off-peak” model.

Clark’s note pointed out that AEMO puts 450MW as the minimum demand required to keep the grid stable – one of the concerns that led to the departmental proposals is that this minimum demand might not exist after September – so being able to rely on a minimum 200MW demand would solve the problem.

The other aspects of Intellihub’s proposal are:

  • Legacy meter replacement at all sites using off-peak hot water;
  • All new solar power systems from Q4 2021 should support dynamic export limiting;
  • If required, replace legacy meters connected to existing PV with smart meters that support solar disconnect; and 
  • A consultation with all stakeholders to “develop a set of requirements that sets out functionality, reliability, cybersecurity and scalability to which any solar generation flexible export mechanism must comply”.
About Richard Chirgwin

Richard Chirgwin is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of technology topics, including electronics, telecommunications, computing and science.

Comments

  1. After all the discussion and denials now the disappointing words solar disconnect crop up again but only in SA so far thankfully. We pay to make it, even on roofs so don’t make us waste it. There are at least 10 yrs life left in my gas water heater so I would not like to be made to use an electric one in conjunction with a solar installation if this idea went national.

  2. Tim Efthymiou says

    Hi everyone. I’d hate to be a solar installer in S.A. at the moment. Things look to get very challenging.

    Quote from above:
    “”In other words: when solar energy generation is at its peak, rather than curtailing solar panel system outputs, the extra power should be diverted to electric hot water services that are currently served under the outdated “off-peak” model.””

    I have already been doing this for the past 3 years. When my solar batteries are full, I flip a switch on my off peak hws and whalla, hws heats up the water from solar. When I know there will be overcast days coming up, I flip the switch back to off peak and the hws heats up during the night.
    This switch is placed on the hws itself (20amp light switch). Wires coming to the switch are off peak wire and constant active wire. Has been working great for me for the past 3 years without any issues.

    • Tell me more about this switch please?

      I have a one element off peak gravity feed tank heated by 3 x solar thermal panels and boosted by 1kWp PV into a mini inverter

      Due to only one element, I disconnected the off peak grid wires which would be handy for a few weeks of the year

      I would need a sparkie. SA

      • Tim Efthymiou says

        Hi Rod, Do you still have off peak supply at your premises??, if so, do you still have the off peak wire near your hws ??, if you do, then you get a normal household switch 20 amp NOT 10 amp as this will not be able to handle the amps of a hws, you remove your existing wire that goes to the hws and connect it to the switch, you also get your off peak wire and connect it to the switch, and last of all you connect the switch to your hws. this way you could have your system working on your solar thermal panels (most of the time), then when you know (through forecast reports) when it’s going to be cloudy/rainy, you could flip the switch and heat up your hws via off peak power (which is a lot cheaper than during the day). I can’t see an immense amount of saving in your situation, but hey, any saving is a saving.
        Test the switch terminals so you know where to connect your wires. grab a multimeter and find the “common” output, (which means, which ever way the switch is switched to you still have a connection with one terminal or another). grab a wire and connect it to this terminal and then to your hws.
        You then connect your off peak wire to one side of the switch and then the last wire from your solar to the other terminal. see how you go, if you have any further questions, let me know. I didn’t use a sparkie, I did it myself. Note, I used a small light switch body, so i could fit it snugly to the hws cover near the wires, I also put a hood over it to stop any rain going to the switch, and on the hood, I clearly marked, “constant” / “off peak”. in your case it will be “solar” / off peak”.

        • OK, thanks for the info. I will look into it.

          Yes still have off peak but the off grid inverter needs to be separate from grid AC

          Might be a job for next Winter

  3. Individual states trying to bastardize standards is never going to end well. And it’s completely crazy because all inverters installed in Australia since 9th October 2016 have ‘DRM0’ functionality as mandated in the latest Australian Standard AS4777.2. DRM0 functionality means that if you close an input to the inverter it will disconnect gracefully from the grid. Much more gracefully than just killing the power to the whole inverter as the SA government want to do. I’m assuming the bureaucrats don’t want to use the DRM0 option because it would require the installation of a small external device that takes a remote signal and closes a relay on command. 

    • DingoDazz says

      Unfortunately individual states doing their own thing in regards to standards is nothing new, I don’t know why we have “Australian Standards”. It is an issue with Electrical, Plumbing, Bushfire protection and many other areas of construction / building. Even individual councils sometimes impose “their” rules on things just to make it even harder…. It is a joke in general.

  4. Good questions raised, but why after consultations closed.. I mean, I am just a regular Joe, I do not monitor government consultations, where were all medias, where were all installers?

  5. Dominic Wild says

    I am due for a solar 6.6kW three-phase installation and I can see in various states they will want to be able to switch off your inverters once the spot price turns negative.

    I will get the electrician to install a relay to heat up my H/W tank once the voltage is up and definitely once the 254VAC are reached at lunch time and the inverter turns itself off as per regulations.

  6. Rita Buzio says

    Hello Finn, please research, from American data, the ‘smart meter’ emission called ‘fault’ wave emitted every two minutes, experts say it is a huge health problem. I am no expert, so I leave it to you to inform us. A few weeks ago I had an operator who went straight to my electrical box wanting to change the meter without coming to the door first, which prompted me to ask him to come back when I knew more. Remarkably he exited the close shortly after, which made me think … I went on line and was horrified at what is known in America about smart meters. I phoned Ergon and found out that all meters are going to be changed. Do we have a choice or a say in all of this? Among other things, the data says that smart meters are capable of monitoring, and informing big brother about the specific usage of electric household items from each household. If I read correctly, (I became upset), is this not a gross disregard of our family and personal privacy?

    • Lawrence Coomber says

      Rita:

      As soon as you signed up with Ergon through your application to install a Solar Generation System, and entered into a joint generation and ongoing business arrangement partnership with Ergon (obviously totally different to the normal supplier customer relationship you had previously) you must have been aware of, or at least realised that you would be the junior partner in the agreement; and that you would then also have joint responsibilities and obligations to fulfil, including sharing (proportionately) network costs, as determined from time to time also by Ergon.

      This of course is how all joint business partnerships work.

      The key point of contention for you is that the rules of the business relationship you are now a part of, including regulations and dealings between the two partners, are determined and managed entirely by the senior business partner: Ergon.

      You as the weaker partner have two choices though moving forward: (1) convince your senior partner to change their regulations, or (2) walk away from the business partnership by reverting to your previous “supplier customer relationship” rather than continuing your partnership with Ergon as a joint energy provider.

      All the above is not new interpretation – it has long history and certain inevitability going right back. I recall writing all the above points on a large whiteboard when delivering a presentation on the subject to some Ergon senior technical managers in Townsville in 2011, when there was a lot of consternation and speculation brewing amongst authorities about the first entrant level domestic inverters into Australia, and the foreseeable problems about voltage rise and how it should be managed.

      The grid and its protection and performance for the greater good of the community, and all that needs to be done technically moving forward to ensure that, outweighs the individual interest. And as individuals who are all a part of the broader community, we all need to be supportive of this overarching concept – even if begrudgingly perhaps.

      Lawrence Coomber

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Rita, Ronald here.

      All electrical and communications equipment in Australia has to meet Australian standards for electromagnetic radiation. Within these standards no health effects have been found. This means there are either no health effects or the effects are so small they are not currently detectable and so it makes sense for us to focus on things we are certain are dangerous.

      All electricity meters are being gradually changed over to smart meters. It is possible to opt out, but I don’t recommend it because you will be charged large — and I think excessive — fee to have your meter manually read. Because there are no current known health effects from electromagetic radiation within Australian standards, I don’t recommend opting out and paying these fees.

      I wrote about solar and electromagetic radiation, in a humorous way, here:

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/electromagnetic-radiation/

  7. I am just a humble householder that is trying to do the right thing by being greener with my energy by using solar and surprisingly was under the silly impression that anything I fed back into the grid could be used instead of burning more of our earth’s precious resources.

    There are always technical limitations to concepts, which I understand and it seems that in this challenging time of COVID that the government should take the opportunity to build itself into a technologically advanced government and invest in infrastructure to meet the demands of a possible renewable energy world (what a concept!!!) instead of putting in the easy draconian control options.

    What I would like to know is when my older inverter that is now 7 years old finally dies, what is going to be the requirements on me to replace it (new meter and rewiring to make it compliant)? I have also been considering battery at some point in time but looking at the technology put forward here, it seems that this will not be a viable possibility even if you wanted to? Have I got this wrong?

    Suggestion to the Solar Quotes Team – how about a coordinated piece of communication that we as humble solar householders can take hold of in lay man’s terms and send to our local politicians here in South Australia so that we can make a difference!!!!

  8. If there is going to be too much electricity produced by roof top solar systems and the these guys may turn it off for a while,Why are we building huge wind farms(2 near Port Augusta Whyalla region?)
    Will they stop using our solar energy and support big business

  9. RICHY HENRY. says

    Its a @%$#@$%^ disgrace, householders invest in solar for one main reason……to reduce their electricity bills, and also help look after our planet.
    Householders spend their own money, and in effect, they own their own generation plant, how dare this liberal government dictate what homeowners do with their own property, furthermore, its the government who gave out huge grants and subsidies for each homeowner to install them in the first place, in an effort to take the strain off of the states aging power stations, and become self sufficient and less reliant on the aging poles and wires. WHICH WE ARE ALL STILL PAYING FOR.

    What next, we have lost our copper phone lines to the NBN, we are forced to install the NBN even if we don’t need it, and are quite happy with the current cable broadband, we are now forced to have monitored smart meters installed to meter our solar electricity, and now they bring in new specifications in relation to their Smart meters, to suit their own needs, seemingly for their benefit, not ours, even if its purported to be for our own benefit, only God knows what is coming next, our liberties, and freedoms are being slowly eroded, as the government seemingly can do whatever they like, and potentially in many cases without consultation with the homeowners and the general public at large.
    without prejudice….RH.

  10. Rita Buzio says

    Thank you for your kind response Lawrence Coomber.
    a) I never signed a paper or an agreement with Ergon; I do not have a solar
    system yet, (I am following ‘Finn’ because I intend to);
    b) May be you mean an implied agreement? Ergon is the supplier after all; I
    am the bill-payer, a user/client, but do not see myself as Ergon’s partner.
    c) As future Ergon’s partner/s, what are my/our rights in this matter?
    d) What benefits will the community derive from a smarter meter?
    e) Everything I read about smarter meters is negative.
    f) In the last analysis and in relation to Mr L Coomber’s response, Ergon
    must be asked to include a clause in its contract to protect all ‘minor’
    partners’ from the fault wave by providing a solution. The public has the
    right to ask Ergon to be a responsible partner.
    In the meantime, let us get smarter here. One does not need to have a smarter meter installed to be ‘assaulted’ every two minutes by the fault wave. The wave travels in all directions for miles, so can it be dispersed underground if we are forced to have a smarter meter? How? Are there other cheap solutions? A special box provided by Ergon … a domestic jammer specific for this wave frequency?. Surely there must be a way to protect ourselves, our children and grandchildren without turning to graphite paint or faraday netting both expensive and labour demanding. I exhort all good brains in these matters, to think of a simple to follow action-plan; Mr Richy Henry, above, has clearly painted our crude reality; do we want to continue to be ‘sitting ducks’. Kind Regards, Rita

Speak Your Mind

*

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
%d bloggers like this: