VIC Remote Solar Shutdown Rules: Everything You Need To Know

a hand pressing an emergency stop button

Victoria has launched a consultation (open until August 2, 2023) about their upcoming remote solar shutdown rules.

The state is calling for input into the design of an Emergency Backstop Mechanism (EBM), which allows your Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP) to temporarily shut down or zero-export your system – to protect the grid.

In Victoria, these are the DNSPs whom the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) can demand shut down your solar inverter from July 2024:

  • CitiPower – Melbourne CBD
  • Powercor – Western Victoria
  • Jemena – Western inner Melbourne
  • AusNet – Eastern Victoria
  • United Energy – South-east Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula

Sounds scary huh?

Truth be told – it’s nothing to worry about – if it’s implemented sensibly.

But be worried if it copies QLD’s dog’s breakfast of a solar shutdown mechanism. And if it’s implemented like the brute-force design in WA, that’s not great, either. But suppose Victoria can hold their noses and learn from South Australia’s hard work on remote inverter shutdown and control. In that case, you’ll have a good system with benefits that outweigh the few dollars in a year in lost feed-in-tariff revenue from the occasional grid event.

Why Does The VIC Government Want To Switch Off My Solar?

Soon the mainstream Victorian media will discover this consultation paper. Get ready for many scare stories about the big bad government switching off your hard-earned solar system and robbing you of your sweet solar energy.

Ignore the scare stories. I’m no fan of government departments, but this remote shutdown mechanism is needed to avoid blackouts as rooftop solar penetration grows.

It’s really that simple.

As the Vic Government says in its consultation paper, the shutdowns will only happen during:

 “a minimum system load emergency which is rare but has the potential to lead to local or state-wide blackouts.”

 

“By managing the risks during rare energy emergency events, more solar can continue to be installed safely and greater levels of renewable energy will be available at all other times”

The Emergency Backstop Mechanism will only be required on new and replacement solar power systems from July 2024.

The paper gives South Australia as an example of how an EBM has already been deployed in Australia – which seems the obvious model to emulate. More on that later.

How The System Should Be Implemented

The solution I recommend Victorians ask for in this consultation is – in simple terms:

“A signal sent over the internet to the inverter which instructs the inverter to go into zero export mode until further notice.”

In more technical terms, this should be implemented via CSIP-AUS (as per IEEE 2030.5).

What The Hell Is CSIP-AUS

CSIP-AUS, or the Common Smart Inverter Profile – Australia, is a standard for controlling inverters over the internet, allowing a third party to tell your inverter to reduce its exports to a certain kW. In the context of Victoria’s Emergency Backstop Mechanism, it would put your inverter into zero export mode during a grid emergency-  when there is too much energy in the grid and not enough demand to soak it up. 

To join the remote shutdown party, either:

  • your inverter has to talk CSIP-AUS,
  • or your inverter has to talk to a ‘gateway device’ in your switchboard that talks CSIP-AUS,
  • or your inverter has to talk to a cloud service that talks CSIP-AUS.

Across the border, SA Power Networks do all the hard work testing inverters that claim they are CSIP-AUS ready, while the Clean Energy Council gets the glory by putting the test results on a pdf on their website. The current list is here at the time of writing, but that link will break as soon as the list is updated. So you’ll then need to go here, and click on the link labelled “Inverters with Software Communication Clients”.

South Australia Are Paving The Way

From 1 July 2023, all solar systems installed in South Australia1 will need to be CSIP-AUS compatible, so they are ‘Dynamic Export Capable’. So there should be many compatible inverters on the market by mid-2024 when Victoria needs them.  Interestingly, only Fronius, Redback, Solar Edge, SolaX and Sungrow have built CSIP-AUS into their inverters so far2.

Why I like CSIP-AUS

Stupid implementations of ‘remote solar shutdown’ capability like Queensland’s and Western Australia’s stop your inverter dead. That means you lose all your solar and will rely 100% on grid power during an ‘event’.

With CSIP-AUS the system can be much more polite and temporarily limit exports to zero, with your solar happily generating enough to power your home during a grid emergency.

That will piss solar owners off a lot less than switching off their inverter and forcing grid electricity into their home.

Also, CSIP-AUS sets the stage for Dynamic Exports, a way for the DNSPs to granularly ramp your exports up and down to manage the grid. Although it sounds bad, it should mean your average export limit actually increases.

Why CSIP-AUS Remote Shutdown Is The Least Worst Option

The boffins at Victoria’s Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action reckon:

“that emergency curtailment of rooftop solar via an emergency backstop mechanism may be needed for only 12-19 hours per year for the period between 2025-2027. It is estimated that this will result in between $4 and $7 of lost feed in tariff payments per year for households with solar.”

Losing $4-$7 per year is worse than losing $0, but it’s better than the alternative: blacked-out suburbs. Another word for it is ‘curtailment’; as renewable penetration rises, we’ll have to get used to a little curtailment. It’s the tiny price we pay to get to a mostly renewable grid.

Tell The VIC Government You Want A CSIP-AUS Based System

If you want a say on Victoria’s Emergency Backstop Mechanism, you can give feedback until August 2. I’m sure they’ll get lots of angry emails raging against the whole concept of remote shutdowns, but it’s gonna happen anyway, so I’d suggest your efforts would be better placed getting the system design right.

I’d propose:

  • the ‘bat signal’ sent out in a grid emergency should put solar systems into zero export, not switch off the inverter.
  • that Victoria uses CSIP-AUS as the mechanism for the EBM.
  • that Victoria ignores Dan Andrews’ inferiority complex and copies SA’s playbook – saving the Victorian taxpayer lots of money.
  • Melbourne gives Adelaide the Grand Prix back in appreciation for all our hard work on this matter.

You can email your submission to [email protected] or fill in the form here.

Footnotes

  1. There’s an exemption for new solar systems with a connection application lodged prior to 1 July 2023 and installed prior to 1 September 2023.
  2. Although even CSIP-AUS wouldn’t tempt me to buy a SolaX…
About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and the founder and CEO of SolarQuotes.com.au. I started SolarQuotes in 2009 and the SolarQuotes blog in 2013 with the belief that it’s more important to be truthful and objective than popular. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division. Since 2009, I’ve helped over 700,000 Aussies get quotes for solar from installers I trust. Read my full bio.

Comments

  1. While the Clean Energy Council gets the glory by putting the test results on a pdf on their website. (And also the fee for listing)

    I was forwarded a recent CEC email about this matter and a common theme with the CEC… it’s all about the cash for doing very little!
    The process;
    Once a manufacturer passes, SAPN email over the documents to CEC.
    Documents are checked and a CEC invoice issued (~1 business day)
    Manufacturer pays invoice (1+ business days)
    On receipt of payment, listing occurs and the website is updated (1-2 business days)

    • Santiago says

      If the amount of hours that this needs to apply is only 15hs a year, then I don’t see the QLD or WA system that bad. Installing a system with export control requires extra gear that may never pay back if its only a few dollars a year. Export limitation gear (required for dynamic export limits) may cost over $100. Plus the ongoing costs of have a system online. This has been omitted from this analysis.

  2. Dr Pieter J Kriel says

    A year ago we upgraded our system and I took a look at the SA regulations at that time.
    The one thing that concerned me was that the householder was responsible for both the internet connection and all the security that connection entails. This is an abrogation of responsibility and a simple cop-out.
    I am happy for the supplier to control my exports, but they must take full responsibility for the connection and the security thereof.
    I am willing to bet, hackers are already looking at this as a new opportunity. The average householder should not be expected to be an internet security expert. I doubt anyone has thought this through properly.

    • Finn Peacock says

      The forthcoming CSIP-AUS system will throttle exports at the inverter if it loses comms with the mothership.

      • Dr Pieter J Kriel says

        I guess I will not be upgrading to a CSIP-AUS compatible inverter any time soon that being the case.

        • Des Scahill says

          ANY device that’s connected to the internet is ALWAYS going to be a potential target, and I’d certainly agree with Dr Kriel’s concerns.

          On a personal level, even if you have good cyber-security on your own devices, (and Australia ranks fairly high in the level of cyber-security on personal devices compared to many other countries), you still need to be careful about the nature and content of info that you send to others.

          That’s because you have no real idea at all of what cyber-security practices are being followed by the person or organisation that you are sending the information to.

          The info you send may be quite secure on your own devices, but will it be equally secure on the computer of the person you are sending it to?

      • Maybe I’ve got this all wrong, but in both my Solax Inverters, one of which is 8yo, under the menu system (buried where I don’t have access), they have a parameter called “High Voltage Protect”. I was given to understand, this is a figure specifed by the Network Operator, which, if exceeded, will put the Inverter into a “Zero Export mode”. I’ve always assumed this to be a mandated inbuilt function for any ASA Grid-connected Inverter. It seems to me the perfect solution to regulating short-term fluctuations in the grid (from Network Ops viewpoint), at least for over-voltage – it is instantaneous, does not require an internet connection and the voltage threshold can be tailored to suit regional considerations (eg solar installation density). I’m not sure that the conditions to trigger this have ever been met in my case, though I do infrequently get some anomalous Inverter generation readings over the day. I assume the installer would have had to set this up. Am I assuming way too much here?

  3. What happens with a system with microinverters?

    • Finn Peacock says

      In theory, the same as a string system, thew mothership sends out the bat-signal over the internet, the microinverter controller (Enphase Envoy) puts the system into zero-export mode.

      Interestingly Enphase is not on the list of compatible inverters yet…

      • I think Enphase Envoys support demand response (DRED) signals as specific inputs, at least some models do this.

        https://www.acsolarwarehouse.com/news/drm-compliance/

        Whatever happened to the DRED standard for this? I thought it was created exactly to do this function.

        Also, Victoria mandated smart meters at great expense to consumers. On paper, they can do a lot. I remember reading somewhere they might have the facility to control air conditioners via DRED. Maybe they can control inverters. Apparently, they do actually log the voltage coming into the house but that value isn’t exported back to the network control centre.

        • Finn Peacock says

          DRED requires a hard-wired relay to operate. So you need a relay wired to the DRM terminals on the Envoy. Then you need a means of commanding that relay to operate remotely. Then you need a means of coordinating tens of thousands of relays. Then you need a fallback if the relay loses contact with the cloud controller.

          DRED is a clumsy way to manage demand response and is hard to scale and has no failsafe. For that and many other reasons, (like Dynamic Export Control) we have the well thought through CSIP-AUS which is simply a command over the internet.

          Smart meters have a contact that you can wire up to the inverter and kill the power to it. As stressed in the post this is a bad way to curtail solar.

          • According to AS/NZS 4777.2: 2015

            DRM 5 – Do not generate power . ( I assume this means do not export to the grid)

            DRM 6 – Do not generate more that 50% power.

            DRM 7 – Do not generate more than 75% power.

            Unless I am wrong you are confusing this with DRM 0 (disconnect from grid).

            DRED signalling appears to be a simple wiring setup. Simple and easy to test. If smart meters can deliver the DRM signals then good. If the inverter only supports DRM 0 then that is a problem for the inverter. the smart meter can be set up to trigger this if that is all there is available.

            CSIP-AUS move the onus for network connection to the consumer. There are multiple points of failure here.

          • Finn Peacock says

            Where do I say DRED can only disconnect from the grid?

            DRED signalling is a simple wiring setup. It is simple and easy to test.

            But you still a means of commanding the DRED signal remotely. Then you need a means of coordinating tens of thousands of DRM signals. Then you need a grid-safe fallback if the inverter loses internet. This is all do-able – but IMO CSIP-AUS is a much better way to achieve it.

          • Alan Butt says

            This is not true relays are simple and relisble and easy to fix all modern electronic and electrical systems are complex. I have now got an off grid system and many people are now going away from the grid.
            I have built a hybrid sytem if the grid goes off I still have power

          • Finn Peacock says

            Where did I say relays are not simple, reliable and easy to fix?

            People are free to go off-grid, as long as they are aware that means they will be curtailing their electricity almost every single day, that’s great. After all an off-grid system is literally zero export all the time.

            Any good hybrid system still provides power when the grid goes off.

            As I say repeatedly in the post – we need to push for an EBM system that simply goes into zero export when there is a grid emergency.

  4. Perhaps they could offer some carrot to go with the stick – like a higher export tariff or higher export limit when the grid is healthy. Might encourage existing systems to join in.

    Hopefully we get something like that here in WA – the amount of solar energy that must be going begging due to all 3 phase systems being limited to either 1.5kW or 0 export must be enormous. Remote export limiting would surely be preferable ..

  5. As a general rule of thumb. One should not put an essential services Command And Control mechanism onto the internet which by its very nature, offers nefarious access from anywhere in the world.
    Remember that the internet is a newish invention, prior to this the electricity companies used their power lines for network control transmission.

    • .And most networks are owned and built using Chinese components. Should we be worried?

    • Dr Pieter J Kriel says

      Brian, spot on ! But, as I mentioned, the security of the system falls into the lap of the consumer. It is a nonsense. When I spoke to the Office of the Technical Regulator, I could not get any sense out of them. The level of technical expertise is seriously lacking.

    • But the bad guys would never do something nefarious or nasty via the internet, right?
      ….Oh hang on.

      (Yes, you’re TOTALLY correct, and we are getting more and more vulnerable to the various forms of “hacking” from the likes of Russia, China, and of course more, basically anyone with a grudge or just a smile desire to cause mayhem. It’s a grave concern.)

  6. You’re right about one thing: The Queensland system is absolutely obscene!
    I could be charging my EV and running my house from my own solar when they decide to shut off my solar and suddenly, and without warning, I’m charging the car and running the house drawing from the grid.

    This sounds like it might be quite reasonable hopefully.
    Limiting exports is the way to go for these situations, NOT shutting solar systems down completely.

  7. Ian Thompson says

    I guess in the first instance, all wind generators should be curtailed – as they appear to be now?

    Wouldn’t it be a much more equitable approach to simply ramp up hydrogen electrolysers, aluminium refining pots, and/or desalination plants first, to absorb all that excess solar power? Use that excess renewable energy for a useful purpose, rather than simply curtail it!

    I.e., ensure a balanced design for the grid – don’t simply keep adding solar to further exacerbate the problem, without first adding batteries, hydrogen generators, etc., in a balanced manner.

    Seems to me we are creating a problem, then planning to introduce innumerable small, individual, and therefore potentially unreliable systems to address this.

    • Gareth Jones says

      Exactly Ian … I’ve thought about this for some time and it would seem to be the obvious way to go. With the significant power requirements of the plants you mention and some flexibility in the way they operate, surely using all that excess solar power generated on sunny days would be far preferable than switching it off? I’m not aware of much discussion on this to date … I’m sure I must be wrong in believing that it just has not been considered?

      • Finn Peacock says

        We are simply at a point where curtailment is much cheaper than building extra loads. Curtailment is a feature of solar – not a bug.

  8. As a lark I did a bit of research into the zigbee interface that the Victorian smart meters are supposed to support.

    The standards I have looked up suggest the smart meters acting on command from the network companies should be able control inverters.

    If I am not mistaken they are supposed to support the zigbee smart energy standard. Googling the standard I found the 1.2a version of it online.

    Searching through the standard there is an explicit ‘Demand response and local control’ profile (Annex D section D2 of the spec) for devices that produce electricity. The spec says they can be commanded to reduce production or boost them (-100 to +100 percent). It is all there if you look for it.

    It looks like it would be fairly straightforward to implement a zigbee device that could be paired with the smart meter that would act as a DRED device and drive the DRM lines that are mandated in all inverters. Or the inverters could support the profile themselves and with a zigbee modern could be controlled by the smart meters.

    This seems like the way to go. The curious thing is why some of it hasn’t been thought of before and is not in the discussion paper.

    CSIP-AUS seems like a fine standard but it has a fatal flaw in assuming that a reliable internet connection exists to work. There are just two many things that can go wrong. I have one relative who had a flaky Fronius inverter and would drop off wifi for no reason (fixed with a firmware update eventually) and another with a wattwatcher device that refuses to respond to the written instructions when trying to reset the wifi password (not fixed). Asking Joe Public they need a 99.99 % reliable internet connection is just not going to fly without mandating a dedicated 3rd party 4G/5G dongle that they have to pay for just for the inverter.

  9. Why instead don’t the government incentivise local battery bank in estates to ease the supersurge of high intensity days that are followed by high demand nights from summer blaze and ensuing aircon use.
    Our estate has around 100 homes with underground supply therefore it wouldn’t be a great technological project to install.

  10. As I have a very rewarding Feed-In-Tariff, they could effectively shut my input down while soaking up my next-door neighbour’s lucrative electricity for $0.03c a kWh…

  11. Question – if Victoria tries to implement the “stupid” approach (i.e. turn off the inverter over the Internet) – then what’s stopping the home owner from simply taking the inverter off the Internet? I can go in and just reconfigure my router to kick the inverter off during the day (when the government is likely to try and turn it off) and reconnect it overnight? What are they going to do? Send out the “Interwebs police” to check my home network?

  12. Bob AUDSLEY says

    Is N.S.W Considering any such piracy?
    I had a 6KW Solar system installed by ORIGIN about 3 1/2 years ago. They fitted a single phase Fronius inverter to our 3 phase home.
    So far it has generated about 19,400 KwHrs (averaging 12.17kwhrs/day) of which it has exported about 17,700 kwhrs (averaging 11.06 kwhrs/ day)
    back to Origins grid .
    I feel I am going backwards as Origin are only paying me 10cents/unit but charging me 28cents to give me back my input!!
    If the Government can shut down private solar systems whenever they like.
    What is the point of having one!?
    Bob AUDSLEY of ENGADINE N.SW.

  13. A “grid emergency” when renewables are producing too much. Who would have thought?

  14. David Hucker says

    David Vic

    RE the Vic remote solar shutdown – They were already doing it last summer.! They simply raised the supply voltage to 261 volts which caused our Sungrow SG5KD inverters to “red light” with fault – Grid voltage too high
    But I agree the proposed CSIP-AUS proposal seems the obvious way to go. Just a question – How will my inverters be controlled as they are on a farm and not in reach of any modems/internet etc?

  15. Reporting on first-hand experience of the WA dumb system of inverter control.

    Synergy / western power here in WA has been testing the system in WA. The first of these live tests of the solar management system was on Monday 26th June at around 9 am, they implemented it remotely shuting down household inverters preventing them from exporting power to the grid or house they were installed in.

    At approx. 11 am they were due to be turned back on. However, some issue with their system has meant synergy hasn’t been able to reactive them. This left some 23,000 WA customers without solar since the morning 26th, units can’t easily be reset by homeowners, turning them on and off doesn’t do it.
    Neither Synergy or western power have contacted affected customers.

    When become aware my system was offline and shut down by the supplier I contacted them about it at first they denied there was any issue at all, then they changed tune and say there was no known date for a fix and I should contact the inverter installer/manufacturer.

    Took me nine days to get a solution in the end the manufacturer talked me through how to take the inverter out of the remote shutdown mode.

    The only plus from the debacle is $68 credit from Synergy and I can now over ride the remote solar management system.

    `

  16. Chuck farley says

    Just received email from Powercor – as per below.

    CitiPower Powercor Tech Talk

    Curtailing rooftop solar systems
    In January this year, the Victorian Government mandated that all new, upgrading
    and replacement rooftop solar systems between zero and 200kVA must be able
    to be curtailed remotely. This new requirement, which was introduced in October
    2023 for systems over 200kVA, introduces an emergency backstop mechanism
    so that CitiPower Powercor are able to respond, when directed by AEMO, to minimum demand events to keep the network secure.

    Effectively, this means CitiPower Powercor has the ability to remotely communicate with rooftop solar systems to turn them down or switch them off when directed by the electricity market operator.

    The emergency backstop mechanism is being introduced to keep the electricity grid secure by reducing the output from rooftop solar systems when demand for electricity is low.

    More information will be available on the CitiPower and Powercor websites in the coming months.

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