Australia’s success in solar uptake could become its downfall, as it is set to become one of the first countries in the world to hit solar peak, according to Fairfax Media who interviewed director of EnergyAustralia Mark Collette.
The rapid adoption of solar in Australia is causing havoc at grid level. The reality is that distribution infrastructure is not capable of handling peaks of electricity generated when the sun comes up. Urgent and substantial upgrades are needed, particularly as around 100MW of new solar has been installed every month in 2018, according to data from Green Energy Markets.
As Kerry Schott, chairman of the Energy Security Board told the Australian Financial Review National Energy Summit last Wednesday “I sort of characterise the general state of affairs at the moment as being one of anarchy,” explaining that distributors are “not really ready to deal with the huge amount of solar that is going in”.
The upshot of this is that distributors may need to start limiting how much rooftop solar is feeding into the grid. Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman said curtailment – which already applies to wind power in South Australia about 6 per cent of the time – could also be required for rooftop solar.
Some blame has been placed on the small-scale renewable energy scheme (SRES), with claims that rooftop solar under 100kW no longer needs subsidies. The government has already committed to scrapping the SRES by 2021.
Others have noted that the influx of additional energy could be managed using smart grids and storage, but these less mature industries are not yet as commercially viable as solar (currently around seven years depending on a number of variables) so may require government support to boost their adoption.
What’s clear is that more electricity consumers are turning to self-generated power than anticipated by government and that this is largely due to rising energy costs.