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As many in the energy industry are aware, one of the greatest barriers to the rollout of renewable energy and hybrid projects has been issues with grid connection. In early 2020, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) brought together some CEC members, Network Service Providers (NSPs) and other industry stakeholders to address concerns with the delays and the increasing complexity in connections.

What was clear out of those conversations was the need to develop a range of solutions to address the systemic concerns involving all parties in the connection process. It is vital that improvements are made to the connections process to ensure the system can safely and securely take on the high number of large-scale renewable energy projects that are and will continue to register to connect to Australia’s power systems.

We have now jointly established the Connections Reform Initiative that aims to work through a range of the complex issues to improve grid connection.

What is the Connections Reform Initiative?

The initiative is a joint project by the CEC and AEMO and involves CEC members, NSPs and industry and market body representatives, including the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Energy Security Board (ESB). Together, we are working towards the following objectives:

  • a consistent and predictable connections process that delivers repeatable outcomes
  • reduce re-work and improve efficiency and quality of information to address information asymmetry
  • create a collaborative working model between industry, AEMO and the NSPs

Neil Gibbs (from Online Power) was appointed as an independent facilitator to bring structure, rigour and objectivity to the process.
This is a vital initiative to further alleviate roadblocks our industry is facing and allow for the continued growth of large-scale renewable projects.

Progress to date and next steps

Associated work contributing to the new Connections Reform Initiative commenced in February, helping identify five key priority areas:

  1. Appropriate data and information symmetry
  2. Confidence in when a project is bankable
  3. Complications and delays during registration and commissioning
  4. Anticipating the system of the future, and building for it today
  5. Availability of skills and capability to support all parties across all stages of the process (i.e. the human capital to make this happen).

Clusters have been established to work through each of these priority areas and will involve:

  • Problem definition (mostly complete in the first stage of the project, but will be refined where required)
  • Identifying solutions
  • Solution design and implementation planning

The clusters have completed 16 workshops. This work will be presented and consulted on at an all-day Solutions Exploration Workshop on Friday 4 June 2021.

The initiative is designed to create and sustain open and honest conversations. The five clusters will tackle the priority issues in parallel, allowing the Connections Reform Initiative to build momentum and speed to address the current issues.

These are varied and complex systemic issues that will take time to address, but we want to ensure progress is made as soon as is reasonably possible. Work is expected to proceed across the majority of 2021.

How can I hear more or be involved?

Once draft recommendations have been developed for each of the priority areas, these will be released for broader consultation. The form of what that consultation looks like will vary depending on the recommendations being made. More information will be provided as work continues and the draft recommendations are developed.

For Clean Energy Council members, the CEC’s Market & Grid Directorate is the primary forum where members will be kept informed on progress and have an opportunity to input into the process. If you are not already involved in the Directorate and would like to be, contact our membership team to find out more at [email protected] or 03 9929 4140.