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The National Electricity Market (NEM) continues to evolve through a period of significant transformation, characterised by greater penetration of inverter-based resources, a more diverse generation mix and a more decentralised system.

It is critical that the connections framework adapts to the challenges of processing a high volume of connections in an increasingly constrained network. This is a major challenge and one that requires input and collaboration from the whole industry.

In early 2020, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) brought together CEC members, network service providers (NSPs) and other industry stakeholders to form the Connections Reform Initiative to address concerns with the delays and the increasing complexity in connections.

The Connections Reform Initiative is working on 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 that 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.

What is the Connections Reform Initiative?

The Connections Reform 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.

Leadership Group

The Connections Reform Initiative is being led by the following industry figures:

  • Tony Chappel, Australian Energy Market Operator
  • John Cole, Edify Energy
  • Anna Collyer, Australian Energy Market Commission
  • Peter Cowling, Vestas
  • Geoff Dutaillis, Powering Australian Renewables
  • Werther Esposito, Enel Green Power
  • Steve Masters, ElectraNet
  • Kane Thornton, Clean Energy Council
  • John Titchen, Goldwind Australia
  • Mark Twidell, Tesla
  • Rachel Watson, Pacific Hydro
  • Alex Wonhas, Australian Energy Market Operator

Progress to date

The earlier stages of work included a comprehensive problem definition phase and the formation of clusters to explore solutions in four main areas:

  1. access standards
  2. information asymmetry and modelling
  3. batching of the connections process
  4. providing post-financial close predictability for developers.

This work was undertaken by volunteers working in clusters, who shared their proposed reform initiatives at the Reform Directions Webinar. This was held over two days and attended by over 70 of the Connection Reforms Initiative's community of volunteers.

The clusters are now refining their reform areas. Drafting of the Connections Reform Roadmap, the Connection Reform Initiative’s major milestone, has also commenced. The CEC’s Market & Grid Directorate, members of Energy Networks Australia and numerous people from AEMO will join a webinar to further develop this roadmap in mid-October 2021.

The Connections Reform Initiative is expected to lead to a number of recommended rule changes, some material changes to process and information availability, and changes to the minimum access standards.

Everyone involved in the Connections Reform Initiative is equally conscious of both how busy people already are and how important it is to quickly deliver improved outcomes for all. Given this, a key consideration in the design of the Connections Reform Roadmap will be to ensure that its recommendations balance ambition for speedy change with pragmatism and realism.

Next steps

Consultation on the draft Connections Reform Roadmap will occur from mid-October 2021, with the final roadmap to be released in early November 2021. Further reform work is anticipated to be a key element of the Connections Reform Roadmap.

More information

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.