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 industry stakeholders to form the Connections Reform Initiative to address concerns with the delays and the increasing complexity in connections.
The Connections Reform Initiative works to develop solutions to address the most pressing systemic concerns with the NEM's connections 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 as Australia’s power systems transition.
The revised Connections Reform Roadmap is the culmination of three years of work by the Connections Reform Initiative, a collaboration jointly sponsored by the Clean Energy Council and the Australian Energy Market Operator to address concerns involving all parties in the connection process regarding delays and increasing complexity in connecting new generators to the grid. The revised roadmap provides updates on the first roadmap’s 11 recommendations to improve the grid connection process, including across access standards, information and modelling, batching, and investment certainty, all of which will help to speed up the connection process, lower the cost of connection, improve hosting capacity and system strength, and allow for firmer connection process timeframes.
The Clean Energy Council and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) have continued implementing the recommendations. Three have been fully delivered:
The others remain in various stages of progress. Those include exploring options to install battery storage systems behind existing connection points, revising AEMO’s approach to updating its guidelines, refining OEM data and modelling, streamlining the connections process, and enhancing investment certainty in the early stages of the connection process.
In 2023, the Clean Energy Council will focus on a public rule change process to enhance investment certainty. It lodged a rule change request with the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in May 2023. That request resulted from over seven months of listening, analysis, and consultation with every stakeholder group involved in the connections process. Please see the AEMC’s rule change projects site to participate in the public consultation process.
The Connections Reform Initiative is a joint project by the Clean Energy Council 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:
Neil Gibbs (from Online Power) was appointed as an independent facilitator to bring structure, rigour and objectivity to the process.
The Connections Reform Initiative is being led by the following industry figures:
The earlier stages of work included a comprehensive problem definition phase and the formation of clusters to explore solutions in four main areas:
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.
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.