Zero export limits for solar customers should soon be a thing of the past, following the publication of new market rules by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC).
According to the Clean Energy Council, the reforms also highlight the failures of governance and regulation of distribution networks.
"For too long, distribution networks in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and elsewhere have been imposing zero export limits on solar customers," said the Clean Energy Council’s Director of Distributed Energy, Darren Gladman. "The solar industry expects that practice to end – and the sooner, the better."
The AEMC has recognised customers should have a right to export. The AEMC rule change will require distribution businesses to offer a basic export level in all their tariffs without charge for 10 years. Existing customers cannot be put on export pricing arrangements until July 2025 at the earliest.
The AEMC's proposal for a user-pays approach would charge solar customers for exports, further incentivising networks to increase solar hosting capacity and be more 'solar- and battery-friendly'. The key technical issues that determine networks' hosting capacity are supposed to be regulated by states and territories.
"Governance of regulation of distribution networks in the National Electricity Market is highly fragmented and, in some cases, dysfunctional," said Gladman. "Some states, most notably New South Wales, have completely failed to regulate this important aspect of their networks' operation."
The Clean Energy Council is calling on the AEMC to undertake a review of governance of regulation of distribution networks before the new export charging arrangements are introduced.
"Voltage management on low voltage networks is a key component of the provision of 'export services' and 'hosting capacity'”, said Gladman. "The proposal to regulate export services through the National Electricity Rules while leaving the regulation of voltage management in the hands of state and territory governments risks perpetuating the dysfunctional governance arrangements."
"Networks should first be required to meet their regulatory obligations regarding voltage management before a user-pays approach is introduced. Twenty years after the standards changed, some distribution networks have still not caught up from the shift from the old 240V standard to the current 230V."
The small-scale solar sector already provides over 23 per cent of Australia's renewable energy generation, and in 2020 added more than 3 GW of new capacity in its fourth-straight record-breaking year.
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