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SA proposal threatens 'rail gauge' headaches

South Australia has a long and embarrassing history of ‘rail gauge’ issues. Rail lines built in SA in the 19th century used multiple gauges, causing endless inconvenience, with passengers and freight needing to be moved from one train to another. The problem lasted for more than a century and it was not until 1995 that the last railway line in SA was converted to standard gauge.

Sadly, it seems that the lessons of history have been forgotten. The SA Government is proposing to prematurely force onto the industry its own special and unique requirements for dynamic export limitation, picking technology winners in advance of an Australian Standard or even an industry best practice guideline.

The CEC supports the development of the technical capability, standards and a regulatory framework to enable the use of dynamic export limitation. We have been working collaboratively with SA Power Networks, research bodies and other organisations to make this happen. Although we support the proposal for dynamic export limits in principle, we are very concerned that the SA Government proposal to mandate technical solutions from 1 January 2021 will be counterproductive.

It is too soon to mandate this technical capability in inverters. We strongly doubt that the proposed timeframe is achievable. Even if the proposed timeframe could be achieved, it could come at the cost of undermining the goals of interoperability and cyber security in the longer term.

There is a widely shared view across industry that the international standard, IEEE 2030.5, should be the ‘end game’ for interoperability of distributed energy resources. Introducing a South Australian ‘rail gauge’ problem into the mix will be distinctly unhelpful. There is a need for a clear and consistent national standard for dynamic export limitation and for this to be referenced in the government regulations.

It is vital that the SA Government avoid the temptation to pick technology winners in advance of standards.