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Powerlines 2

Australia's two main electricity grids and many remote 'island' grids were centrally designed for the reliable delivery of electricity to households and businesses across the country.

Each main grid consists of:

  • transmission grids that transmit electricity across large distances at very high voltages
  • distribution grids that deliver electricity from the transmission grid to households and businesses.

Australia's electricity grids

  • Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic, SA, Tas National Electricity Market (NEM)
  • WASouth West Interconnected System (SWIS)
  • WANorth West Interconnected System (NWIS)
  • NTDarwin-Katherine Electricity Network

There is over 850,000 km of distribution grid and 45,000 km of transmission grid in operation across Australia, with the eastern and south-eastern states boasting the National Electricity Market – one of the longest interconnected electricity markets in the world.

Electricity is an essential service and, unsurprisingly, the value Australia places on electricity is high and about half of every electricity bill funds the operation, maintenance and expansion of our grids.

The combination of the Renewable Energy Target, declining clean energy technology costs and, most importantly, consumer preferences to control their electricity consumption are drastically changing the nature of our grids.

Powerlines

Distribution and transmission companies in Australia

ACTEvoenergy
NSWEssential Energy, Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, TransGrid
NT Power and Water
Qld Energy Queensland, PowerLink
SA SA Power Networks, ElectraNet
Tas TasNetworks
Vic Powercor, Citipower, Jemena, AusNet Services, United Energy Distribution
WAWestern Power, Horizon Power, Synergy

As with everything in electricity, there is more to the grid than meets the eye. Australia's electricity grids are facing a paradigm shift and the stakes are high, along with the costs of getting it wrong.

Multiple stakeholders involved in electricity are impacted by our grids and there has never been a more pressing time to work together to address the challenges impeding the continued deployment of renewable energy.

Our electricity grids are constantly evolving and undergoing reform as new issues are reviewed and dealt with or efficiency improvements are identified. There are a number of state and federal government bodies that can undertake reviews and instigate these processes.

Power Substation

Grid connection

The grid connection process is a crucial and complex stage of any prospective or modified active generation project.

It is essential that:

  • the grid connection process can be streamlined as much as possible
  • generators can connect under fair and reasonable terms and conditions
  • risks and costs can be appropriately managed by generators
  • processes are compliant with the National Electricity Rules and relevant jurisdictions.

Large-scale grid connection

Large-scale generation projects connect under specified terms as outlined by Chapter 5 of the National Electricity Rules

In general, these projects range from 5 MW up to hundreds of megawatts and connect to the high-voltage transmission and sub-transmission networks.

Following the South Australian ‘system black’ event of 28 September 2016, connection processes and generator technical performance rules and capabilities have been intensely scrutinised. Some of the relevant 2017 recommendations from the Finkel Review into the Future Security of the NEM, a number of system security-related rule changes and an extensive rule change proposal from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) (finalised in October 2018) have resulted in a significantly updated set of generator technical performance standards. This has also seen a push to commence negotiations closer to the automatic access standards (likely to be more readily accepted by AEMO and transmission network service providers), while trying to remain technology agnostic.

The connection process itself is highly technical and involves detailed commercial, technical and legal input. It now requires a complete understanding of the COAG Energy Council’s Transmission Connection and Planning Arrangements rule change proposal, which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (for all non-Victorian NEM jurisdictions as Victoria retains the status quo). We recommend that any new entrant to this area seeks independent expert advice to understand the likely challenges.

Small-scale grid connection

Before having a renewable energy generator (domestic generation unit or an AS 4777-compliant generating system) installed at your property, you must seek approval from your power distribution company to connect the system to the electricity grid.

This application is usually lodged on your behalf by your solar retailer. Following the approved installation, your solar retailer and distribution company will organise for the meter to be changed or reconfigured and the system to be connected to the grid.

The distribution company will then notify your preferred electricity retailer of the connection.

Visit the Solar Accreditation website for more information on small-scale grid connection.