SAPS could replace poles and wires in remote areas
The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has recommended regulatory changes that enable network businesses to install standalone power systems (SAPS) to provide cheaper, more reliable power for remote customers.
SAPS are usually a combination of solar PV, lithium-ion batteries and a back-up diesel generator that can supply customers not physically connected to the electricity grid.
Providing grid-supplied power to remote customers tends to be expensive as it can require hundreds of kilometres of poles and wires to service limited numbers of people. These changes would not only cut costs, but also offer a safer and more reliable option due to the reduced impact of bushfires.
AEMC Chief Executive Anne Pearson said: “Ultimately, reducing the need for poles and wires to service remote consumers reduces the network costs which make up around 50% of the average electricity bill. It also reduces bushfire risk and the visual impacts of powerlines.”
Under the changes, consumers would still have the same protections, reliability standards and access to competitive retail offers as those connected to the grid.
Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon described the deployment of SAPS as “a no brainer”, but the current regulatory framework prevents distributors from installing them. He said the AEMC’s recommendations represented an important step towards making the regulatory framework more responsive to technology and market developments.
“Restrictions on the efficient uptake of standalone power systems by distributors would have led to customers paying higher prices with lower reliability,” Dillon said. “Australia needs to utilise new energy technologies and doing so can be a win-win with lower power bills and better reliability.”
Trials of standalone power systems are currently underway in several states including NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. For example, Western Power conducted a 12-month trial of standalone power systems technology in 2016 which reduced power outages from 70 hours per year to just 5 hours. The trial is now being extended to over 60 sites in Western Power’s network. Horizon Power is also providing 13 standalone power systems for 14 fringe-of-grid properties in Esperance that are serviced by 54 km of ageing powerlines.
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