South Australia can be proud to say that they have been one of the world’s most enthusiastic communities when it comes to distributed energy resources. We can see this in the over 278,000 homes installed with rooftop solar, meaning that over one-third of the estimated households here care about our energy future.

It’s important to know that from 28 of September 2020 regulatory changes will be implemented for Smarter Homes. So what does this mean for you?

Why is the government making regulatory changes for Smarter Homes?

The main focus of these changes is to be able to control the output of rooftop solar systems, as the vast majority aren’t currently capable of this.

As supply and demand fluctuates, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) needs to be able to maintain an energy balance. At present South Australia’s installed rooftop solar capacity (more than 1,300 megawatts) exceeds that of the largest grid generator (Torrens Island Power Station at 1,280 megawatts.)

AEMO ensures that the market’s demand is being met in real-time by only allowing large energy generators, such as solar, gas and wind, to output the required amounts of energy at that moment.

If SA is separated from the rest of the National Electricity Market (NEM), these changes will also help us avoid blackouts.

Meeting these needs now is intended to future-proof SA, allowing for an increase in the amount of rooftop solar generation in years to come.

What are the new standards and requirements for Smarter Homes?

From 28 September 2020, several new technical standards and requirements apply:

1. All new solar systems being installed require the technical capability to be remotely disconnected and reconnected to help manage risks to the electricity system during times of emergency. The new standards will only apply to existing solar systems if any declared part of the existing system (for example the inverter) is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).

2. The systems above require an authorised agent to be nominated who can act on instructions to manage rooftop solar output in a power system emergency.

3. All new smaller energy generators being installed via an inverter, such as solar systems and energy storage systems, must be capable of remote communications. The new standards will only apply to existing generators if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).

4. All inverters being installed must comply with new undervoltage ride-through performance standards designed to minimise the risk that they disconnect immediately following a technical fault on the system causing grid voltage to reduce below normal operating standards.

5. All new smart meters are required to be able to separately measure and control generation and any controlled load (for instance, hot water systems), from the general electricity supply.

6. Electricity retailers operating in South Australia will be required to offer retail plans which, through lower prices, encourage shifting electricity demand to periods of low demand and/or high rooftop solar generation (for example during the middle of the day).

Additional changes are also being proposed for the future. These include:

7. All new smaller energy generators being installed via an inverter, such as solar systems and energy storage systems, connecting to the distribution network must be capable of export limitation to provide for fair sharing of network capacity. The new standards will only apply to existing generators if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).

What do I need to know about these new standards?

If you choose to install a new solar system you need to engage a relevant agent who is authorised to remotely disconnect and subsequently reconnect your system, when they have been lawfully directed to manage rooftop solar output in a power system emergency.

When you purchase a new rooftop solar, you need to ask the seller what technology will provide the remote disconnect and reconnect capability and who is the relevant agent for that technology.

The new standards will only apply to existing solar systems if any declared part of the existing system is being replaced (excluding warranty repairs).

What is a relevant agent and how do I find one?

A relevant agent is someone authorised by the owner or operator of an electricity-generating solar system connected to the distribution network, to remotely disconnect and subsequently reconnect that solar system. They must be directed by a party with the legal right to do so.

A list of relevant agents and the technology they propose to use can be found on the Smarter Homes website. Note that assessments of prospective relevant agents are underway and this list will be frequently updated.

As a home-owner, what should I consider when choosing a relevant agent?

You need to provide written authorisation to a relevant agent to manage the disconnect and or reconnect requirement on your behalf. This could come with associated costs.

At Solar Power Direct we can provide you with information on proposed remote connect and disconnect technology, as well as our preferred relevant agent and costs when you make your purchase through us.

What if I don’t agree to provide consent or appoint a relevant agent?

Unfortunately, you must do this to have your system connected. Under the new regulations, SA Power Networks is not permitted to connect a system without a relevant agent having been first appointed by the owner or operator of the system.

How often will my solar system be remotely disconnected and then reconnected?

This is a very infrequent, last-resort approach and will only be done if it is completely necessary to rebalance the energy system.

Extreme cases may see some people’s solar interrupted for a few hours on a few days a year.

Will the new changes impact my feed-in tariff or return on investment?

No, you won’t lose your feed-in tariff(s). The export reduction of disconnection will only happen in very extreme circumstances to avoid blackouts, therefore the impact on ROI would be minimal, if at all noticeable.

Will my solar system and/or battery still operate when I am remotely disconnected from the grid?

This depends on the set up of your solar system and/or battery. It is possible for some systems to power your home while it is remotely disconnected from the grid. However, not all solar and battery systems offer this function, and you will need to request this feature from your system provider/installer. At Solar Power Direct we are happy to walk you through this information.
What do I need to do if I no longer own the solar system (for example, I sell my house)?
You will need to notify your relevant agent of a change as soon as practicable within 7 days of the change.

The relevant agent will then be required to notify the Technical Regulator, so that the Technical Regulator can update their information and continue to maintain the register. The relevant agent will be required to notify the new owner or operator in writing of their role as the relevant agent and seek their authorisation for the continuation of the arrangement. However, the new owner or operator is not required to continue with the current relevant agent, one must be appointed.

What if I have to replace part of my solar system under warranty?

The regulations or guidelines will exempt any product replacements undertaken under warranty from these new requirements.

Who can customers, installers and businesses contact for enquiries regarding these changes at the Department for Energy and Mining?

The Department for Energy and Mining will produce materials to assist installers in communicating the new requirements on the Regulatory Changes for Smarter Homes website.

The Office of the Technical Regulator can respond to queries on 08 8226 5518 or via [email protected]

The Energy Advisory Service also provides guidance to consumers on a range of energy-related matters on 1800 671 907 (free call from fixed lines) or at [email protected]

Who do I contact if I have an issue or complaint about my relevant agent?
Any issues or complaints can be directed to the Office of the Technical Regulator in the first instance on 08 8226 5518 or via email at [email protected]