Western Australia launches distributed energy resources roadmap

Out-Law News | 07 Apr 2020 | 10:14 am | 2 min. read

The Western Australian (WA) State Government has launched a roadmap to guide the better integration into the electricity grid of distributed energy resources (DER).

DER are smaller-scale devices that can either use, generate or store electricity, such as rooftop solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicles, which consumers can use to manage their energy demand.

The DER Roadmap (80 page / 5.2MB PDF) is a five-year plan aimed at ensuring that the benefits of DER are shared across all members of the community. The roadmap is the first piece of work completed by WA’s Energy Transformation Taskforce, which was launched in May 2019 with the aim of enabling large-scale renewable energy generation and DER, as well as modernising the state’s energy system – which was not originally designed for two-way power supply – and gradually retiring coal-fired energy over the coming decades.

DER take-up has been extremely high among customers in WA, with around 2,000 households installing new rooftop solar panel systems each month.

However, the taskforce believes that the speed and scale of DER installation is presenting “serious risks” to the energy system, by eroding its security and reliability, generating higher costs and a growing divide between those that can afford to install DER and those that cannot.

According to the roadmap, DER needs to be fully integrated into the operation of the state’s power system. Security issues and peaks and troughs in power demand and supply need to be addressed.

The DER Roadmap sets out a vision of a future by 2025 where DER is integral to a “safe, reliable and efficient” energy system. In this future, DER will support the energy system, offering value through the electricity supply chain, and give benefit to all customers, both with and without DER installed in their homes.

Energy law expert George Varma of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “This is an important step for the evolution of the WA electricity market to a cleaner energy future, while ensuring stability and security of electricity supply throughout the region.

“It is critical that our electricity market maximises the benefit of renewable energy resources and the DER Roadmap is a welcomed facilitator of such change,” Varma said.

The roadmap comprises 36 individual actions, which can be generally classified into achieving four key milestones. These include addressing the imminent danger of system stability issues, through upgrades to DER functions and settings, grid support measures by state-owned Western Power and the deployment of battery storage units.

New tariff structures will be piloted that reflect the underlying cost of energy services and incentivise efficient use of the system. The roadmap will also ensure customer protection to enable continued installation of DER and the provision of information to help make informed choices about electricity usage, and ensure DER is an active participant in the power system, so that customers may eventually provide services that support the system and are rewarded for doing so.

Actions proposed by the DER Roadmap are set to begin this year, starting with the installation of power banks by Western Power, distribution network visibility and customer engagement programmes, tariff pilots, and other initiatives.