The 'Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has two roles in relation to the National Electricity Market - as rule maker and as a provider of advice to Ministers on how best to develop energy markets over time. The AEMC actively considers market development when it considers rule change proposals, policy advice and energy market reviews. These rules are binding on the Australian energy market and enforced by the Australian Energy Regulator. The National Electricity Market is the interconnected power system in Australia’s eastern and south-eastern seaboard.  Consumers SA recently asked AEMC a number of questions about the impact on consumers of the rollout of smart meters in South Australia.  AEMC’s detailed answers are set out here.


Our questions (and the background to our queries) were:

  1. Is there a standard size (length, width and depth) for Smart Meters? If not, can we find out what is the largest meter size, that is legal to use in South Australia. The reason for this question is, manufacturers and other industry people, need this information to build meter boxes that the meters will fit into, and lack of these details is causing considerable difficulty. 

  2. Are AEMC planning to use 5 minute intervals for reading and billing the new Smart Meters? If so is there a conflict with standards? We understand the Smart Meters are licensed to standards that measure kWh, not 5 minute intervals, for which we understand there is no Australian Standard. 

  3. Is it true Retailer / Metering Coordinators can on sell consumers smart meter data, without the specific consent of consumers? 

  4. Is it true consumers will have to sign away their rights for any damage caused by reconnection, when new smart meters are connected in South Australia? Our old meters do this for us. I believe in Victoria Smart Meters have a supply contractor built in that automatically performs the safety check. 

  5. Can South Australia consumers request a retailer supply a Victorian type meter, as this is a national grid? 

  6. In South Australia we have a lack of meters, with consumers unable to get a new smart meter for sometimes months. As retailers are responsible for ordering Smart Meters for South Australia, to whom can consumers complain or get compensation for long delays? 

  7. Can the connection of new Smart Meters be simplified in South Australia? At the moment it is our understanding that many sections of the industry need to be present at connection of smart meters some times as many as 4 or 5 people need to be there at the same time. This in practice causes many delays particularly in the country, i.e. Kangaroo Island. This causes delays in getting power on to a site and additional costs to consumers. 

In clarifying Question 4, Consumers SA’s energy expert, Brian Attwood said:

In response to question 4, my question referred to retailers.  My understanding is that some retailers are asking consumers to sign an agreement that puts the responsibility for reconnection onto the consumer when a retailer cuts off the power and reconnects it. They are saying the consumer must be there to check that every item is switched off before reconnection can be done.

This is not the case with our older meters: when the power goes off the supply can be reconnected without consumer involvement. My understanding is that damage can be done to appliances when reconnection is done after retailers have cut off the power.

Is this different to a local blackout and reconnection where no consumer input is required?

On 15 November 2018 AEMC replied:

The disconnection/reconnection obligations for retailers and distributors under the national energy rules generally relate to situations where retailers and distributors are permitted to disconnect or reconnect customers and timeframes associated with them.  I am not aware of any specific requirement on a customer checking that all appliances are switched off before power can be reconnected.

The jurisdictional or the distributor's service installation rules may require a premises to be inspected or have some form of compliance certificate if it has been disconnected for a period of time or after extensive alteration before the site is re-energised.  This is generally for safety reasons so to ensure that the premises is safe from an electrical perspective.

If we were to put this in the context of a simple meter exchange, there probably is no reason why a customer needs to be at home to ensure all items are switched off.  I think this is a case of retailers being extremely conservative and transferring risks to the customer.

On the technical aspects of disconnecting and reconnecting customers, I would suggest you contact the South Australian Office of Technical Regulator or SA Power Networks.


Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

In a recent opinion piece published on the InDaily website, Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute argues that, South Australia is the perfect place to introduce changes to electricity market rules to give consumers a greater capacity to save on their energy bills by voluntarily “switching off”.

The article points out that, “[g]lobal warming is predicted to deliver hotter days more regularly in the years ahead, so it is essential that our national grid becomes more flexible and resilient. One key mechanism that could help in that regard is a policy known as ‘demand response’, which sees households, farms and businesses being paid to turn off non-essential devices during peak demand events. Doing so is completely voluntary and, while it eases demand on the grid, it also reduces the cost of electricity for all other consumers.

Various countries around the world have been using demand response for years and with great success. In Australia, demand response is being held back by poor regulation and a lack of government support, but there have been some small moves forward.

The South Australian Liberal Party, for example, did commit $20 million to support demand response during the recent state election campaign and the State Government has announced, just recently, an $11 million trial of demand response technologies across the state.

South Australia, which is leading the way at the cutting edge of renewable energy technology, would be the perfect place to introduce demand response on a larger scale, but so far the National Electricity Market’s rules have been getting in the way.

That is why The Australia Institute has teamed up with the Total Environment Centre and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to recommend that the rules be changed to allow new players into the market.”

Read the full comment here.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

According to Giles Parkinson, writing on 5 October 2018 for the “Renew Economy” website,

“Elon Musk’s crusade to rid the world of fossil fuels and lead the transition to clean energy took a small but significant step forward this week, when the Australian Energy Market Operator decided to put an end to a market that has been rorted outrageously by fossil fuel generators in recent years.

It’s a highly technical change in the complex world of managing Australia’s largest machine – the electricity grid. But it is significant, because it highlights just how quickly new technologies such as batteries are changing the way grids are being managed, and making them smarter, faster, cleaner, and cheaper.

Decades-old assumptions about how the grid should be managed, using old technologies, are now being challenged. And some of the market rorts built up over time by the energy incumbents are slowly being swept away (hopefully not to be replaced by new ruses invented by new players).

AEMO advised energy market players this week that it was bringing to an end the three-year-old requirement for 35MW of local regulation frequency and ancillary services to be provided in South Australia when there was risk of the state’s grid separating from the rest of the national grid.”

Read the full article here.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Andrew Spence reports on the INDaily news website (from a story first published by The Lead) that: global solar thermal company SolarReserve is working on a deal with local manufacturer Heliostat SA to build more than 12,800 tracking mirrors for its 150MW Aurora project near Port Augusta.

The agreement will utilise skills and technology initially developed in South Australia for the automotive industry, with Heliostat SA saying the deal could create up to 200 jobs, many of them highly-skilled.

SolarReserve today announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Heliostat SA for the development of plans and processes for the supply, fabrication and assembly of its SR96 heliostat assemblies.

The two companies are working together to complete the final agreement.

Heliostats are the large tracking mirrors in a solar thermal power station, which follow the sun throughout the day and precisely reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver.

Each SR96 heliostat mirror will include 96sq m of glass plus steel supports and electric drives resulting in a field of mirrors with more than a million square metres of surface area.

The heliostats at the Aurora project will reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central receiver on top of a tower. The process heats molten salt, pumped to the top of the tower and flowing through the receiver, to 565 degrees Celsius.

The molten salt provides a stored heat source that is used to generate steam to drive a single turbine that generates electricity. The facility will be capable of generating power at full load for up to eight hours after sunset.

Heliostat SAis a South Australian company and part of the Fusion Renewables Group comprising Fusion Capital, the University of South Australiaand Precision Components, a former tier one supplier to Ford, Toyota and GM Holden.

Following the decision to cease auto manufacturing in Australia, Heliostat SA was borne out of Precision’s strategic plan to transition from a component hot stamping and metal pressing business to an advanced manufacturing and engineering business with a focus on high value-add, specialized products in emerging markets.

It has already manufactured heliostats commercially, including 150 for a solar project in Japan in 2016.

Heliostat SA’s Chief Executive David Linder-Patton said signing the MOU marked a significant step forward in the partnership between both companies.

“The team at Heliostat SA are really looking forward to adapting the low-cost manufacturing techniques learned from more than 20 years of automotive knowhow into the manufacture and assembly of the SR96,” he said.

“Heliostat SA plans to exploit our supply chain knowledge across the SR96 program, to ensure a very high local South Australian content is achieved.”

The Aurora Solar Energy Project located near Port Augusta will incorporate eight hours of storage or 1100 megawatts-hours, allowing it to operate like a conventional coal or gas power station. Beyond the heliostat manufacture, the balance of construction is expected to create another 650 full-time construction jobs on site, and more than 4000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in the region.

The MOU is the most significant advancement in the project since it was granted development approval and opened its Australian headquarters in January.

SolarReserve’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Smith said the company was looking forward to teaming up with Heliostat SA to bring manufacture of its world-class heliostats to South Australia.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry,” he said.

The Aurora project is being developed with the option to add solar photovoltaic (PV) technology in order to maximise electricity generation from the CSP facility during peak demand periods, as well as meet the station’s own electricity needs.

The addition of PV could broaden the scope of Heliostat SA’s manufacturing supply to include PV racking systems.

The partnership is likely to stretch beyond the Aurora project with SolarReserve hoping to build six solar thermal projects in South Australia over the next decade.

“The Aurora project along with SolarReserve’s future investment in the state will develop a supply chain and local manufacturing expertise that can be leveraged across the broader region, create thousands of jobs for South Australians, and bring about a new age in clean, reliable and affordable energy,” said Tom Georgis, SolarReserve’s Senior Vice President of Development.

Precision components last year partnered with the University of South Australia to open a concentrated solar research field on the outskirts of Adelaide.

The field is being used to develop new technologies such as a WiFi controlled system to manage heliostats remotely and lightweight, durable heliostats made from plastic.

It is not the first time the University of South Australia has partnered with industry to commercialise its world-leading thin film coating technology.

The group of researchers partnered with SMR Technologies, a car mirror manufacturer in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, to commercialise the world’s first fully plastic auto mirror in 2012. About 4 million of the light, shatterproof mirrors have since been exported around the globe.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

The newly updated Energy Made Easy  website can now be accessed at:    https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/

Consumers SA's energy specialist, Brian Attwood reports that this is the official government website and that four other similar websites that show up in Google searches first are paid websites and MAY NOT be the same as this site.

The official Government website has changed as a result of recommendations by the ACCC report on affordable power.

All retailer offers are now in the same format.  In addition, any discounts offered by retailers are taken from the base offers recorded on this site.

Brian says that, "when using this website the best way to get an accurate offer is to put in 12 month usage of power from your last four bills". Power usage is usually seasonal and if only the last bill is put in,the site will calculate a yearly cost that will most likely be inaccurate because it relies on only three month’s data from one season.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

In its latest “Talking Power” newsletter, SA Power Networks, the operator of SA’s electricity South Australia’s distribution network, announced that it has , " been busily developing our 2020-2025 Draft Plan, which outlines what we will deliver for customers in managing the network into the future. The Plan is now open for consultation, and we'd love to hear from you."

The newsletter continues:

"How we plan to manage South Australia’s distribution network into the future is outlined in our 2020—2025 Draft Plan, which we released for consultation yesterday. This release marks a key milestone in our program to develop our Regulatory Proposal for 2020-2025.

The key points of the Plan are explained in one-page overview and a short animation, or you can read the full 2020-2025 Draft Plan

Over the coming weeks, we will provide more information about different sections of the Plan through our Talking Power newsletters. This week we talk about how our engagement with customers and stakeholders has helped shape our Draft Plan.

Early, frequent and open engagement

Our engagement with customers and stakeholders started in early 2017 and underpinned the development of our 2020-2025 Draft Plan. Over the past 18 months we have conducted customer research, held focus groups, workshops, and bilateral meetings, and have run online engagement.

In the last newsletter we mentioned some of our engagement highlights and outcomes. Check out pages 22 and 23 of the Draft Plan to understand the detail of what we heard and how we’ve responded in our planning, under the three main themes of: 

  1. Keeping prices down

  2. A safe and reliable network

  3. Transition to a new energy future

We’d love to hear your thoughts…

Please take the time to read the Draft Plan and let us know what you think. You can submit your feedback by 5:00pm Wednesday 19 September 2018 through our online form, or upload a pre-prepared document. We will be publishing all feedback on the Talking Power website and using it to shape and refine our final Regulatory Proposal, which is due in to the Australian Energy Regulator in January 2019. 

Want more information?

We are holding drop-in sessions at SA Power Networks’ Keswick headquarters and the Network Innovation Centre at Richmond. Subject matter experts will be on hand to answer any of your questions about the Draft Plan so that you can make an informed submission during the open consultation period.

We will also be out and about in the community – over the coming weeks you can find us in Rundle Mall, or at Renmark, Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, the Adelaide Hills and Mount Gambier. Find all dates and times of our regional drop-in sessions here. Please come say hi and give us your feedback on the Draft Plan.

Are you passionate about power?

We want to hear from as many South Australians as possible. Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to register with the Talking Power website today and join our conversation online… and to win an iPad*!

- the Stakeholder Engagement Team

*to qualify you must be a new registration on Talking Power between 5 July and 19 September 2018. Prize will be drawn on 20 September and winner will be notified through their details provided on Talking Power. 

If you have any concerns about this newsletter or additional feedback, please contact us on talkingpower@sapowernetworks.com.au and we will get back to you as soon as possible."

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

This report is a digest of the many matters of interest to our consumer base contained in the 365 page ACCC Report. It has been compiled especially for Consumers SA by our electricity specialist, Brian Attwood.  Overall, Brian considers the ACCC’s report to be “very complete and well documented”.

The report has four parts:

Part 1 BOOSTING COMPETITION IN GENERATION AND RETAIL MARKETS

Part 2 LOWERING SUPPLY CHAIN COSTS

Part 3 IMPROVING CONSUMER EXPERIENCES AND OUTCOMES

Part 4 BUSINESS CUSTOMERS. (Not addressed this in this report.) 

SETTING THE SCENE

The ACCC suggests that there are differences in the way that a number of costs are accounted for by retailers.

Customers in South Australia on standing offers and on offers with discounts of up to 5% are paying around 12-13% higher prices for electricity than average customers in South Australia.

The 50% of customers on less than 10% discounts are, by contrast, paying more than the retailer’s average costs.

Higher solar penetration appears to be an important driver of the fall in average residential electricity usage.

BOOSTING COMPETITION IN GENERATION AND RETAIL MARKETS

Due to South Australia’s greater reliance on gas-powered generation compared to other NEM regions, its average wholesale electricity prices are more sensitive to changes in spot gas prices.

The effects of tight supply-demand in South Australia were also felt in the frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) market. Recent introduction of the Hornsdale Power Reserve Battery Energy Storage System as well as the opening of the FCAS market to demand response, has likely contributed improved outcomes in the South Australian FCAS market from late 2017.

The retail market has developed in a manner that is not conducive to consumers being able to make efficient and effective decisions about the range of available retail offers in the market.

The focus on discounts has become counter-productive, with consumers unable to effectively compare and rank offers or to have a clear idea of what price they will be paying. When confusion prevails in the market this leads to poor outcomes for individual consumers and an inability for smaller retailers to put significant competitive pressure on larger retailers.

The big three retailers have maintained a market share of over 70%. In retrospect, the creation of three very large retailers was not the best starting point for a competitive market.

The ACCC is recommending market making obligations be introduced in South Australia in order to boost market activity and provide access to trading partners for smaller retailers.

Recommendation 9 of the report is that the AMEC should make changes to speed up the customer transfer process, for example by enabling customers to use self-reads of their electricity meters. This will ensure that customers move to new offers quickly and will limit the time available for ‘losing’ retailers to conduct a ‘save’ activity. (this refers to the retailer you are leaving making a counter offer, so as not to lose you as customer)

LOWERING SUPPLY CHAIN COSTS

A key risk for retailers and customers managing the transition to cost reflective tariffs is a lack of data relating to their consumption profile. This data cannot be obtained until the customer has a period of consumption with a smart or interval meter in place.

Stand-alone power systems offer significant potential to reduce overall network costs, particularly for customers on the edge of the grid.

IMPROVING CONSUMER EXPERIENCES AND OUTCOMES

The ACCC considers that the default offer should include the following protections (that are currently included in the National Energy Retail Rules.)

  • simple pricing - no conditional discounts and no additional fees or charges (including early termination fees)
  • guaranteed access to paper bills at no additional cost to the consumer.
  • a minimum period of 13 business days to make payment after a bill is issued or six business after a bill reminder is issued.
  • access to a bill smoothing arrangement that enables consumers to budget and plan for electricity bills.

The ACCC has three concerns with discounting:

  1. Discounts are applied to different underlying tariffs and different parts of the bill, which is confusing and means that offers with any kind of discount cannot be easily compared/
  2. Conditional discounts are often not fair to those facing payment difficulties, leading to equity issues as those who cannot afford to pay are likely to end up with higher overall bills.
  3. Marketing based on discounts is confusing as it is often based on conditions and does not provide actual price information, meaning that consumers cannot use discounts to estimate what they can expect to pay.

The ACCC said retailers should be more proactive in assisting vulnerable consumers, identifying vulnerable consumers earlier and improving retailer hardship programs.

Also there is a need for Government action, particularly in relation to concession schemes, with a number of stakeholders arguing that concession schemes should be consistently applied across the NEM.

The ACCC has identified four areas where concession schemes are not operating effectively :

  1. Concessions should not be applied as only a fixed dollar or percentage amount, as this will lead to disproportionate support for low- and high consumption households.
  2. All concessions should be means tested, to ensure that concessions are targeted at those in need.
  3. Consumers are required to reapply for concessions at certain points, which is both unnecessary and in some cases, is likely to act as a barrier to switching/
  4. Inconsistency between concession regimes is increasing both retail costs for retailers and complexity for consumers.
Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

Reporting on the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report into the energy sector, the InDaily news website said today that, "[h]ouseholds could save more than $400 a year on power bills under a major shake-up of Australia’s “broken” electricity market, proposed by the consumer watchdog".

InDaily’s Matt Coughlan reported that:

"The ACCC’s wide-ranging investigation into retail energy found the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.

The consumer watchdog wants the Australian Energy Regulator to be given more powers to target market manipulation.

Customers should be able to compare discounts from a default or benchmark rate set by the regulator."

Read Matt Coughlan’s full report here.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Prepared by Brian Attwood for Consumers SA. 

The AER (Australian Energy Regulator) has just published its new rules for retailer comparisons posted on the Energy Made Easy website.  They are contained in the following documents: 

Both of these documents will help consumers to better understand retail offers on power and gas. They are now available on the AER website (click on the links above to access them).

The AER says that the “[g]uidelines play an important role in educating consumers and empowering them to engage in the retail energy market and make more informed and efficient decisions. By specifying the manner and form in which information is presented by retailers, [the AER] aims to create a clear and consistent form of presenting important information to customers, giving them confidence in the accuracy and comparability of this information".

Standard terminology has been mandated for the Energy Made Easy website.  All offers will be initially entered by retailers but formulated by the Energy Made Easy system.  This should ensure that enough information is available to enable consumers to make an informed choice between competing offers. 

The same format will be required in advertising - but it is only recommended for energy bills "where possible".

Dates for implementation are: 

  • plans that meet new definition of generally available: 1 October 2018.
  • all generally available plans: 1 January 2019.

It will be interesting to see how this all works out in practice.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Weighing up the SA Government concessions energy discount offer - a personal experience.

Compiled for Consumers SA by Executive Committee member, Brian Attwood.

People will be aware that the SA Government is currently putting out discount energy offers for local concession holders. I have checked my own energy supplier's offer with the Government offer and found that my supplier is giving me a better deal, but in doing so I encountered a number of difficulties that made it hard for me - and therefore all consumers - to assess whether I was really being offered a better deal. 

NOTE: Some consumers have a combined electricity and gas bill with their retailer.  These comments are directed solely at electricity bills.  If a consumer has a retailer supplying electricity and gas on the one bill, they should contact Origin Energy on 1300 791 465 for further information on what price they would supply gas and any discount that may apply. 

I will  go through each stage to help consumers to understand how to make an accurate comparison of the recent Government electricity offer. There are problems with: the terminology used in bills, the discount structure of bills and the different components that make up the total cost of each bill. 

Terminology

Terms used by retailers on the same bill may not be the same - even in different places on the same bill. This is because there are no regulations to control terminology on bills at this time. Examples I have found are :

  • Peak or Peak Consumption Block 1, relating to the same charge
  • Generation or Peak Consumption Block 2, relating to the same charge
  • Controlled Load or Dedicated Circuit Consumption, relating to the same charge.

Other retailers may use different terminology.

Discount structure                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

The government offer is 18% on both electricity usage and their separate supply charge. This discount is valid at least until June 2019. Some retailers only offer discount on electricity usage. If you are unsure of this, contact your retailer and ask for confirmation of your plan discount structure and check your next bill to see that it is applied. 

The separate components of each bill

Electricity usage charges

If you only have one meter its number is listed in the line showing: bill days, meter readings and total usage. If your bill has more than one block of pricing there will be two or more charges shown for the one meter number, recorded as Block 1 and Block 2. Block 2 will have a different charge for the power used above the Block 1 power usage limit. 

Off-peak hot water

If you have a Controlled Load or Dedicated Consumption meter (off-peak hot water service)  it will have a different number and will be shown under the above information on your bill.

Supply charge

Under all of this information on your bill will be a supply charge, expressed as: a daily charge and the number of days charged.

Solar Feed-in

Solar is not shown on the government offer but if you are entitled to a solar government rebate this should be the same for any retailer. However some retailers offer their own buy-back rebate over and  above the government scheme. If you have such an offer on your bill, this needs to be considered when assessing the government offer.

How to use this information to see if the Government offer is better for you.  

You now have the information necessary to assess if the Government offer is better than your current retailer’s deal. There are many offers around and you can only see if the Government offer is better for you by making an accurate comparison.  There are many ways to deceive the consumer into believing a deal is better, if all components of the bill are not considered.

First, look at Block 1 of your bill. 

The Government offer for the first 10.9589 Kwh/day is 33.149 cents with discount. Take your bill and look at the Block 1 and check the Kwh/day charge. See if it is more or less on your bill.  Apply the discount your retailer allows to your Kwh/Day charge in Block 1 and compare with the Government 33.149 Kwh/Day figure.

Then look at Block 2 and compare your charge with the Government offer - after applying your retailer discount as above.

Next, check any off-peak charges.  If you have a hot water meter it will have a different meter number. The bills are confusing. In my case the hot water meter is listed in one place on my bill as a ‘Controlled load’ and in the next a ‘Dedicated circuit consumption meter’.  Retailers at this stage are not compelled to use the same terminology for easy comparison by consumers. Check your own bill charges after applying your retailer discount.

Then check the Supply Charge.  

This charge is NOT just the actual cost of providing power to your home as most would expect.  It also includes additional charges that vary between retailers.  It is a very important cost as it is charged daily.

You should now be able to understand the four major charges that make up your bill and, applying all relevant discounts, you now can assess if your retailer’s offer or the Government offer is best for you.

With this information you can also speak to your retailer and ask for a better deal. They will put you through to a specialist negotiator to discuss your own situation.  When contacting your retailer they may suggest a better plan for you and, by understanding your bill, you can properly assess if it really is better for you.

Summary: my experience

You may find, as I did, that it is not easy to see if you are better off. 

Taking my last bill as my starting point, I found that the costs of Block 1 and 2 usage were both slightly higher than the Government offer.  I calculated the difference in my actual usage at my higher Block 1 and 2 rates and found that I would save $9.23 a quarter under the Government offer.

However, the retailer’s discount on both my energy usage and my supply charge is 20%. In addition, my dedicated circuit consumption (off-peak hot water) charge is $105.58 cheaper than the Government offer and my supply charge is $14.60 cheaper. The bonus solar feed-in rate from my retailer was $52.65 above the government rebate. My total savings over the Government scheme was therefore $172.83.

So I calculated that I would be $163.60 a quarter better off with my current retailer. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

The "world's largest" lithium ion battery was launched in SA last week. Will its storage capacity and versatility be a game-changer for Australia's energy market? Many are now watching on in anticipation to see what impact the battery has on the SA electricity market, and whether it could be a game-changer nationally.

In an article originally published on The Conversationenergy researcher Dylan McConnell assesses the battery's impact and concludes that, “size matters but role matters more, [explaining:] the South Australian battery is truly a historic moment for both South Australia, and for Australia’s future energy security. While the size, of the battery might be decried as being small in the context of the National Energy Market, it is important to remember it’s capabilities and role. It may well be a game changer, by delivering services not previously provided by wind and solar PV."

Dylan McConnell is a researcher at the Australian German Climate and Energy College at the University of Melbourne.

His article was reprinted recently on Adelaide's InDaily website.  Click here to read the original article.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Consumers SA’s Brian Attwood attended a Frontier Impact Group meeting held at the Adelaide Hilton on 24 November 2017. Brian reports that any group looking at setting up a Community Power Generation cooperative would benefit from the work of the Victorian-based Frontier Impact Group: which is now being shared with the wider Australian community.  

The group's Community Energy Funding Toolkit  is designed to, "up-skill the financial literacy of community energy developers and increase the likelihood that projects can be funded”.  A Frontier Impact Group steering group decided to develop the toolkit when it, "discovered that funding was one of the key barriers for Community Energy project developers and there was a need to improve financial literacy around renewable energy projects”. The steering group consisted of the Australian Renewable Energy Association (ARENA), the NSW Government, and Community for Clean Energy (C4CE), Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Community Power Agency, and Embark.

The toolkit currently consists of two guidebooks: the Funding Basics Guidebook and a Behind the Meter Solar PV guidebook

The Behind the Meter guidebook focuses on demonstrating the steps needed to develop, and successfully fund, community solar PV projects. This guidebook is the first to be released as the group identified Behind the Meter solar projects as having the highest likelihood of becoming commercially viable and a strong potential for replication.  A large proportion of the successful projects developed to date are Behind the Meter solar PV projects. Subject to funding, the next guidebooks will cover Grid Connected Solar PV and wind projects followed by energy storage projects.

The Adelaide meeting was also shown (and very successfully trialled) a computer package called Sunulator, described as: 

“...a simulation tool that can help you plan for grid-connected solar power. Unlike most other solar calculators, Sunulator uses half-hourly consumption and generation data over a whole year to estimate how much solar generation will be consumed onsite versus exported. Based on electricity tariff information, it then calculates the impact on your electricity bill and projects the savings over a 30-year time frame. Financial results include payback period, net present value and return on investment.

Sunulator allows you to compare the results for several scenarios, e.g different sizes of solar array or panel orientations, or different amounts of battery storage.
In Australia most solar systems are owned directly by the electricity consumer, usually a homeowner. Sunulator can also assist community organisations to install solar systems via additional investment options:

  • A community organisation installs a system and sells electricity to the host site
  • A solar system is installed through a loan from a community organisation
  • A community organisation acts as an electricity retailer.

Economic returns are estimated both for investors and the host site".

To get the Alternative Technology Association Sunulator go to:  ata.org.au/ata-research/sunulator  

Brian says that, “[Sunulator] is invaluable and would greatly reduce costs of deciding whether an energy project is viable or not, in a relatively simple computer program, for such a complex subject". 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Read all about the metering changes that came in to effect on 1 December - including a fact sheet for consumers regarding smart meters by clicking here.  (Information provided by SA Power Networks)

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

Power Club Limited granted electricity retailer authorisation

On 27 November 2017, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) approved an electricity retailer authorisation application from Power Club Limited (Power Club) under the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law). Power Club is now authorised to retail electricity as an when the Retail Law is adopted in each participating jurisdiction.

Read more

Power Club Limited - authorised electricity retailer

On 27 November 2017, the AER approved an electricity retailer authorisation application from Power Club Limited (Power Club) under the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law).

Read more

AER publishes information to help consumers understand their rights when getting a smart meter

The AER has today published a factsheet to help consumers understand the circumstances in which they will get a smart meter when new rules to expand competition in metering commence in December 2017.

Read more

AER invites further expressions of interest to join its consumer reference group

To assist in our review of the rate of return guideline, we have appointed a consumer reference group. Our rate of return guideline (Guideline) sets out the approach by which we will estimate the rate of return, and comprises the return on debt and the return on equity, as well as the value of imputation credits.

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AER invites expressions of interest to join its investor reference group

To assist in the AER’s review of our rate of return guideline, we encourage interested investors to participate in our planned investor reference group (IRG).

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AER invites expressions of interest to join its retailer reference group

To assist in the AER’s review of our rate of return guideline, we encourage interested retailers to participate in our planned retailer reference group (RRG).

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AER finalises its position on the process for reviewing the rate of return guidelines

On 28 November 2017, we released our positions paper on the process for reviewing the rate of return guideline (Guideline). In particular, it describes how we will implement: The independent panel review of our draft guideline; the concurrent expert evidence sessions and the consumer reference group.

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Review of rate of return guideline

On 28 November 2017, we released our positions paper on the process for reviewing the rate of return guideline (Guideline).

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Electricity report 5 - 11 November 2017

The AER continuously monitors the wholesale gas and electricity markets. The AER has published an Electricity Weekly Report. It covers activity in the wholesale market in the National Electricity Market and relevant financial markets.

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Apex Energy Holdings Pty Ltd - application for electricity retailer authorisation

Submissions on Apex Energy's application closed 21 November 2017. One submission was received and is now available on our website.

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Access to dispute resolution services for exempt customers - June 2017

After considering stakeholder submissions to our June 2017 issues paper, we have finalised our policy position on this issue. We explain our position to expand energy ombudsman access to residential exempt customers in the Notice of Draft Instrument: AER (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline - Version 5. The Draft AER (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline was published on 6 November 2017 and is currently open for consultation.

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Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

The attached article by Consumers Federation of Australia Standards representative Dr Martin Gill argues that retailers should be required to provide sufficient information on bills (and tariff contracts) to ensure consumers can easily compare tariffs.  Dr Gill participates on a number of energy technical committees including EL-011 Electricity metering systems, EL-054 Remote demand management of electrical products and EL-042 Renewable energy supply systems. 

His article also recommends that a review be undertaken to determine how to simplify consumer access to their historical electricity use. Read the article here: http://consumersfederation.org.au/dr-gill-on-simplifying-tariff-comparisons/

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

Andrew Spence reports on yesterday’s INDAILY website:

South Australian energy storage company 1414 Degrees has opened a new factory and will begin building its first commercial system next month before listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in early 2018.

Kevin Moriarty from 1414 Degrees. Supplied image 

The company has spent almost a decade developing its Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.

1414 Degrees has moved into a 3000sq m factory on the site of the former Mitsubishi engine plant in the southern Adelaide suburb of Lonsdale where it will build its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system.

The company is also planning to initially build two grid scale 1GWh systems in South Australia, which would be comprised of five 200MWh units and potentially play a significant role in stabilising the state’s renewable energy-dependent electricity network.

1414 Degrees has submitted three applications to the South Australian Government’s $150 million Renewable Technology Fund, which has already allocated up to $20 million towards Tesla’s ‘world’s biggest’ lithium-ion battery being built in the state’s Mid North.

Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said 1414 Degrees was aiming to list on the Australian Stock Exchange in March or April after it had learned the outcome of its funding applications, which require matching funding.

He said the IPO would plan to raise at least $30 million to support the development of the technology.

“It hasn’t been difficult to raise money but we do need to offer liquidity to shareholders so we are planning to list at the earliest opportunity rather than continuing to raise privately,” Moriarty said.

A tonne of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and melting temperature of 1414 C make silicon ideal for storing large amounts of energy.

The process also generates clean useable heat, which can easily be utilised for district heating or industrial purposes.

The 10MWh systems would use about 20 tonnes of silicon and be targeted at industries that required electricity and heat. It is likely the first units will be sent to New South Wales and used in large greenhouses.

“We can extract about half of the energy as electricity and the rest is available as heat. If we can use that heat, which is required by industries and households around the world, we can achieve 90 per cent or more efficiency from the renewable sources,” Moriarty said.

“Our target is industry seeking to reduce energy costs or emissions.

“We allow them to do all of that by putting in their own solar or buying energy when it’s cheap and then releasing it when it’s expensive.”

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the state.

However, the intermittent nature of renewable energy has been the cause of intense debate in Australia in the past 12 months.

“There’s a number of solutions out there from batteries to pumped hydro but the one thing missing is something that’s proven, scalable and is going to provide a low-cost solution that can be adopted everywhere,” Moriarty said.

“If we are going to solve the issues around renewable energy we have to solve the issues around storage.

“South Australia is a particularly good laboratory because it’s one of the first places in the world where a very large proportion of renewable energy is exposing the issues around incorporating these technologies into the electricity grid.”

The proposed 1GWh systems include one near the 1414 Degrees factory in Adelaide. It would be connected to the electricity grid and purchase electricity when prices are low, store it and sell it back at times of peak demand and higher prices.

Moriarty said the second system would likely be connected to a solar farm and would store the excess energy it couldn’t sell directly to the grid. He said ideally it would be co-located with industries that were looking for a lot of heat such as poultry producers, food manufacturers and greenhouses.

“These industries all currently use gas and this will mean that solar will effectively be displacing gas and therefore reducing emissions,” he said.

“Once you generate the electricity the heat that’s coming off is anything from 400 to 600 degrees and that’s ideal for driving steam and other processes.”

The first 10MWh “off the shelf” unit is expected to be commissioned in January.

1414 Degrees has been approached by distributors in Australia, South Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe to sell the 10MWh systems as part of a renewable energy technology solution.

“We expect to draw up our first agreements very soon. This will mean the company can use its workforce to manufacture the machines and the distributors will take care of the assessment of sites and sales,” Moriarty said.

“Once we get a production line going it will be quite fast – it’s just a question of building a supply chain.

“This technology is going to have major growth and it’s going to be manufacturing intensive because the market is huge.

“That means there’s going to be thousands of the smaller 10MWh units and hundreds at least of the large units required in Australia and around the world.”

See the full report here.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Executive Committee member Brian Attwood represented Consumers SA at the Energy Consumers Australia Board Stakeholder Forum held on 8 November 2017.

The meeting was told of a pilot program to use excess wind power generation to make hydrogen and put it into the gas pipes at no more than 10% volume thus giving us added fuel to fire the gas turbines for generation of electricity at peak times. Hopefully this will lower gas and electricity prices.

In follow-up correspondence to Brian, Australian Gas Networks provided this extra detail about the scheme and related activities:

In response to your question please see Gas Vision 2050, available to download via this link, associated media release available here.

Gas Vision 2050 was released in March 2017 and was jointly developed by all parts of the gas sector from gas exploration and production, to transmission and distribution networks, to gas appliance manufacturers. 

Gas Vision 2050 provides a conceptual outline of how the gas sector can work collaboratively with the electricity sector to provide Australian homes and businesses with reliable base load energy, whilst ensuring Australia can achieve its emissions reductions goals. In particular, the document details the decarbonisation journey of gas networks and the policies that are required in order to facilitate this journey.

It is a qualitative document that:

  • highlights the importance of gas to Australia today;
  • explains the low-emission transformational technologies of biogas, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production; and
  • describes an aspirational and attainable future for gas across Australia in which renewables and gas (including hydrogen and biogas) can support each other to achieve a near zero-carbon energy sector by 2050.

As mentioned above, the document outlines that hydrogen can be produced in multiple ways, most commonly though electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity) and steam methane reforming or coal gasification with carbon capture and storage. The former (electrolysis), has great potential in an Australian context, where we can use excess renewable electricity (wind at night and solar during the day) to produce hydrogen which can be stored in the networks – essentially using networks as a battery and using this clean gas in homes, business and to generate electricity at a later date.

This approach:

  • assists to decarbonise direct use gas (through the use of zero carbon hydrogen in the networks);
  • assists the decarbonisation of the electricity sector through facilitating investment in more large scale renewables); and
  • utilises existing infrastructure as a battery.

We, and the sector more generally, consider this to be an exciting way forward for the energy sector (electricity and gas) as a whole. Networks are actively pursuing pilot biogas and hydrogen projects – for example AGIG is partnering with Wollongong-based AquaHydrex to develop a pilot electrolysis facility at our South Australian depot and we have had initial discussions with SA Power Networks regarding how we could work together and utilise electrolysis to ensure electricity and networks are utilised in the most efficient manner – to the benefit of customers. Energy Networks Australia are also continuing work in the area, having engaged Deloitte to develop a follow on report from Gas Vision 2050, detailing how hydrogen and biogas might be deployed in an Australian context. This report is due for release in the coming weeks.

The use of hydrogen in this way is being actively pursued overseas. For example the H21 Leeds City Gate project is studying the feasibility, from both a technical and economic viewpoint, of converting the existing natural gas network in Leeds, one of the largest UK cities, to 100% hydrogen. The work carried out to date indicates that they can significantly decarbonise parts of the existing gas network at minimal additional cost to consumers. This is coupled with a program to encourage consumers to move to gas for heating and cooking. More information regarding this project is available online at: http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/document/h21-leeds-city-gate/

Brian also reports that:

 Andrew McKenna of Business South Australia spoke of the high costs of power to small businesses, noting that while costs have come down for businesses, household consumers are yet to see this.

Andrew Nance spoke of the impact of rising prices in the essentials of housing, health and energy on low income families, explaining that their income is not covering costs. There was much discussion about cost reduction but how this could be achieved was very difficult.

Energy Consumers Australia ran the meeting, which saw many interstate people attending - along with ESCOSA , other consumer groups, South Australian Financial Counsellors Association and SAPN staff - but no energy retailers. 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Detailed statistics recently released by SA Power Networks, in a September 2017 presentation to its Business Reference Group, shows that small to medium businesses in this State are suffering the same price increases as domestic consumers.

Click here for details.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

The following tables, produced by SA Power Networks, show how the total cost of the electricity supplied to SA consumers is calculated. - and how the mix of various contributing factors has changed over the last two decades.

In brief,  while SA Power Network’s distribution costs to individual households have steadily reduced and Electranet’s transmission costs have remained much the same, "energy retail” costs, which include generators and retailers, have increased significantly in recent years.

SAPN Household Bills 1.jpg
SAPN Bills 2.jpg
Posted
AuthorRay Dennis