AEMC recommends small business install SAPS for regional customers

SAPS solar, barcaldine renewable energy hub

The Australian Energy Market Commission is recommending a range of regulatory changes to enable distribution network businesses to supply their customers with stand-alone power systems (SAPS) where it is cheaper than maintaining a connection to the grid.

The reforms would provide consumers with the same protections, reliability standards and access to competitive retail offers via their retailer of choice as those connected to the grid.

A stand-alone power system – usually a combination of solar PV, batteries and a back-up generator – would be installed by their distribution network but would not be physically connected to the national grid.

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AEMC chief executive Anne Pearson said the changes would enable those living in locations where power supply is unreliable, or subject to frequent or extended blackouts, to have better quality services and would reduce costs for all energy consumers by avoiding expensive investment in poles and wires where customer numbers are limited.

“New technology using distributed energy resources is making it possible to supply customers at the end of the line in a cheaper and better way,” Ms Pearson said.

“The old-fashioned way of centralised generation being distributed by stringing poles and wires to the remote corners of Australia is giving way to solar and battery systems where energy is generated closer to where it is used.

“These reforms mean that people living at the end of the line will get a better quality service with the same protections without paying any more.

Related article: Energy Networks pushes for stand-alone system regulation change

“Ultimately, reducing the need for poles and wires to service remote consumers reduces the network costs which make up around 50 per cent of the average electricity bill. It also reduces bushfire risk.”

Energy Networks Australia has welcomed the AEMC’s recommendations to allow network businesses to install SAPS for rural and remote customers.

“This decision is a no brainer,” Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said.

“Stand-alone power systems can deliver cheaper and more reliable power to customers, especially in remote areas.

“Australia needs to utilise new energy technologies and doing so can be a win-win with lower power bills and better reliability.”