CEC and AEMO launch Connections Reform Initiative

renewables, Connections Reform Initiative
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the Clean Energy Council (CEC) have launched a joint response—the Connections Reform Initiative—to further improve the connection process for renewable and hybrid projects in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

This initiative builds on existing work the CEC and AEMO have led with CEC members, transmission and distribution businesses and other industry stakeholders to address systemic issues of the connection process.

AEMO’s chief system design officer Dr Alex Wonhas said that an industry-wide effort to help address transition issues was welcome and timely.

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“AEMO and the CEC have a shared purpose to further improve the bankability of renewable energy and hybrid projects attempting to connect to the NEM,” Dr Wonhas said.

“With the Connections Reform Initiative, we will be co-creating with industry solutions to overcome the systemic issues that are impacting efficient and timely grid connections.

“This new initiative complements work AEMO already has underway on a number of fronts to improve the connections process for developers, acknowledging that renewable generation and battery storage are critical as we prepare the system for coal-fired generation retirements,” he said.

The initiative is a joint project by the CEC and AEMO and involves CEC members, NSPs, industry and market body representatives, including the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Energy Security Board (ESB). Together, they are working towards the following objectives:

  • a consistent and predictable connections process that delivers repeatable outcomes
  • reduce re-work and improve efficiency and quality of information to address information asymmetry
  • create a collaborative working model between industry, AEMO and the NSPs.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said that grid connection was the most significant challenge facing large-scale renewable energy projects, with substantial delays and changes in technical requirements impacting projects and investor confidence.

“It is critical that the connection process be reviewed and reformed to ensure it is fit-for-purpose to give renewable energy project proponents the clarity and certainty that is necessary,” Mr Thornton said.

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“This joint initiative allows experts from across AEMO, the clean energy industry and beyond to explore these complex technical issues and collectively develop a connection process which delivers far better outcomes for everyone.”

Associated work that began in February 2021, including 16 workshops, has contributed to the new Connections Reform Initiative, helping identify five key priority areas. Groups have been established to work through the priority areas in parallel, identifying the problems and co-design solutions and implementation plans.

Draft recommendations will be released for broader consultation. More information can be found on the CEC website.