Source: AGL data
Financing electricity infrastructure such as poles, wires, and generation facilities that can meet peak demand in the context of declining overall volumes and negative demand periods is problematic under the current design of the electricity market.
Electricity generators operate in an ‘energy-only market’, and so must be efficiently utilised and regularly dispatched to recover their costs. Similarly, network prices and retail products in Australia are generally based on volumetric (the total amount used) rather than demand characteristics (the maximum amount used at the peak), which means that network costs must be increased per unit of electricity to be recovered through less volume.
The continued growth in rooftop solar and the consequential shift in load shape is therefore likely to have significant implications for customers who do not have access to solar. To address these issues, AGL have advocated for changes to the make prices more reflective of contribution to peak demand rather than overall electricity usage. This type of pricing is called cost-reflective pricing, or demand pricing.
Other changes to consider
The inability of rooftop solar to help address evening peak demand is an ongoing concern, and changes to the way electricity is priced may help address this issue. However, one of the more obvious ways of directly addressing the issue is through utilising electricity storage and small scale-batteries.
“While battery storage uptake has begun slowly, with only around 20 thousand battery systems installed nationally in 2017, it is forecast that uptake will accelerate sharply as costs decline and more cost-reflective pricing structures incentivise load-shifting to help the evening peak.”
As well as residential and commercial battery uptake storage systems, substantial increases in the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) are also forecast. EVs plugged into the grid operate effectively like portable batteries, interacting with the electricity grid to provide services at the right location and time.
Automation and the ability to integrate rooftop solar, batteries, and EVs into the grid will enable further opportunities to solve the problems associated with the broad uptake of solar.
This transition will require long-term vision – with careful consideration and design of our regulatory environment by policy makers, ensuring consumers are happy and above all, the delivery of affordable, safe, reliable energy and we transition towards a decarbonised future.