Queensland network operator Energex says it can handle more solar

Queensland power company Energex has bucked the trend of network operators calling for a slowdown in rooftop solar uptake, saying it could cope with a significant increase in PV capacity, despite already having one of the highest penetrations of rooftop solar in the country.

Energex, which covers the south-east corner of the state including Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, has nearly 300,000 households with rooftop solar – an amount that is growing at more than 1 per cent, or around 3,000 households, a month.

Even with subsidies wound right back, Energex has an average penetration rate of 25 per cent of available households, the highest in the country, and quite possibly the western world. 

All up the solar on these homes accounts for around 13 per cent of all residential consumption in the network, and around half their individual consumption.

But Energex CEO Terry Effeney says the network could incorporate still more solar, as long as the right signals were deployed to promote the use of demand management systems to incorporate the solar.

“We can take a greater level of penetration into the system,” Effeney told a Brisbane Global Café forum at the Brisbane City Hall, a lad up event to the G20 meeting this weekend.

“But we have got to think about how we do that …. At a certain point we can saturate the network.”

Effeney says commercial-scale solar and large-scale solar remained largely untapped in his network, and he expected that to grow, although that may depend on tariff arrangements.

“The commercial sector has not been exploited,” he said. “Solar would be more effective if it was integrated on a lot of Bunnings (warehouse) stores and on top of Woolworths. Those businesses have a lot of coincident load with solar PV.”

(This means that the electricity is produced at the same time as demand, meaning there is no need to disrupt the grid. Indeed, Energex now prevents such installations from feeding back into the grid).

Effeney also said there was room for large-scale solar PV installations. He cited the Sunshine Coast Concil’s proposal for a 15MW solar plant.

“We are going to see a lot more of those installations,” he said. “There is a very substantial opportunity for greater solar penetration.”

He said if solar can be integrated in a cost-effective way – such as with battery storage – this would represent a “double green” for consumers because it would result in lower emissions, and lower costs.

Top image via LPE

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson