NSW’s state government-owned utility Essential Energy has released new requirements, effective 1 July 2013, that affect retail customers interested in connecting a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to the electrical grid. Essential Energy’s network covers electricity customers in all areas of NSW outside Sydney, Newcastle, Illawara, and the Blue Mountains.
What are Essential Energy’s requirements for new solar customers?
The raft of changes to procedures for adding and altering connections to Essential Energy’s network are detailed in the Connecting to the Network Information Pack (pdf). The changes detailed in the document apply to any new connection or alteration to existing connections, but this article focuses primarily on how new solar customers will be affected. Those who have already installed a solar PV system will not be affected by the new requirements and procedures.
New connections & Connection alterations
A new connection to the Essential Energy network is where there is no existing physical link between Essential Energy’s distribution network (‘the grid’) and a retail customer’s premises. If you build a new home with solar panels and connect to the grid, this would be a new connection.
A connection alteration is any “addition, upgrade, extension, expansion, augmentation, or any other change”. This includes the addition of a ‘distributed generator’ such as a solar system.
High-voltage & low-voltage connections
Low-voltage applications are those up to 1000 volts, which will incorporates most smaller (<30kW) solar systems. Many low-voltage applications can be assessed using only the information that the customer provides when they submit the requisite paperwork.
High-voltage applications are over 1000 volts; these will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and may require more thorough investigations.
Submitting applications & application enquiries
To submit an application to connect a solar system to the grid, customers may either use Essential Energy’s designated Connections Portal or call 13 23 91.
Those who are unsure of their connection requirements may submit an enquiry to Essential Energy via their online Enquiries Portal or call 13 23 91.
Requirements by system size
Depending on the size of the solar system in question, the connection offer contract will vary. The available offer contracts for different system sizes are detailed below. Systems in rural areas with a capacity of up to 3kW and systems in urban areas with a capacity of up to 5kW are eligible for ‘Basic – With Embedded Generation’ contracts, and may be automatically approved through Essential Energy’s online connections portal. Larger systems will require technical enquiries or planning review before approval is granted.
Solar-related FAQs for Essential Energy customers
The Information Pack contains a a full FAQ about connection requests. Below are the questions specifically related to having solar panels installed.
Question: What do I need to do if I want to install solar panels on my property?
Answer: You or your solar installation company will need to submit an Application for Low Voltage Connection Form to Essential Energy. Connection of the system to the network cannot be made until your application has been approved by Essential Energy. You will need to provide your NMI to your solar installer and contact your retailer to make them aware of your intentions to ensure a new retail contract can be created.
Question: I want to increase the capacity of the solar panels on my property that feed into the grid. Do I need to
submit an Application for Low Voltage Connection Form?
If you are an Essential Energy customer who is interested in going solar, you can download and read more about getting your solar system connected to the grid in the following document: Connecting to the Network Information Pack (pdf).
Alternatively, Solar Choice staff and/or solar installers in our network will be able to assist you directly with any queries that you may have about getting connected. Get in touch with us by filling out the Solar Quote Comparison Request form to the right of this page or call us on 1300 78 72 73.
© 2013 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.
James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
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