Frequently asked questions
South Australia is leading the world in solar uptake, and SA Power Networks wants to support even more solar on our network. To do this, we need smarter interaction between solar systems and the electricity network.
Our distribution network was built many years before solar, and reverse power flows from solar are now starting to exceed the ‘hosting capacity’ of parts of the network, especially on mild Spring days. This lowers the performance of customers’ solar systems, and causes voltage issues, including for non-solar customers, in some areas with a lot of rooftop solar. It is also starting to exceed the reverse power ratings of some of our major plant at some substations.
Flexible Exports is one of many initiatives designed to support the continued growth of solar, and it is an option that we have been developing with customers, the solar industry, government and technical bodies for some time now. It will allow smart solar systems to respond to times when the network is congested, while enabling greater export limits the rest of the time.
For most customers there will be no change. The proposal does not affect existing solar customers or those upgrading their systems to a part of the network that is not overloaded. New and upgrading solar customers in areas identified as overloaded (we estimate less than 2% of applications will be affected) in the first 12 months) will be given a choice between a fixed export limit of 1.5kW per phase or Flexible Exports.
A flexible limit up to 10kW will, by definition, provide more benefits than a low, all-year-round fixed limit of 1.5KW.
However, the benefit will vary significantly between customers due to factors such as:
- the size and orientation of their PV system
- their energy consumption and co-incidence with their solar output
- their specific retail contract and PV feed-in tariff
- the amount of solar in their area.
To understand the specific performance of their system, solar customers will need to refer to the solar yield estimates provided by their solar retailer or installer.
Before you talk to a new or upgrading solar customer, you will need to check if they are in an overloaded area and required to select between a new fixed or flexible connection option. Once the new connection options are introduced, you will be able to use the new Connection Checker (available within the existing SEG form) by entering the customer’s NMI and meter number.
If the customer is not connecting to an overloaded part of the network, you will be able to proceed with the application process as usual. If the Connection Checker shows that they are connecting to an overloaded part of the network, they will have the option of selecting a fixed export limit of 1.5kW per phase or Flexible Exports.
Once you select the chosen option, the SEG form will guide you through next steps, including showing you a list of compatible inverters if you select Flexible Exports.
If your customer opts for the Flexible Exports option, you will need to use one of the selected smart solar systems that are compatible with Flexible Exports. These will be listed on the SEG application form.
If your customer opts for the lower fixed export limit, they will need an approved export-limiting device or configuration for their inverter. Further details on compatible technology will be available in the future.
Further details on commissioning will be available nearer the time of the trial starting and will be advised through additional Notice to Industry emails, the Flexible Exports section of this website, industry webinars, and via the equipment providers.
The overloaded parts of the network will be announced nearer to the start of the trial. Our new Connection Checker (available as part of the standard SEG form) will allow you to check the NMI/meter of your customer and see if they are in the trial area before talking to them or making an application.
The Flexible Exports option will be available to new and upgrading solar customers who are connecting to significantly overloaded parts of the network from mid-2021. The exact date will be advised in a future Notice to Industry, therefore we encourage you to sign up for email updates. After completion of the trial, we are planning to make Flexible Exports a standard connection offer for all new and upgrading customers.
Once you have used the SEG form’s Connection Checker to confirm eligibility, talk to your customer about the new connection options – Fixed Exports vs Flexible Exports – and find out which option they prefer. You can then make the appropriate selection in the SEG form once you make an application.
As part of the South Australian Government’s Smarter Homes Regulations, applicable from 28 September 2020, all new and upgrading solar systems with exporting capability need to have remote disconnection and connection functionality, and so internet access is already required for most installations.
Flexible Exports relies on solar inverters that are connected to the internet, which receive export limits from SA Power Networks regularly via the internet. This allows export limits to be matched to the network capacity at each location. If an internet connection fails, the solar system will ramp back down to a level of export that is sustainable for the network until the internet connection comes back online. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consider this with the customer when making decisions around the method of internet connection e.g. WIFI vs. hardwire.
If the customer is not able to provide internet access, the installer can recommend a compatible technology that includes its own means of communication or select the fixed export option.
An exemption to these new export limit arrangements is planned to be made available for battery systems installed in overloaded areas, including battery systems enrolled in VPPs. Further details will follow when they become available.
Medium Embedded Generators, those that are between 30kW and 200kW in size, will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. A Flexible Exports alternative to zero-export limits or SCADA is anticipated to be available from mid-2022.
Following a successful trial period, we plan to launch Flexible Exports as a standard service offering.
Where do I go for more information?
More details on this new connection option will be made available before, during and after the Flexible Exports Trial. The best way to keep yourself updated is by signing up to future Notices to Industry using the form below.