Repower Alice Springs is a customer advocacy group for the Alice Springs Electricity Network. Our aim is to drive the transition to 100% solar PV generation by 2030. As such we will exclusively discuss the Alice Springs network, however, some discussion points are universal in Northern Territory.
It must be mentioned that any standard applied to the Alice Springs Electricity Network will have serious limitations due to very poor electricity network infrastructure and inability of Network management to provide any form of customer focused demand management infrastructure. As a means to highlight this fact, there is no ability within the Alice Springs Network to determine in real time or near real time the total amount of power consumption or power generation, as there is no way of measuring any output of any solar PV system on the network, the first of which were installed more than 20 years ago.
This will limit what is able to be implemented in the short and medium term.
Also to mention is the cost of implementing and managing a reliability standard and how this will be recovered from consumers and taxpayers. Electricity consumption in the Northern Territory is subsidised by the tax payer to an undisclosed amount. However, published information from Western Power and PowerWater Balance Sheet would suggest this amount is roughly half of the cost of electricity. Implementation of a reliability standard will need to fiscally transparent to the taxpayer and longterm costs saving will be expected.
Further a customer focused brenchmark on electricity pricing can be easily determined by comparing the customer price with two competitive metrics. The first is the wholesale price of electricity in the NTEM, should the Alice Springs wholesale price increase above the NTEM wholesale price, business investment will reduce. Secondly, we have started to see Alice Springs residents choose to leave the electricity grid for self managed power systems where the Internal Rate of Return is currently exceeding 15%.
It is important to discuss future electricity demand and types of usage, as the Alice Springs electricity network is so small, by mentioning the changes in electricity usage over the past decades and what is likely to change in the immediate future. The type of power demand has dramatically changed in recent years from a mostly commercial load with significant loads like welders with high harmonic distortion and high demand fluctuations to high computer, fridge and split system loads with lower harmonic distortion, low power factor and more regular load fluctuations.
This has resulted in demand response management and reliability management to be much easier per kWh. Together with this is the potential load increase from electric cars and the generation increase from solar PV and network profile management of distributed batteries, this will likely see an increase of power usage of some 10-50%, however, an increasing ability to manage the load profile across the day and increase available power through power factor management. These are positives for the electricity network, but only if they are managed with customer focused management.
Repower Alice Springs strongly advocates for a customer centred approach to the management of electricity networks. This means that the focus must be on the customer experience or minimising loss of business due to loss of electricity. Together with this and the recent IPCC report suggesting that the number of days across the Northern Territory that will exceed 40 degrees will increase drastically with most days above 40 in Darwin each year by 2050.
And hence a reliability standard should set a minimum number of hours per year with access to electricity and a higher standard once the temperature increases above 37 degrees. Often reliability standards exempt electricity network operation, such as scheduled outages, from the standard, however, to focus on the customer experience we believe there should be no exemption to this standard.
We understand that the cost to the network and the taxpayer for this kind of drastic change to customer focused may be beyond the ability of the current Network Operators, however, by including
- the customers into the functionality of the network through realtime solar inverter data
- smartmeters capable of realtime network data
- actively focusing on reducing peek demand through demand management practices, distributed private batteries, increasing building energy efficiency standards
- reducing daily demand fluctuations through increasing building energy efficiency standards and allowing electric cars owners to play a part