ScottMadden and SEPA Explore Australia’s Distributed Solar Explosion

15 Jun 2017

ScottMadden, Inc., one of North America’s leading energy consulting firms, and Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) recently collaborated on a new article focused on the energy markets in Australia titled, “Seeking Answers Down Under.” Featured in the June 2017 Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine, this report explores what happens when levels of residential solar on utility distribution systems literally go through the roof.

Distributed solar is now a defining feature of Australia. In some suburban neighborhoods, 65% of homes have rooftop solar. During this growth, utilities have been highly creative and successful in integrating rooftop solar photovoltaic but may see a disruption in the utility business model following new regulations that allow competition in metering. Consequently, it is important for electric utilities to understand and communicate the value proposition of investments, and utilities must foster an organizational culture focused on the customer.

John Pang, partner at ScottMadden, and Tanuj Deora, executive vice president & chief strategy officer at SEPA, share: “Simply put, high penetrations of solar are not a fundamental threat to grid reliability and security; integration of rooftop solar is a technical problem of the kind utilities are very good at solving, often with tools and programs already on hand. Utilities, like other sectors of our economy, must focus on supporting innovation and becoming innovators themselves. The emerging grid of the future, by its very nature, will disrupt many givens of the U.S. electric system’s hundred-year-old business model, and outcomes will not be predetermined. Even in traditionally regulated markets, utilities must become more competitive. The term “customer-centric” has become an industry buzzword, easy to use but with no real quantifiable meaning. As utilities’ historic regulatory compact comes under increasing pressure in markets around the world, taking our customers for granted is a risk we can ill afford.”

“Australia is a very unique market, rich with lessons for electric utilities in the United States. Australian utilities have proven it is possible to integrate higher penetrations of solar, but meter competition will now require they innovate their business model,” said Mr. Pang.

“In Australia, we were able to see how the network operators are taking the data that they've captured from metering and have developed use cases on both the operational side and on the customer side of DER dispatch. On the flip side, we heard a lot of discussion, but we didn't see any use cases for using the data for direct customer value," added Mr. Deora.

To learn more about Australia’s dynamic energy transition, access the complete article here.


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