New tool to help Australia connect more distributed generation resources

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The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is developing a new cloud-based connections simulation tool as part of efforts by the government to ensure more distributed energy generation resources are connected to the grid for reliability.

AEMO has secured AUS$2.23 million (US$1.6 million) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop the Next Generation Connections Tool as part of an AUS$12.95 million (US$9.28 million) project. The tool is expected to simplify the planning, development, testing, implementation, and connection of distributed generation projects with the main grid.

The aim is to reduce the time and costs associated with bringing new distributed generation resources including solar and wind online and connecting them to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

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The tool will encourage data sharing amongst energy stakeholders, including original equipment manufacturers, consultants, network service providers and AEMO project planning, deployment and operations.

The need to develop the tool follows the realisation that the pace at which Australia is integrating distributed resources with the grid is too slow for the country to achieve its energy security and decarbonisation goals. Although 121 distributed generation plants have been connected to the NEM over the past four years, up to 97GW of generation projects are awaiting to be connected, according to a statement. These assets include 46GW of wind, 33GW of solar and 10GW of hydro and form twice the size of NEM’s entire capacity.

The Next Generation Connections Tool will be deployed together with the Operations Simulator to establish AEMO’s Australian Energy Simulation Centre (AESC). In 2019, the National Energy Simulator Feasibility Study which was funded by IRENA identified a suite of seven tools that AMEO can use at AESC to ensure the optimal management and operation of distributed generation resources that are connected to the NEM.

The first major release of the simulation tool is planned for the end of 2021.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller, said: “Australia’s energy system is evolving rapidly with most of the growth in generation coming from rooftop solar and large scale solar and wind.

“The proposed connections simulation tool will assist large scale developers by providing a detailed source of energy data and modelling that incorporates our electricity systems, thereby allowing them to accelerate their development process and manage potential risk before going through the formal grid connection process.”