The AEMC has set out a new framework that will require community groups, local councils, developers and other third party providers of stand-alone power systems to comply with jurisdictional regulations on reliability, safety and consumer protections, based on nationally agreed principles.
Microgrids and other types of off-grid power systems are becoming more viable options for some customers as the cost of technologies like rooftop solar and batteries continue to decline. While consumers can currently choose to go off-grid, in most cases they have very limited consumer protections.
The AEMC has recommended a tiered framework that provides appropriate consumer protections while avoiding unnecessary costs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
The framework includes two main categories of systems:
- larger microgrids supplying anything from more than a few customers to many hundreds of customers, for example a microgrid supplying a small regional town, or a microgrid supplying a small isolated community
- smaller microgrids supplying a few customers, or supplying only large commercial and industrial customers, or an individual power system where there is a sale of energy. For example, a microgrid connecting two farms, or an individual power system where a retailer provides the system to a customer in return for an ongoing charge.
For larger microgrids, jurisdictions would develop comprehensive regulations covering registration and licensing, obligations to supply and connect, pricing, consumer protections including for vulnerable customers, and reliability and safety standards. These bespoke regulations would fit the local circumstances but be based on national principles to minimise compliance costs for parties with operations in more than one state.
For smaller microgrids, lighter-touch regulation would apply with jurisdictions setting some minimum consumer protections, such as billing requirements, as well as basic requirements for safety, metering and technical standards.
The AEMC has set out an implementation plan for the new framework, including the key changes that jurisdictional governments and regulators will need to make.