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All under one roof: New laws force energy companies to accept home-grown power

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New energy market rules mean network companies can no longer prevent solar households feeding energy to the grid.

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The changes are part of a wide-ranging set of rules issued by the Australian Energy Market Commission, that seek to deal with the large amounts of solar energy flowing into the electricity system and pave the way for household batteries and electric vehicles.

Australia has the fastest rate of solar take-up in the world, and almost one in four Australian homes have rooftop solar installed.

It’s meant that in some parts of the country, solar customers have been told they can’t send their spare energy to the grid because the local network has reached capacity for extra flows.

AEMC Chair Anna Collyer said the rule changes represent a profound shift in how network companies manage the grid.

“Power network companies will need to deliver services to support solar – and they will be judged on their performance on how much solar exports they allow into the grid,” she said in making the announcement.

Under the new rules, poles and wires companies will have to report on what they are doing to allow more solar energy online.

They can offer different pricing plans to encourage solar households to export at times when demand is high.

The plans would be tested to see if they benefit consumers, and a basic free plan will also be offered.

But the two-year debate over the rules has been divisive, with solar advocates labelling the pricing plans a “sun tax”, and network companies arguing change is needed to prevent voltage spikes and outages.

The AEMC promises the “tough new obligations” will mean network companies are held accountable for making the grid solar and battery friendly.

Energy Security Board Chair Dr Kerry Schott said the rules are a major step towards clean and affordable electricity.

“This determination removes blockages for renewable energy entering the system,” she said in a statement.

The AEMC said 80 per cent of customers should see lower bills, with worst case scenario modelling showing solar owners making at least 90 per cent of what they do now.

The new pricing plans would not be implemented before July 2025.

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