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Off-grid power replacing the grid in rural/remote Australia

wattmatters

Solar Wizard
Joined
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Messages
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Location
NSW, Australia
Interesting development here in Australia.

It's not DIY but the utility companies themselves deciding to disconnect the grid and instead provide properties and remote towns with off-grid solar PV and battery systems. They've calculated it's more economical for them to do this for any property currently serviced by more than 4 km of power line. There have been trials which have been quite successful so it's now going to be rolled out extensively, for part of a grid network covering an area about the size of Nevada.

Customers are/will be charged the same as if they were on the main grid. Primary benefit to customers in the initial trials have been an improved quality of power supply, substantially improved reliability, better resilience during periods of bushfires and cyclones, and shorter periods of down time when they do occur. It's also replacing coal power generation.

In Western Australia, an ambitious project to take thousands of farms and properties off-grid is slowly taking shape.

Electricity poles are being cut down and carted away. Thousands of kilometres of overhead wiring are being rolled up.

In its place are what are essentially beefed-up farming versions of the standard suburban rooftop solar and battery systems.

Each "Standalone Power System" (SPS) is a fairly simple piece of technology, but the cumulative effect of the planned rollout will be enormous: 23,000km of wire will be taken down, or enough to string a power line around mainland Australia.


There are also plans to replicate the same in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, where there are also vast areas covered by grid supply, often quite vulnerable power lines regularly subject to damage and expensive upkeep.

Large parts of Australia are serviced by SWER lines (single wire earth return).
 
Interesting development here in Australia.

It's not DIY but the utility companies themselves deciding to disconnect the grid and instead provide properties and remote towns with off-grid solar PV and battery systems. They've calculated it's more economical for them to do this for any property currently serviced by more than 4 km of power line. There have been trials which have been quite successful so it's now going to be rolled out extensively, for part of a grid network covering an area about the size of Nevada.

Customers are/will be charged the same as if they were on the main grid. Primary benefit to customers in the initial trials have been an improved quality of power supply, substantially improved reliability, better resilience during periods of bushfires and cyclones, and shorter periods of down time when they do occur. It's also replacing coal power generation.




There are also plans to replicate the same in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, where there are also vast areas covered by grid supply, often quite vulnerable power lines regularly subject to damage and expensive upkeep.

Large parts of Australia are serviced by SWER lines (single wire earth return).
Now that is forward and proactive thinking !!
 
Next step it will be mandatory to contract to a registered utility provider in order to get/retain a certificate of occupancy for your dwelling.
 
As a consumer of power, I can see pro's and con's to this approach. From the customers perspective, you will be getting more green and more reliable power without the problems involved in trying to set up your own system ..... but .... You will never be independent or have power for a cost that is under your control.
Utility companies are not happy with the idea that a large segment of their customers might become energy independent .... this approach will allow them to keep their customers dependent on them while also doing a more green and less expensive approach to providing power .... pretty much a win, win for them.

If too large a percent of the population achieves off grid independence .... governments will most likely pass laws based on "SAFETY" concerns .... individual off grid systems won't be allowed. At the very least, they will make the regulations so difficult to make it virtually impossible to be independent.
 
I don't think anyone is stopping you from buying your own equipment and going off-grid on your own so the concern is probably just rooted in government disdain than reality.

I think this basically allows people who don't want to or can't afford to buy their own off-grid PV/battery solution to have one installed by a utility company and pay for the use and maintenance of said installation.

In the long run it is a losing proposition for the homeowner, they would most definitely be better off by buying their own system and maintaining it. If that wasn't the case the utility company would lose money on this deal themselves. The only way the utility company can do this while losing money is if it was subsidized either via government or by economies of scale and purchase power.

Overall I think the customer wins in either case.
 
..... but .... You will never be independent or have power for a cost that is under your control.
There is nothing to say you can't also have your own off-grid solar PV system, and/or not use theirs. But given customers are being charged regular grid supply tariffs, the same as those in suburban Perth, it likely would not make economic sense for these (remote) properties to do so.

If too large a percent of the population achieves off grid independence .... governments will most likely pass laws based on "SAFETY" concerns .... individual off grid systems won't be allowed. At the very least, they will make the regulations so difficult to make it virtually impossible to be independent.
We are culturally different to the USA. People here would much prefer to be part of the wider network of service and support. Being independent for its own sake is not a virtue or a goal people necessarily view as being a positive or sustainable. They want our institutions to be robust and deliver for the wider community. Sure there are always a few who see the world differently, and they are still free to do what they like when it comes to being off-grid.

In any case such laws already exist here. It's already very difficult to DIY solar PV and comply with the regulations. Which is why a lot of off-grid systems are professionally installed by suitably accredited installers.

In Australia you are dealing with a different scenario. Close to 1/3rd of homes already have a solar PV system, and it is already at least that in QLD. The system designers, utilities and governments are planning for significantly increased use of home storage as a (small) part of the transition to a low carbon grid.

Not all utilities here are privately held entities (fortunately). In WA and QLD they are state owned enterprises and they are planning for the transition to low carbon, not for next quarter's profit results. For the States with privately held utilities, there are still strong checks and balances in place for service delivery and pricing, and along with that comes integrated long term planning for the transition to a low carbon grid.

QLD has just announced plans for massive investment in very large pumped hydro storage facilities, huge wind and solar PV generation capacity and new grid transmission to support it. One of the pumped hydro facilities will be the largest rechargeable energy storage facility in the world. The paradigm has changed.
 
As a consumer of power, I can see pro's and con's to this approach. From the customers perspective, you will be getting more green and more reliable power without the problems involved in trying to set up your own system ..... but .... You will never be independent or have power for a cost that is under your control.
Utility companies are not happy with the idea that a large segment of their customers might become energy independent .... this approach will allow them to keep their customers dependent on them while also doing a more green and less expensive approach to providing power .... pretty much a win, win for them.

If too large a percent of the population achieves off grid independence .... governments will most likely pass laws based on "SAFETY" concerns .... individual off grid systems won't be allowed. At the very least, they will make the regulations so difficult to make it virtually impossible to be independent.


In the case of Powerco in New Zealand, I am almost certain that they will be making a loss on the off grid systems they are installing. The reason they are doing it is because they were already making a loss on that customer because they had to maintain (or replace a lot of assets for that one small remote customer. Because the lines were already there, they can't just tell the customer that we won't supply them any more, or put their rates up. They have to charge everyone on their network the same.

Therefore, the result is, they make a smaller loss by supplying and maintaining the off-grid system than maintaining or replacing the overhead lines.

I am almost certain the customer would not be able to build their own off grid system of similar quality and maintain it over decades for the same or better price than what they will be paying to use the grid.
 
Therefore, the result is, they make a smaller loss by supplying and maintaining the off-grid system than maintaining or replacing the overhead lines.

I am almost certain the customer would not be able to build their own off grid system of similar quality and maintain it over decades for the same or better price than what they will be paying to use the grid.
This.
 
There is nothing to say you can't also have your own off-grid solar PV system, and/or not use theirs. But given customers are being charged regular grid supply tariffs, the same as those in suburban Perth, it likely would not make economic sense for these (remote) properties to do so.


We are culturally different to the USA. People here would much prefer to be part of the wider network of service and support. Being independent for its own sake is not a virtue or a goal people necessarily view as being a positive or sustainable. They want our institutions to be robust and deliver for the wider community. Sure there are always a few who see the world differently, and they are still free to do what they like when it comes to being off-grid.

In any case such laws already exist here. It's already very difficult to DIY solar PV and comply with the regulations. Which is why a lot of off-grid systems are professionally installed by suitably accredited installers.

In Australia you are dealing with a different scenario. Close to 1/3rd of homes already have a solar PV system, and it is already at least that in QLD. The system designers, utilities and governments are planning for significantly increased use of home storage as a (small) part of the transition to a low carbon grid.

Not all utilities here are privately held entities (fortunately). In WA and QLD they are state owned enterprises and they are planning for the transition to low carbon, not for next quarter's profit results. For the States with privately held utilities, there are still strong checks and balances in place for service delivery and pricing, and along with that comes integrated long term planning for the transition to a low carbon grid.

QLD has just announced plans for massive investment in very large pumped hydro storage facilities, huge wind and solar PV generation capacity and new grid transmission to support it. One of the pumped hydro facilities will be the largest rechargeable energy storage facility in the world. The paradigm has changed.
Very interesting thread… I like the idea of energy independence but as someone else said it might be cheaper in the long term to have a third party maintain your off grid system .
 
I don't think anyone is stopping you from buying your own equipment and going off-grid on your own so the concern is probably just rooted in government disdain than reality.

I think this basically allows people who don't want to or can't afford to buy their own off-grid PV/battery solution to have one installed by a utility company and pay for the use and maintenance of said installation.

In the long run it is a losing proposition for the homeowner, they would most definitely be better off by buying their own system and maintaining it. If that wasn't the case the utility company would lose money on this deal themselves. The only way the utility company can do this while losing money is if it was subsidized either via government or by economies of scale and purchase power.

Overall I think the customer wins in either case.
Timing is interesting as I’m just looking into putting an off grid system on our cabin in rural / remote Nsw
 
Timing is interesting as I’m just looking into putting an off grid system on our cabin in rural / remote Nsw
Nothing stopping you from doing that. Just comply with the electrical installation requirements and you are good to go.

There are even package off-grid systems you can buy (not that I am in any way endorsing or recommending them nor do I have any affiliation with any such outfit), just a couple of examples:

And we have specialist off-grid system installers, although they are rarer than the grid-tied solar PV installers.
 
We are in remote Nsw area… I’d prefer to have my own solar set up and not be contracted to an energy supplier. How about you?
Absolutely. I haven’t seen a commercial off-grid system that provides acceptable performance for my needs.

(All way too expensive per kwh, and have so far proven generally unreliable)
 
I hope this works well for those aussie's that sign up for it ... my own opinion (warning, this is a long one) is that it is an end-run around DIY capability that is now present in solar. Why allow folks to DIY when we can put you on the subscriber list, and add you to the rolls?

So, there is the "service" that a supplier provides to you for some cost (cents/kwh). Then there is the "headache" factor associated with that service (harder to quantify in cents/kwh, but easy to spot in the bill) ... fuel surcharges, wire fees, more fees for this, that, and the other. Taxes on top of basic costs AND the fees. Add to that the fact that the government gets a right to come onto your property and do pretty much whatever they want, in perpetuity (and they did, all too often, when I was grid-connected). Madness ...

I'm off-grid, because the grid supplier in my area had a horrible premise for hooking me up ... I pay all the connection costs to run the grid to my rural home location ($30k USD), and then start paying usual fees/costs after that (I since found out I was at the low-end of this "bargain", with a $30k charge ... others put me to shame with their cost estimate to get hooked up to the grid). No thanks.

Luckily, technology got to the point where I could absolutely be my own grid, and run things like a grid (installation, maintenance, backups/spares, etc.) ... I do it, my kids do it when I can't, it just works. This was 10 years ago. We went off-grid and never looked back (and never will). This is *self-sufficiency*, and I consider it worth its weight in gold. It's the reason many of us went rural in the first place. DIY, do it right, avoid all the madness in so many ways (AHJ's, codes, costs, grid-indenturedness for life, etc.)

So the AU solution is a little better in that there wasn't a "startup cost", but my suspicions are that it's ultimately just a good deal for the grid in infrastructure terms. I'd guess that, like a mortgage, the homeowners (present, future) will be paying 2 to 3 times its initial cost to have the grid do it, vs them DIY ... self-sufficiency got bypassed for "the government solution", and what did you gain? A phone number where you can call and say "my system doesn't work, come fix it ... yes, we'll be there when we can get to it". The grid in this case still gets X number of subscribers, stuck for life. When has the government ever done it better than you can do it yourself? Do we think that the government will do solar better than us, because "someone else" puts it in? Did they spec things right? Do they service it right? Have all the scenarios played out where we find out what can and will go wrong? IDK, but my gut is "watch out, and hold on tight" ...

Self-sufficiency is putting in every system (food, electric, water, sewer, trash, etc.), understanding how it works (because you did it), and being able to fix anything, instantly. No service people come out to my rural location; many wouldn't have if I asked, or their "trip charge" was designed to make me not ask for them. I haven't needed any of them ...

My kids understand all of this now, and they don't need any kind of service folks ... self-sufficiency is ingrained into them. They do it without thinking. I'm hoping that there isn't a scenario out there (disaster or otherwise) where they won't already be self-sufficient in all aspects. They won't be waiting for a solution, and nobody will be "telling" them what they can/can't do ...

Like the old pioneer days (but with modern technology, and little of the inconveniences of nostalgic ways), we just get it done ... and it works.
 
So, there is the "service" that a supplier provides to you for some cost (cents/kwh). Then there is the "headache" factor associated with that service (harder to quantify in cents/kwh, but easy to spot in the bill) ... fuel surcharges, wire fees, more fees for this, that, and the other. Taxes on top of basic costs AND the fees. Add to that the fact that the government gets a right to come onto your property and do pretty much whatever they want, in perpetuity (and they did, all too often, when I was grid-connected). Madness ...
For the specific example referred to in the OP, the energy supply pricing is required by law to be the same as for others on the grid and with the same service delivery standards. IOW a standard retail supply contract with the same daily service fee and energy tariffs as everyone else on the grid in that region.
 
For the specific example referred to in the OP, the energy supply pricing is required by law to be the same as for others on the grid and with the same service delivery standards. IOW a standard retail supply contract with the same daily service fee and energy tariffs as everyone else on the grid in that region.
Exactly, more expensive and less reliable than you can DIY.

The inability to feedback excess solar to the grid and get paid for it instantly distorts the price relative to a standard supply contract.
 
Exactly, more expensive and less reliable than you can DIY.
How would you know about their reliability?

As to cost, I guess that depends on whether you can build an off-grid system to be better than Horizon's tariffs:

This is the law:
The Western Australian Government regulates Synergy’s and Horizon Power's electricity prices in line with the following electricity by-laws:
This means that Horizon Power and Synergy must make the regulated price available to their small use customers and some larger customers.

The current rates for Horizon Power are (General Usage is Australian cents per kWh, Supply charge is cents per day):

Screen Shot 2023-04-04 at 7.37.28 am.png
Aussie 30.06 c/kWh ~= US 20.4 c/kWh

So yeah, if you can reliably supply your own power in remote / rural WA for $A0.30c/kWh and A$1.07/day, knock yourself out. No one is stopping you.
 
So yeah, if you can reliably supply your own power in remote / rural WA for $A0.30c/kWh and A$1.07/day, knock yourself out. No one is stopping you.
Which I will add, is about the same price as the rest of Australia, where those with flat rate tariffs are typically paying ~A$0.26/kWh - A$0.32/kWh.

Heck that daily fee is WAY less than in my region (which is ~ 50% higher).
 
Ok, I'm in New Zealand, (which isn't part of Australia :)), but we have a very similar electricity regulatory system, and we follow most of the same standards and rules. The main difference being our electrical energy is ~90% renewable (from hydro, wind and geothermal).
Also, I work for a couple of the grid companies (utilities) here, and have my own reasonably large hybrid system which uses some retired grid components (batteries mainly).
I'll try to give a balanced point of view based on my experience as a home owner and as a utility employee/consultant.

I hope this works well for those aussie's that sign up for it ... my own opinion (warning, this is a long one) is that it is an end-run around DIY capability that is now present in solar. Why allow folks to DIY when we can put you on the subscriber list, and add you to the rolls?

So, there is the "service" that a supplier provides to you for some cost (cents/kwh). Then there is the "headache" factor associated with that service (harder to quantify in cents/kwh, but easy to spot in the bill) ... fuel surcharges, wire fees, more fees for this, that, and the other. Taxes on top of basic costs AND the fees. Add to that the fact that the government gets a right to come onto your property and do pretty much whatever they want, in perpetuity (and they did, all too often, when I was grid-connected). Madness ...
I'm not familiar with this headache factor associated with the grid supply, and all these other fees. We have a pricing agreement with our electricity retailer where we pay a time of use rate for the energy used (13-27c/kWh), and a fixed daily fee ($1.95) to be connected to the grid. There are plenty of other options available from various other retailers (it is free to change, pretty much any time) with different unit rates, solar buy back rates, and daily rates.

In regards to the government having a right to come onto your property to do whatever they want. Firstly, the distribution company/metering company are certainly not government organisations here. And yes they own equipment on our property which they have a right to inspect and maintain. But this is normally located outside the house. They have no right to enter our house or do anything else without our permission.
I'm off-grid, because the grid supplier in my area had a horrible premise for hooking me up ... I pay all the connection costs to run the grid to my rural home location ($30k USD), and then start paying usual fees/costs after that (I since found out I was at the low-end of this "bargain", with a $30k charge ... others put me to shame with their cost estimate to get hooked up to the grid). No thanks.
I am mostly on the side of the utility in this case. Why should they (and all their other customers) pay to connect your house to their grid? Their grid ends where it does, and most likely ended there at the time you bought your property. It is your choice where you build your house, and you should pay all the costs associated with that decision.
Remember even in residential areas, at the time these are developed from farm land or whatever, the developer would have been hit with a very large bill to build the electricity network throughout the development, this includes all the cables, overhead lines, transformers, circuit breakers etc associated with supplying that load.
Yes, we have the same issue here where the costs to do that work seem to be quite high in comparison to getting, say, a local electrician to do the same work. This is because the utiliites have high safety standards and quality standards for any work they have done, and therefore they normally have a very short list of approved contractors, which can easily result in inflated prices.

And the reason you still have to pay your fees to use the grid, even though you forked out $30k already, is because there is another $X billion worth of grid that is also required to get the electricity from the generator to your house, and all that needs to be maintained.
Also, I expect that the additional cable and maybe transformer that your $30k would pay for will now be owned by the grid company and they have to maintain it. I.e replace the transformer in 20-40 years at their cost, repair any cable faults etc.
Luckily, technology got to the point where I could absolutely be my own grid, and run things like a grid (installation, maintenance, backups/spares, etc.) ... I do it, my kids do it when I can't, it just works. This was 10 years ago. We went off-grid and never looked back (and never will). This is *self-sufficiency*, and I consider it worth its weight in gold. It's the reason many of us went rural in the first place. DIY, do it right, avoid all the madness in so many ways (AHJ's, codes, costs, grid-indenturedness for life, etc.)
I totally understand the desire to be off-grid. I would like to do it myself one day. I just don't think it makes sense for many people, as the electricity grid (at least here in New Zealand) is far more financially efficient than an off grid system is in most cases.
So the AU solution is a little better in that there wasn't a "startup cost", but my suspicions are that it's ultimately just a good deal for the grid in infrastructure terms. I'd guess that, like a mortgage, the homeowners (present, future) will be paying 2 to 3 times its initial cost to have the grid do it, vs them DIY ... self-sufficiency got bypassed for "the government solution", and what did you gain? A phone number where you can call and say "my system doesn't work, come fix it ... yes, we'll be there when we can get to it". The grid in this case still gets X number of subscribers, stuck for life. When has the government ever done it better than you can do it yourself? Do we think that the government will do solar better than us, because "someone else" puts it in? Did they spec things right? Do they service it right? Have all the scenarios played out where we find out what can and will go wrong? IDK, but my gut is "watch out, and hold on tight" ...
I expect that there would be a "start up" cost (connection fee) in Australia too, there certainly is here in NZ.
In my situation, you would be extremely hard pressed to build an off grid system that can produce very reliable power more cheaply than the grid does.
And how are grid users 'stuck for life'? Yes they likely paid someway or another for their grid connection. But they could just have it disconnected I expect.
They are no more stuck than someone who decided to go off-grid and spend $30-50k on a solar, battery system and would then have to fork out another $30k if they bought an electric car and decided they wanted to be connected to the grid. I.e it's just sunk cost.
Self-sufficiency is putting in every system (food, electric, water, sewer, trash, etc.), understanding how it works (because you did it), and being able to fix anything, instantly. No service people come out to my rural location; many wouldn't have if I asked, or their "trip charge" was designed to make me not ask for them. I haven't needed any of them ...

My kids understand all of this now, and they don't need any kind of service folks ... self-sufficiency is ingrained into them. They do it without thinking. I'm hoping that there isn't a scenario out there (disaster or otherwise) where they won't already be self-sufficient in all aspects. They won't be waiting for a solution, and nobody will be "telling" them what they can/can't do ...

Like the old pioneer days (but with modern technology, and little of the inconveniences of nostalgic ways), we just get it done ... and it works.
I totally agree, it would be a great feeling to be self sufficient, and I'm a little envious, I also think it's great for health being away from the pollution of cities etc. But sometimes it is just easier and normally cheaper to live in a more populated area where services are more reliable, there are more jobs, schools etc.
 
How would you know about their reliability?

As to cost, I guess that depends on whether you can build an off-grid system to be better than Horizon's tariffs:

This is the law:


The current rates for Horizon Power are (General Usage is Australian cents per kWh, Supply charge is cents per day):

View attachment 142788
Aussie 30.06 c/kWh ~= US 20.4 c/kWh

So yeah, if you can reliably supply your own power in remote / rural WA for $A0.30c/kWh and A$1.07/day, knock yourself out. No one is stopping you.
This is clearly the thin edge of the wedge.

The next step is no certificate of occupancy without an energy company contract.

That is my main concern, and there are so few people that understand the issue that it will be legislated unopposed.

Revisit this thread in ten years time to see I’m being paranoid or not ?

As for reliability- you were saying they would have the same delivery standards as grid supply customers. The grid has consistently proven to be less reliable than any well designed standalone system.
 
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This is clearly the thin edge of the wedge.

The next step is no certificate of occupancy without an energy company contract.
This is Australia. There are already thousands of rural and remote properties not connected to the grid. No one is being refused certificate of occupancy. Unless you have actual evidence of such actions taken by State govts in Australia, then it's just conspiracy nonsense.

As for reliability- you were saying they would have the same delivery standards as grid supply customers. The grid has consistently proven to be less reliable than any well designed standalone system.
Evidence please.

The grid reliability standards in Australia are very high.

The grid is required to meet 99.998% of forecast customer demand. There are penalties and recompense for customers if the grid operators do not. To be fair I don't know what reliability standard the WA grid applies, but it will be similar to the those applying in the NEM.


This is generation reliability of course, not distribution/transmission. That's a different matter and of course any transmission system will have downtime - the vast majority of outages are due to such things. Like last year when a driver of a 4WD ran their vehicle into a local power pole and the electricity company had to shut off power to the local town for safety in order to enable the driver to be safely rescued and repairs to power pole and lines conducted.
 
In the USA, once connected to (most every) grid, you don't usually get to EVER disconnect; you could say I'm not using any power again, but they would still hit you with the monthly connection and other fees not related to actual power consumed. So, once hooked up, always hooked up. Monthly bill has to be paid.

If AU grids have no other add-on fees, then you do indeed have less headaches than we have here ... although, the daily connect fee still sounds like a fee to me. If you can truly disconnect, there's still some hope for you ...

Grid reliability for us is more "is there an outage today, and how long will it be" ... it isn't how good the power is when it is flowing, it is how often and how long is the outage. Brownouts, blackouts, weather events, car crashes, etc. All leads to outages of some kind ... as there are multiple grid suppliers, every one of them are different wrt outages, even though all held to same standards of power quality. There will be outages, so a prime reason to go off-grid, in some cases, even in the city. Once grid-connected, you give up all control over your power destiny.

Rural folks, with less population, are the last to be dealt with in an outage.

I can't imagine that there aren't grid outages at any other grid supplier in the world. Outages happen. Power fluctuates. Money is being chased. Somewhere at the end of all that is a person/family ... way down at the bottom.

For these, and many other reasons, off-grid, self-sustaining, independent power supply ... it's the way of the future. You can now generate power without any grid involvement, and there are no more "reliability" problems. People have to tell me that there is an outage in the local grid ... I never notice. This self-reliability is priceless to me, and is worth all the hidden costs of hooking up to the grid. It's never just some "cents/kwh", it is contracts, fees, permanent grid connection, rules/regulations, etc.

Most folks will never read their contract to get power from the grid, but certain parts are downright scary. Are you and/or your neighbor throwing out THD? You don't want to let us come into your house and find the problem? Then we have the right to disconnect both of you until the issue is resolved. This is boilerplate in every power contract, so yes they could come into your house ... assuming of course that you want the power to keep flowing. I've read many grid contracts, chasing down THD issues ... many other parts are problematic as well.

Having a grid do that "off-grid" piece for you is a step backward, unless one just desires to have someone else do it and foot the initial costs, and you want to just "pay a monthly bill". We did and do have companies that will do grid-tied solar installs onto your home, and you just rent the installation from then on. Not sure how many still think that is a good deal today ...

I'm truly watching this AU development, to see what aspects of it turn out to be good, and what develops into issues ... it does get people off-grid with respect to outages from the grid, just still grid-tied with respect to billing/maintenance/etc.

If it's your own equipment, you are in charge ... if it's their equipment, I'm not sure what's changed in the grid/customer equation. We are still at the bottom. Interesting development, wrt to grids "offering" to do the off-grid piece ...
 
So, it looks like Western Power (WP) contracted with Hybrid Systems (HS) to put together an SPS for the remote/rural sites that WP identifies as eligible for "we can save money on distribution costs, reduce bushfire, etc." (marketing, PR terms).

When you read the HS website, it's a bunch of panels, inverter/mppt/battery-bank, and a diesel gen, all wrapped up in a nice package that takes 40 sq metres. HS builds/installs it, WP manages it after that (and bills the customer for it). It is indeed a turnkey system, and over here in the states, we have a bit of background/history with utility-managed turnkey projects.

It's almost always a great deal, just not always a great deal for the end-customer. Over here, the costs will be amortized, and you would know that that the utility grid & its stockholders, and the project suppliers, won't come out on the short end of that.

I also have an SPS that I put in myself (all the same components of panels, inverter, battery-bank, gen, etc.), for a fraction of the startup costs to get grid-connected, and most likely, for a fraction of the cost of a grid-managed SPS supplier. I did this 10 years ago; I'm a drop in the bucket of such folks. I am the SPS provider & maintainer, and the system is now under my control ... no contracts/service/headaches of any kind.

On this journey, I broke free from the grid system ... numerous ties to many controls were cut, and I survived and thrived.

So I think there are two points here, and anyone can go either way with it ...

- SPS can be done by yourself ... many in my area have done it, sold their homes with the system in place, and so on. It just works. This forum makes it easy.

- SPS can be done by the grid/supplier for you ... not as great a history there, but who knows how long it will take the grids to get on top of it. My gut is that only the grid/stockholders will come out on top, and they've squashed a portion of the independent folks (always a potential thorn in their side).

In the end, not sure what's new here, other than you can lose some unsightly power poles & such ... you are still grid-connected, contracted, managed, etc., or you are not.

Indeed a development to watch, for many reasons ...
 
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Grid reliability for us is more "is there an outage today, and how long will it be"
Sure but that per se is not a reason to be off-grid. It's just a reason to have backup power.

Or look at it the other way round. If you have an off-grid system which supplies most of your energy needs, the grid makes for an excellent (all but unlimited) backup generator for when your system is a bit stretched.

You can now generate power without any grid involvement, and there are no more "reliability" problems.
Sure but no off-grid system is perfectly reliable either. They will fail / require downtime, maintenance and upkeep. Not everyone has or will maintain the technical skills, equipment and knowledge to be managing such things. You will need supplies, replacements, tools etc. Utilities keep these things on hand at the ready because maintenance is BAU for them.

I'm truly watching this AU development, to see what aspects of it turn out to be good, and what develops into issues ... it does get people off-grid with respect to outages from the grid, just still grid-tied with respect to billing/maintenance/etc.
Electricity supply, water supply, waste water treatment, gas supply. Not everyone can live on a rural block with the space to do all this.

And not everyone wants or needs to do everything themselves when there are organisations and businesses who do it better and more efficiently.

Do you build your own car? Grow the timber to be used to build your home? Supply every item of food you eat? Do you build your own internet servers and communications infrastructure to connect to the WWW or phone system? Electricity supply is just another service, and not everyone wants to look after an energy supply system when they have better things to do with their time.

In the end what you are I are expressing are really just cultural differences. Each society has a different blend of the values of independence and interdependence. It's a spectrum and thinking being on one part of the spectrum is better than another is really no more than an exercise in self justification.

As a society we just happen to think being interconnected is somewhat more valuable than a culture which leans more heavily towards every man or woman for themselves. Others think differently.

It's almost always a great deal, just not always a great deal for the end-customer.
Again, *by law*, people serviced by these utility managed off-grid supply systems pay the same for their electricity service and supply as everyone else on the grid. Making out as if they are going to pay more is completely misleading.

Frankly I want our utilities to be able to reliably delivery power for lower cost as that benefits everyone. In Australia, again by law, the (regional monopoly) power distribution companies have their income regulated. The price they can charge is set.

If in remote WA you can reliably supply sufficient power 24/7 for the prices they are charging, then knock yourself out. No one is stopping you.
 

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