Rooftop solar provides more than half SA power use on mild spring Sunday
The rise of solar has claimed another record in SA, pushing grid demand even lower and providing more than half of power needs. Meanwhile, retailers are on notice to help struggling customers.
Rooftop solar panels in South Australia have delivered another record — the lowest demand on the electricity grid since the national market was established.
Beating the previous record set less than a year ago, Sunday’s mild spring weather, coupled with more than a third of households having solar, pushed operational demand down to 574MW from 12 noon to 12:30pm.
In addition, rooftop solar provided more than half the electrical energy used from 10:30am to 2pm, the Australian Energy Market Operator estimated.
The record, equivalent to about a third of normal weekday demand, beat the previous low of 599MW set last year on October 21.
The new mark comes as many South Australians struggle to pay their electricity bills.
From Wednesday, retailers must follow strengthened rules about dealing with customers facing difficulty.
Retailers must ensure hardship programs are easily accessible to customers, and that standard statements explaining how they will help customers are included in their policies, under Australian Energy Regulator rules.
“Retailers are obliged by law to assist vulnerable customers experiencing payment difficulties,” acting chair of the regulator Jim Cox said.
“Protection for people having trouble paying their energy bills is a right, not a privilege.”
Retailers must have programs in place to identify customers in difficulty and must publish their hardship policies on their website.
In 2017-18, more than 82,000 energy customers nationally were in hardship programs, and that only 22 per cent of electricity and 17 per cent of gas customers in these programs successfully completed them.
There were 72,100 disconnections of residential electricity customers and 11,794 disconnections of residential gas customers.
The average debt for people entering a hardship program was $1146 for electricity customers and $734 for gas customers.