Rooftop solar is a great way to reduce your electricity bills, lower your carbon footprint, and support the transition to a renewable energy future. But what happens when everyone in your neighbourhood has solar panels and the local grid can’t handle all the excess power? This is a problem that many solar owners are facing, especially in South Australia, where solar penetration is the highest in the world.
Traditionally, the solution has been to impose a fixed cap on the amount of electricity that solar households can export to the grid. This prevents the network from becoming overloaded or unstable, but it also means that solar owners are wasting their valuable generation and missing out on potential income from feed-in tariffs. In some areas, the fixed export limit is as low as zero, meaning that solar owners can’t export anything at all.
But there is a better way. Flexible export limits, also known as dynamic exports, are a new technology that allows the network to adjust the export limit of each solar household in real time, depending on the capacity of the grid. This means that solar owners can export more when the grid can accept it, and less when it can’t. This maximises the use of solar power, reduces network congestion, and increases the value of solar exports.
Flexible export limits are being trialled in South Australia, where they have shown promising results. A pilot project involving 600 solar households in various suburbs found that flexible export limits increased the average export limit by six times, from 1.5 kW to 9 kW. This means that solar owners could export more power and earn more money from their panels. The trial also found that flexible export limits reduced the number of times that solar inverters tripped off or ramped down due to network issues.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has recently approved the introduction of flexible export limits across South Australia, which started from July 2023. This means that new or upgrading solar customers in areas where the network is congested will have the option to choose flexible export limits instead of fixed export limits. The AER expects that flexible export limits will enable more than 200,000 additional solar systems to connect to the grid in South Australia alone by 2025.
Flexible export limits are not only good for solar owners, but also for the network and the environment. By allowing more solar power to flow into the grid, flexible export limits reduce the need for fossil fuel generation and lower greenhouse gas emissions.