An award

The South Australia Premier’s Awards for Mining and Energy winners have been announced, with a major energy utility taking home two wins.

SA Power Networks’ Flexible Exports option for solar – which allows customers to maximise the value of their investment in rooftop solar energy – won the Innovation and Collaboration Award for the energy sector.

The utility also won the Health and Safety Award for the sector, for its response to the River Murray floods.

The Flexible Exports service is the result of years of innovation and engagement with local, national and international industry. It uses high-tech smarts to allow newly-connecting solar customers in eligible areas to export up to 10kW per phase from their rooftop system while responding to rare localised network constraints in real time.

In the River Murray floods, 4,000 Stobie poles and 400km of powerline were standing in water for many months, creating a major community safety challenge. However, there were no reports of electric shock. 

SA Power Networks also undertook a significant program of community engagement to support the wellbeing of the River community.

SA Power Networks Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Bills, said, “Apart from the emotional and economic impacts of the prolonged flood, electric shock due to flood inundation of electricity infrastructure was a key risk to the community, emergency services personnel and SA Power Networks employees.

“To ensure a safe response to the floods, SA Power Networks created a raft of new safety procedures for employees, adopted modern AI and remote sensing LiDAR processing capabilities to help manage connection and reconnection of power and undertook extensive community and stakeholder engagement to manage risk, inform the community and support wellbeing.

“The safety outcome highlights the collaboration with emergency services, government and the community to ensure safety. Our focus had to be on avoiding the very significant potential for an electric shock or even electrocution. We knew having power disconnected was disruptive, so our use of modern AI technology meant we were able to reconnect power earlier because we had a very accurate understanding of where floodwaters were receding and where we could reconnect supply safely.”

The development of the Flexible Exports option for solar involved significant engagement with more than 6,000 stakeholders across the energy sector including solar retailers/installers, internationally-based manufacturers who have developed a new generation of compliant inverters, and government and regulatory bodies.

“Flexible Exports has been developed by SA Power Networks with industry and customers to ensure we as a state get the most value we can from our exciting energy transition,” Mr Bills said.

“Compared with a fixed limit all year round that has to be suitable for worst-case conditions, a flexible limit means the network can be much more efficiently utilised and we can accommodate much higher levels of rooftop solar and defer or avoid the need to upgrade the network in congested areas.

“The Premier’s Award is great recognition for what has been an outstanding and world-leading piece of innovation and collaboration.”

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