The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has published a consultation paper on a rule change request from Western Power relating to alternatives to grid-supplied network services.

Western Power’s request considers there are regulatory barriers which prevent distribution businesses from providing off-grid electricity supply to remote consumers as an alternative to maintaining or replacing the long power lines which connect those consumers to the grid.

The proposed change to the National Electricity Rules would allow network businesses to provide electricity via individual power systems or microgrids in place of grid supply in certain locations where it would be cheaper than maintaining the grid connection.

Under the proposal, businesses could receive regulated returns for these services.

Off-grid supply is a power system that provides electricity to consumers but is not physically connected to the national electricity system. It typically includes a combination of solar PV, energy storage and small-scale diesel or gas generators.

An off-grid supply to a single property is known as an individual power system, while a microgrid is an off-grid system that serves multiple consumers.

The rule change request raises several complex legal and policy issues. The consultation paper seeks stakeholder feedback including on the costs and benefits of off-grid supply, competition issues, consumer protection issues and potential alternatives to the proposed rule.

The Commission has started the public consultation process on this request and is calling for submissions which are due by 18 July 2017.

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