A long way to go in Australia

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The Australian wind energy industry has to comply with the National Electricity Code (NEC), the market rules first published in 1998. But the interpretation of the NEC is down to individual states. Of the two leading wind power states, Victoria and South Australia, only Victoria is beginning to pay attention to the specific problems faced by wind power.

"Australia's electricity grid and market have been designed around large-scale fossil fuel generators which provide a controlled source of fuel," says Dominique la Fontaine of the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA). Both the grid rules and market rules will have to be changed to accommodate wind power, she adds.

A lead has been set by the Victorian government in its Electricity Industry (Wind Energy Development) Act, which aims to remove barriers to investment in wind farms, particularly barriers to grid connection. But South Australia refuses to cut any slack for wind, insisting it adhere to all the automatic access standards laid out under National Electricity Market rules. According to the Wind Energy Policy Working Group, many of the standards are in a form that do not or cannot apply to wind generation. The group reports to the Ministerial Council on Energy and has already highlighted technical difficulties associated with the NEC.


With around 400 MW in operation and applications to build at least another 2000 MW of wind power, experts have said South Australia is reaching saturation point. A number of reports released early this year said that improved infrastructure and market integration is needed to accommodate a greater supply of wind energy in the state. These include a requirement for forecasting wind production. Meantime, new generators must conform to the grid code.

The expert recommendations were put to the Essential Service Commission of South Australia. Its report, Wind Farm Licensing -- Draft Statement of Principles, broadly recommends the take up of the recommendations. Many in the wind industry say they are unrealistic.

Meantime, the roles and functions of the National Electricity Code Administrator were replaced on July 1 by the Australian Energy Market Commission and the Australian Energy Regulator. Until the new administrative and oversight system beds down it is anybody's guess how long it will take for Australia's national grid code to be amended to take account of wind power.

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