A Closer Look at Queensland’s Emergency Backstop Mechanism Mandate

Starting on the 6th of February, 2023, new and replacement rooftop solar and battery storage systems with a capacity of 10-kilovolt amperes (kVA) or more will be required to have a generation signalling device. Also called Emergency Backstop Mechanism, this device allows Ergon Energy and Energex to reduce the risk of state-wide power outages in QLD by temporarily shutting off these systems in the event of an energy emergency. 

Queensland boasts one of the highest solar energy uptake rates in the world. While solar energy significantly reduces carbon emissions and customer power bills, excessive solar power fed back into the electricity grid can cause hitches for the network. The decrease in overall demand for electricity, especially during peak solar hours, amplifies the phenomenon called “minimum system load.” With this backdrop, the emergence of the backstop mechanism was necessary.

Read on as we discuss this further.

What is the Emergency Backstop Mechanism?

As more electricity is generated from solar systems, particularly during the middle of the day, the demand for electricity from the grid decreases. This trend, known as “minimum system load,” poses a challenge to ensuring the security of the grid. Moreover, it puts pressure on energy providers like Energex and Ergon to balance supply and demand. 

The problem of Ergon outages is further compounded by the fact that Queensland is connected to the national electricity grid. When there’s a misalignment between high solar outputs and extremely low demands, certain parts of Queensland’s electricity network could be at risk of blackouts. Because of this, the emergency backstop system was proposed as a solution to keep the grid secure.

How Does It Work?

As mentioned, every inverter energy system (like rooftop solar PVs) with an aggregated capacity of 10kVA or higher will be fitted with a GSD that enables automatic switch-offs upon receiving a signal. The signal will be sent by Energex and Ergon Energy Network’s powerline signalling system. For larger properties with multiple solar power systems installed, owners will have the option of installing a single emergency backstop mechanism connected to a Demand Response Controller or installing one to each system.

Furthermore, the Queensland Government states that the emergency backstop mechanism will only be activated in an energy emergency. For instance, when the primary electricity connection between the National Electricity Market and Queensland is offline with simultaneous high levels of solar power generation being exported back into the grid. It will not be operated in any other circumstance and will not be activated unless every other mechanism available to network operators has been implemented.

Who Does It Affect?

home with solar panels installed on roof

Since the majority of small homes use a system with a 5kW inverter, this mandate won’t affect a lot of small residential solar systems. So if your energy bills total less than $700-$800 a quarter, you won’t need to worry. This backstop mechanism only applies to higher energy consumers, such as large families, commercial properties, rural properties and homes that use various amenities that rely on large volumes of electricity.

The Emergency Backstop Mechanism only applies to Energex and Ergon service areas in Queensland at the moment. So if you reside in an area that’s not serviced by them, you may not need to have a GSD installed. But always check with your local electricity supplier before making any final decisions. Also, if your system is completely off-grid, you don’t need to install a GSD.

What Happens When the GSD is Implemented?

Upon receiving the signal, the inverter will shut off and stop producing electricity, including any self-consumption. However, the power supply to your building from the grid will not be affected. Any electricity used during the event will be billed according to your rate. Once the emergency is over, a signal will be sent to reactivate the inverter. The inverter also has a fail-safe that automatically turns it back on after 4 hours if no “on” signal is received.

What Happens When You Disconnect the GSD?

Removing the GSD will disconnect the inverter from the grid. And since there is an extremely low probability of the GSD being activated, there is no need to tamper with it. Additionally, your connection agreement with your electricity provider requires that the GSD be installed and remain in place.

Avoiding the tampering of the GSD is crucial. Disconnecting it can lead to unforeseen complications and disrupt the primary goal of preventing large-scale electricity emergencies. Remember, while the backstop mechanism might seem like a minor addition, it plays a vital role in Queensland’s broader strategy to maintain grid stability.

How Often Will the GSD be Implemented?

During the last ten years, Queensland has only separated from the national grid five times. At that time, the connectivity was typically restored within a short period. As such, the chances of events occurring where the Emergency Mechanism Backstop will be implemented are extremely low. In fact, it may only happen once a year or even less. Even so, system operators must still come up with a plan to manage and avoid significant consequences from such events.

Given the low frequency of these situations, the GSD provides peace of mind rather than an active change in most solar power users’ daily lives. It’s all about being prepared and ensuring that when rare disruptions occur, Queensland’s grid can respond effectively.

Will There be a Notification When the GSD is Activated?

notification on smartphone

No. It would be impossible to provide real-time notification for when the Emergency Backstop Mechanism will be implemented because it may be required on short notice. But as mentioned, it won’t interfere with power from the grid, so you will still be able to continue with daily operations. If you would still like to receive a post-event notification, you can nominate to receive one from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) website.

Being well-informed is essential. Even if instant notifications aren’t available, it’s crucial for businesses and households to understand why and when these measures might be implemented. Familiarising oneself with the AEMO website and other reliable sources will ensure users are not left in the dark about what’s happening with their energy systems.

Do You Still Need a GSD if You Have Opted for a Dynamic Connection Agreement?

A GSD will be necessary, regardless of the presence of a dynamic connection agreement. The need for a GSD will be evaluated after 12 months and will consider the progress made towards implementing dynamic control of inverters.

Would you like to know more about this? Get in touch with your energy providers.

Why Your Solar Power System Needs Dynamic Connections

In the evolving energy landscape, dynamic connections are gaining traction. Such connections allow solar systems to adjust the amount of energy they produce based on real-time demands. As solar power becomes more prevalent, managing the ebb and flow of energy is crucial. Dynamic connections offer flexibility, enabling solar systems to respond promptly to shifts in electricity demand, ensuring consistent power supply and optimizing energy export. They represent a future where renewable energy aligns harmoniously with our power grid’s needs.

In this progressive framework, the imperative of addressing the lifecycle of solar components becomes even more pronounced. Recycling depleted batteries is a cornerstone in this realm, ensuring that the environmental footprint is minimised. As batteries reach the end of their usefulness, dedicated recycling protocols intercept harmful waste, recapture reusable materials, and circumvent ecological harm. This step is not just about responsible disposal; it reflects the broader commitment of the renewable sector to uphold sustainability, not only in energy production but across all operational facets, safeguarding a holistic environmental conscientiousness.

Our Commitment at SAE Group to the Future of Solar Power Systems

At SAE Group, we pride ourselves on being more than just a solar power system installer. We’re a dedicated partner in your renewable energy journey. As Queensland undergoes transformative changes in its energy landscape, we are at the forefront, ensuring our residential and commercial solar systems not only meet but exceed the latest requirements, including the new Emergency Backstop Mechanism. 

Our expertise and dedication ensure that every system we install promotes grid stability while adhering to the newest regulations. For homes or businesses looking to tap into the potential of solar energy, we offer more than just installation; we provide peace of mind. Partner with us and experience the SAE Group difference in the world of solar power systems.

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