Network operators and the transition to decentralised electricity: An Australian socio-technical case study

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    Abstract

    A socio-technical transitions theory approach is used to consider the extent to which network operators in Western Australia are perceived as facilitating, or blocking, a transition towards a distributed generation-based network. A total of 48 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with community, industry and government representatives were performed in 2015. This research finds that network operators are perceived as ‘pushing back’ on distributed generation by increasing the complexity, cost and unreliability of connection applications, by restricting further connection of distributed generation to the network, and by requiring consumers to invest in technology for grid protection. Interview respondents suggest network operators do this because: distributed generation creates technical issues at the distribution-scale of the network; distributed generation can reduce financial revenue for the network operator; as a response to a lack of strategic direction on how network operators should respond to distributed generation; and due to a ‘risk averse’ engineering culture that rejects the unknown. Government intervention may be required to direct network operators to address technical implications of increased distributed generation and redevelop tariff models to allow fair cost recovery of network assets. However, government intervention may lead to adverse outcomes, including in relation to the cost-recovery of state-owned assets.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)422-433
    JournalEnergy Policy
    Volume110
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

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