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Defining small scale and large scale solar systems

22 December 2017
RET

Contents

Boundaries of a solar photovoltaic (PV) device

Following extensive consultation with industry, the Clean Energy Regulator has developed the below framework to help potential participants determine the scheme that suits their proposed solar system. The framework will be used in assessing applications for solar PV systems that may be eligible as a small generation unit or power station. The framework does not apply if:

  • the system is a technology other than solar PV, or
  • the facility has a combined capacity over 100 kW and is for the primary purpose of generating electricity to be exported to the grid.

For clarity, if the primary purpose of generation from a facility (such as solar farms) with an aggregated solar PV over 100 kW capacity, or if the system is for the commercial sale of electricity only, then it may be eligible as a power station but is not eligible as a small generation unit.

An important element in deciding which scheme your system may be eligible for is understanding the boundaries of your system or device.

Framework to define a device and boundaries

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 defines a small generation unit (including solar PV systems) as a ‘device’. The Clean Energy Regulator considers the boundaries of the device to be:

  • the limit of infrastructure installed as part of an electrical system, and
  • the point at which electricity generated by an electrical system ceases to be under the control of the system owner and comes under the control of another entity, often at the junction with a distribution system or transmission network.

Implementation of the framework

Depending on the configuration of a system, there may be different ways to determine the device boundary, including:

  • A National Electricity Market (NEM) standard meter as mentioned in the National Electricity Rules. This may include:
    • meters with a National Meter identifier (NMI) or Transmission Node Identifier (TNI), or
    • other commercial meters used for measuring electricity to inform financial transactions by a business or person who holds a retailer exemption issued by the Australian Energy Regulator.
    • This does not include meters used for internal purposes, such as to inform Building Management Systems, or monitor energy efficiency activities.
  • If specific electrical infrastructure has been installed to enable the electrical system to connect to the distribution or transmission network, this infrastructure will determine the boundary of the device, irrespective of any metering installed. This may include:
    • transformers or substations that have been installed as part of the project and are outside of the meter(s).
  • When a system is off-grid and does not interact with an external transmission or distribution line, the boundaries of the device will be determined based on the system’s entirety, including all and any interconnected componentry.
  • If there is a path for electricity to flow between multiple metering points behind the meter, they are considered interconnected and as such, all systems behind the meter will be within the boundaries of one device.

Any solar PV device with a kilowatt rating of not more than 100 kW may be eligible to participate in the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

A device with a kilowatt rating more than 100 kW may only be considered eligible for accreditation as a power station in the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.

Where a system is sized under 100 kW, claims STCs and additional capacity is installed taking the total installed capacity behind a NMI to over 100 kW, the additional capacity will not be eligible for STCs. However, the electricity generated by the additional capacity may be eligible for LGCs if the system is accredited as a power station.

See scenario examples to help you determine your eligibility.

This guidance only addresses system capacity, however additional eligibility requirements exist and must be met to participate in either the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target or the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Please refer to How to participate in the Renewable Energy Target for further eligibility requirements.

Exceptions

The default position of the Clean Energy Regulator will be to apply this framework when assessing applications for solar PV systems as Small Generation Units and power stations.

If an applicant is aware of any technical or contractual arrangements that result in a proposed system not fitting the framework, then the applicant must provide full details of the proposed system to the Clean Energy Regulator, outlining why the system does not fit the framework and why it is eligible for the scheme the applicant wants to register for.

The Clean Energy Regulator will review this guidance if it becomes aware of information that substantially affects the operation of the scheme.

Participants who have previously received advice from the Clean Energy Regulator which is contrary to this framework are encouraged to contact the Clean Energy Regulator prior to system installation to clarify scheme eligibility.

Disclaimer

This information is for general use only and does not represent a statement of the policy of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth of Australia and all persons acting for the Commonwealth preparing this information accept no liability for the accuracy of, or inferences from, the information, or for any action as a result of any person’s or group’s interpretations, deductions, conclusions, or actions in relying on this information.

This information should be read in conjunction with the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000, and supporting regulations. Changes to the legislation may affect this information.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice. Entities are responsible for determining their obligations under the law and for applying the law to their individual circumstances. Entities should seek independent professional advice if they have any concerns.

Scenario examples

This information provides examples of how the Boundaries of a solar photovoltaic (PV) device framework may be applied. Please review the examples along with the framework.

Key for scenario icons

Infographic of a residential household with a 50 kW PV system.

Scenario 1: A residential household with a 50 kW PV system.

  • NMI defines the boundary of the device.
  • The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme
  • This system would not be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
Infographic of Five stores in a retail complex, each with a 50 kW PV system and an individual NEM standard commercial sub meter

Scenario 2: Five stores in a retail complex, each with a 50 kW PV system and an individual NEM standard commercial sub meter and a retail electricity exemption. All connected to the grid via one NMI.

  • Commercial sub meters define the boundaries of the devices.
  • Each system would be considered a separate device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • These systems would not be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
Infographic of A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties, each with an 80kW PV system. All connected to the grid via one NMI.

Scenario 3: A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties, each with an 80 kW PV system. All connected to the grid via one NMI.

  • NMI defines the boundary of the device.
  • The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating of over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
  • This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Infographic of A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties, each with an 80kW PV system and each connecte

Scenario 4: A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties, each with an 80 kW PV system and each connected to the grid via a separate NMI.

  • NMIs define the boundaries of the devices.
  • Each system would be considered a separate device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • These systems would not be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
Infographic of A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties that are electrically connected. Each property

Scenario 5: A single commercial facility spread over three adjacent properties that are electrically connected. Each property has an 80 kW PV system and they are connected to the grid via a separate NMI.

  • As the facility is electrically connected throughout, the three NMIs are considered the boundary of one device.
  • The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating of over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
  • This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Infographic of a farm with an 80 kW PV system on a shed and a 50kW PV system on the house, both connected to the grid via one NMI, and one 80kW PV off-grid pumping system.

Scenario 6: A farm with an 80 kW PV system on a shed and a 50 kW PV system on the house, both connected to the grid via one NMI, and one 80 kW PV off-grid pumping system.

  • NMI defines the boundary of the grid-connected device. The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target. This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • The off-grid systems would be considered a separate device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Infographic of an apartment complex connected to the grid via a single NMI with a retail electricity exemption. The complex includes a communal precinct with NEM standard commercial meters and a 100kW PV system and four apartments with non-commercial metering, two of which have a 3kW PV system.

Scenario 7: An apartment complex connected to the grid via a single NMI with a retail electricity exemption. The complex includes a communal precinct with NEM standard commercial meters and a 100 kW PV system and four apartments with non-commercial metering, two of which have a 3 kW PV system.

  • Commercial sub metering defines the 100 kW system as a device. The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • The commercial sub metering defines the boundaries of the two 3 kW apartment systems, therefore both could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • These systems would not be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
Infographic of a university connected to the grid via a single NMI with individual non-commercial sub meters used to maintain building management systems. The university precinct includes a main building with a 100kW PV system and two sets of university housing each with a 5kW PV system.

Scenario 8: A university connected to the grid via a single NMI with individual non-commercial sub meters used to maintain building management systems. The university precinct includes a main building with a 100 kW PV system and two sets of university housing each with a 5 kW PV system.

  • NMI defines the boundary of the device.
  • The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating of over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
  • This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Infographic of a housing estate where each house has its own NMI and an individual 5kW PV system owned by the developer and leased to the householders.

Scenario 9: A housing estate where each house has its own NMI and an individual 5 kW PV system owned by the developer and leased to the householders.

  • NMIs define the boundaries of the devices.
  • Each system would be considered a separate device with a kilowatt rating no more than 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
  • These systems would not be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
Infographic of a solar farm divided into ten 100kW systems with separate NMIs, and connected to the grid via one substation.

Scenario 10: A solar farm divided into ten 100 kW systems with separate NMIs, and connected to the grid via one substation.

  • The system is a single facility that generates electricity for the sole purpose of generating electricity. The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating of over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
  • This applies regardless of ownership or operational control of the 100 kW systems and/or interconnecting infrastructure.
  • This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Infographic of a 1 MW solar farm with one NMI, and connected to the grid via one substation.

Scenario 11: A 1 MW solar farm with one NMI, and connected to the grid via one substation.

  • The system is a single facility that generates electricity for the sole purpose of generating electricity. The system would be considered a device with a kilowatt rating of over 100 kW and therefore could be eligible for large-scale generation certificates under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
  • This system would not be eligible for small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

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