8.7 Unique aspects of the Australian electricity network

Some aspects of the Australian electricity network are different to the rest of the world. A few of these unique aspects raised by industry experts are:

  • The configuration of the electricity network is different between east and west Australia. In the western half of the country, most loads are concentrated in Perth and the remainder are mostly small loads scattered over a vast area of land. There are many small standalone power systems in west Australia, serving towns with small populations. Solar penetration relative to loads is high in the west and power system operators in the area are currently experiencing problems as a result. Eastern Australia has significantly more urban areas as well as more remote towns, making the electricity network in the east more diverse.
  • Compared with Europe, distribution impedance is higher in Australia. This causes voltage control concerns due to significant voltage rise issues and a greater potential for oscillations.
  • The Australian solar resource is different from Europe, i.e. stronger. There is a need to investigate temperature dependence issues (for PV systems), reflections, etc.
  • The power flows in Australia are different. There are more heavily interconnected systems overseas. Australia has a lot of long and stringy (skinny) transmission networks where the impacts of solar intermittency are likely to be different compared with meshed interconnected networks.
  • The market dynamics in Australia are very different: for example, the dispatch of generation is determined on a five-minute basis.
  • The weather patterns vary greatly across the network, e.g. east vs. west Australia.
  • Different system frequency operating standards across the country. For example, one set applies to mainland Australia, another for Tasmania (as it is connected to the mainland by a DC link), a third for the SWIS in WA, a fourth for the NWIS in WA, another for the NT, etc.