The Western Australian government will provide low-income households with free electricity between 9am and 3pm each day – by redistributing excess solar from the roofs of wealthier homes.
The state, like others in the country and further abroad, is working out how to deal with the sharp decline in demand for electricity from the grid during the middle of the day as more homes and businesses install solar panels on their roofs.
At times, rooftop solar provides nearly three-quarters of the state’s power needs, driving electricity prices down – sometimes into negative territory. But as solar output fades in the late afternoon, demand for grid power starts to surge.
This phenomenon, called the ‘duck curve’, is creating fresh challenges for grid operators. One solve is to incentivise homes to use more electricity during the day and less during the evening peak.
This is what Western Australia’s new ‘community energy programme’ aims to achieve.
Households that are “experiencing ongoing financial hardship” will get a generous allocation of free electricity between 9am and 3pm. This’ll save them up to A$500 a year while also smoothing out operational demand each day, the state says, by incentivising them to use their appliances during off-peak times.
In short, redistributing excess solar power will help to stabilise the grid (alongside other measures such as community battery installations) while also benefiting lower income homes and reducing inflation.
“Community energy also offers an alternative to solar panels that will give more Western Australians access to the benefits of cheaper electricity during the day,” the state government said in a media release.