Sunny WA town locked out of solar market finally has hosting capacity added

Despite having immense and enviable solar resources, the residents and businesses of Broome in northern Western Australia have been largely locked out of Australia’s solar boom.

Broome has an exceedingly fragile grid, so fragile that the local power provider – state-owned Horizon Power – hasn’t allowed locals to connect even the smallest of solar systems to Broome’s electricity network. The coastal town is far from the only region to experience such solar limitations[2], which are of increasing concern to the Australian Energy Market Commission and have underpinned the thinking behind its recent rule reform proposals[3].

On Tuesday, the Western Australian government through its electricity provider Horizon Power, announced an additional 900kW of hosting capacity had been allocated to residential customers in Broome, enough for about 160 households to install solar systems.

Locals jumped at the opportunity, with the allocation exhausted by mid-morning.

This initial release will be followed by 1,400kW in December 2021, the majority of which (1150kW) will be made available to businesses, with the remaining 250kW going to residential customers.

The release brings the total additional hosting capacity for Broome to 2,300kW this year. The state government said the new hosting capacity has been made available as Horizon Power develops technical solutions to support increasing levels of renewable energy.

Customers on Tuesday applied to take up this capacity through a redesigned online application system, which the state government says will deliver a more efficient technical assessment and review for approvals. This will also presumably be how businesses and households apply for the December release.

“Ongoing improvements to the allocation and distribution of hosting capacity when it becomes available will ensure this is distributed in the most equitable way possible,” WA Minister for Energy,  Bill Johnston’s, media release read.

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