RECORD numbers of homeowners buying solar panels could pressure the electricity system without a $61 million retrofit, Powercor has warned.
New data shows that western Victoria's energy grid could have 18 per cent more residential solar panels in 2020.
That would eclipse last year's 14 per cent spike.
Western Victoria's energy network encompasses Bendigo, which last year had its own 14.62 per cent spike to 9476 solar-powered homes.
Powercor says the surge will continue unless COVID-19 economic fallout hampers solar installation companies.
"We've had feedback from some solar installers which indicates the number of installations in the second half of the year may be affected by the economic impact of COVID-19," a spokesman said.
That slowdown might not be a big one, Powercor believes. It expects the number of homes with solar to nearly double to 34 per cent in some areas by 2026.
The Australian Energy Regulator is also predicting a spike, which will be driven by the Victorian government's Solar Home Initiative.
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A small number of customers are already struggling to send their solar energy on to the grid because of network constraints in some areas, Powercor told the regulator earlier this year.
Customers serviced by almost half its zone substations will have difficulties sending solar energy into the grid by 2026 if no action is taken.
A recent study of of smart metres and 79,000 distribution transformers showed those customers would run into problems exporting energy 20 per cent of the time.
Powercor wants to spend $61 million over five years making improvements like upgrades to conductors, changes to transformers on large batteries and other engineering work.
"This will minimise the time incurred by a solar PV tripping as a result of too much excess solar exporting back into the grid at one time," the spokesperson said.
The changes would open the door to 95 per cent of people who would otherwise struggle to sell energy into the grid, Powercor has told the regulator.
The company's residential customers could reap $77 million overall.
"We will remove solar constraints where it is economic to do so - that is where the benefits to customers outweigh the costs - and assist customers where it is not," it has told the regulator.
"This responds directly to customer feedback which did not support the high cost of removing all constraints."
The Australian Energy Regulator will accept feedback on Powercor's future plans and distribution charges up until Wednesday, when a months-long public consultation process ends.
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