- The Guardian
- Issue #1977
Renewable energy is proving its reliability in serving Australia’s east coast, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Previously, AEMO identified shortfalls in electricity generation, including possible blackouts in NSW following the closure of coal-fired power stations over the next five years.
However, in its 2021 report, AEMO found that “primarily due to a combination of newly committed generation, storage, and transmission developments,” that “the previously identified reliability gap in New South Wales is no longer forecast.”
These developments, said AMEO chief Daniel Westerman, were due to “significant renewable energy investments, and well-progressed dispatchable generation projects (which include pumped hydro, gas plants, and battery storage) [that] will all help replace retiring coal and gas plants.”
Because of these investments, AMEO has found that “[r]enewables will meet 100% of consumer demand for electricity at certain times of the day by 2025 if large-scale wind and solar development continues at current rates.” (ABC)
In fact, because of the uptake of renewables, where roof-top solar could supply up to seventy-seven per cent of electricity demands at some points in the day in the next five years, the electricity grid won’t have a supply problem but a demand problem. The reduction in the minimum amount of electricity needed in the network will cause issues for coal and gas-fired power stations that have minimum operating restrictions.
However, against this backdrop, federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor has been attempting to get the states and territories to realise his plan to get electricity retailers to pay coal and gas-fired power generators to keep operating.
Taylor and the federal government want to introduce a Physical Retailer Reliability Obligation (PRRO), which would ensure that enough energy is available in the National Electricity Market (NEM) at all times to fill gaps when renewables cannot meet demand.
However, states and territories remain to be convinced. A spokeswoman for the Victorian government stated that “[t]here has been no agreement on a specific model, including whether coal should be eligible for payments,” adding “In assessing any model, Victoria will be guided by the need for a well-managed transition that aligns with our strong emissions reduction targets.”
Echoing similar sentiments, ACT Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Shane Rattenbury stated that “our future energy policies must focus on supporting this transition, on clean technologies, and definitely not on propping up coal generators.”
Taylor, however, has insisted that the PRRO is necessary, telling federal parliament.: “Our manufacturers, our households, our small businesses need to know when they flick the switch, when the sun has gone down, that the lights will still go on,”
But recent research by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Green Energy Markets states that “[a]ll states across the NEM have enough power capacity for the next decade to meet the strict reliability standard of satisfying more than 99.998 per cent of demand.”
Thus, despite some great targets being met in regards to our energy consumption, the Morrison government is still eager to hold onto an outdated energy source that is hurting our planet. We must ensure that we do not lose these gains made, particularly given the Morrison government’s inadequate climate targets.