Tomorrow’s energy supplies

Projects that will help shape the future of the renewable energy industry will be showcased on Tuesday at the Smart Energy Summit in Melbourne (details further on in this bulletin). And everyone in the room will be united in their understanding for more renewables to plug the nationwide rise in carbon emissions. To that end the Smart Energy Council proposes a minimum 45 per cent reduction in electricity emissions by 2030 (from 2005 levels) and national target of 50 per cent renewables while also keeping state renewable energy targets intact.

Chief executive of the Smart Energy Council John Grimes describes emission reductions of 26-28 per cent by 2030 proposed under the NEG as absurd and says electricity emissions need to be significantly reduced.

“We need a strong national emissions reduction target. We need to halve our carbon pollution from electricity by 2030,” he says.

The SEC is calling on the state and territory governments to make their support of the NEG conditional on the federal government setting more ambitious targets and the ability to properly account for over achievement by states and territories as additional to national targets.

SEC also wants states to agree to a bottom line for emissions reductions or Emissions Reduction Safeguard of no less than two per cent a year from 2020 to lead Australia to decarbonisation by 2050.

Failing that and under the NEG it would take more than two centuries based on annual reductions of less than 0.5 per cent each year after 2020.

“States must retake the initiative and set the Emissions Reduction Safeguard as a floor for further negotiation and ultimate adoption of the NEG,” John Grimes says. “They must also ensure that there will be no NEG unless the Emissions Reduction Safeguard is in place and operational.”

Ben Oquist of The Australia Institute agrees that Australia needs the right government policy settings for adequate emissions targets to meet climate obligations, and says the NEG and Australia’s Paris target are woefully short of what is required.

“Until policy makers address this reality, there will not be the investment certainty required to allow our renewables, smart grid, and smart technology future to compete and truly flourish,” he told Solar & Storage.

The National Electricity Market, was designed for another era and does not even mention the word ‘battery’, notes Oquist, which is a sign that the NEM is holding back solar, batteries, and smart demand technology, and  “We need these barriers gone so smart can compete.”

Last year more solar generation capacity was built than coal, gas and nuclear combined and if the market has its way, there will never be another coal-fired power station built in Australia, he says.

“The rise of renewables is the best possible news for our planet. If we can push enough clean energy generation into the electricity, transport and industrial sectors, we will go a long way to addressing climate change.

The template for the future will most likely be highly influenced by The Australia’s Energy Market Operator’s forthcoming Integrated System Plan, and AEMO chief Audrey Zibelman is on record stating that modelling 70 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 will be the bare minimum.

These targets are of course far greater than those intended by the federal government.

ITK energy industry analyst David Leitch warns of the dire consequences unless the transition to renewable energy is sped up, but says thanks largely to wind & PV there is a cost effective, economic substitute for both coal and much of oil.

“So far electricity grids have not run into any showstoppers in the task of replacing coal and oil, but there is still a massively long way to go and time is very pressing,” says Leitch, and SEC fully agrees.

Energy Networks Australia chief executive Andrew Dillon told a conference this week the generation sector has already started the transformation from a coal-based fleet to one powered primarily by renewables and that the opportunities for network businesses and benefits to customers presented by the transformation and modernisation of the energy system are significant but that “This must be accompanied by timely and strategic investment to better link electricity from renewable energy zones to customers”.

The network sector is changing dramatically and the evolution of home energy storage and generation require a modernised platform that needs further development, he said.

“We know that today’s grid already incorporates more than just large-scale renewables. Australians love household solar like no other country.”

Then referencing ENA’s representation of the electricity transmission and distribution networks and gas distribution networks he says the grid “can’t just absorb endless local generation electricity – networks have limits. When these limits are reached, fuses may blow or systems overheat, causing reliability and safety issues.

“Effective management or ‘orchestration’ of these renewable sources is needed to support their safe and reliable integration into the grid and unlock the true value of household solar and storage.”

But even he concedes “We have to innovate and collaborate to deliver the services our customers want and need today – and into the future.”