The rise of solar power is jeopardising the WA energy grid, and it's a lesson for all of Australia
In Western Australia, one of the sunniest landscapes in the world, rooftop solar power has been a runaway success — but it now threatens to jeopardise the stability of the grid itself.On the state's main grid, which covers Perth and the populated south-west corner of the continent, almost one in every three houses has a solar installation.
Australia needs dozens more renewable energy projects to offset the loss of more than 60 per cent of Australian coal power plants that will close over the next two decades, the energy market operator has forecast.
A major upgrade of the electricity transmission wires will also be needed to get the new energy generated to homes and businesses, the Australian Market Energy Operator (AEMO) said.
Rooftop solar is set to play a role, with nearly a quarter of all energy consumption to come from residential and business solar panels by 2040.
Microgrids and neighbourhood power sharing set to transform how we use energy
Powering your neighbourhood with a small solar array, wind turbine and batteries could be the next big thing as microgrids set up across Australia.But technological advances are causing ruptures in the traditional power grid and changing the way energy is produced and shared.
To offset the decline of coal there would need to be a more-than-tripling of renewable energy plants that are already established or will be installed in the next two years, the forecast said.
In a "roadmap" for the next 20 years, AEMO said renewable energy with dispatchable power would be the lowest cost for consumers.
"To maximise economic benefits, as traditional generators retire, Australia must invest in a modern energy system with significant consumer-led distributed energy resources — such as rooftop solar — and utility-scale variable renewable energy, supported by sufficient dispatchable resources and well-targeted augmentations to the electricity network," AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said.
Hot summer forecast could lead to blackouts in Victoria, energy operator warns
Extreme weather forecast for summer will reduce the reliability of power supply across Australia in the coming months, with ageing coal plants becoming less reliable, the energy market operator warns.In August, Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said a worst-case scenario could see up to 1.3 million Victorian households without power on extreme weather days if supply was not improved and major generators were not repaired.
To get new renewable energy generation from power plants to consumers, AEMO said the current transmission network needed to be upgraded.
The draft report highlights several "priority" projects for investment including:
- A new undersea power link between Victoria and Tasmania
- A new transmission line from Robertstown in South Australia to Wagga Wagga in NSW
- A new connection from Western Victoria where wind plants are being built, to southern NSW and the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro
- Upgrades of the existing interconnection between Queensland to NSW and Victoria to NSW
- Improvements to the transmission system in Victoria to allow renewable energy to get to homes
The operator forecasts the future National Energy Market will be "a diverse renewable, gas-powered and distributed generation, supported by energy storage and network solutions".
The report said 15 gigawatts (GW) or 63 per cent of Australia's coal-fired generation is likely to retire by 2040.
U.S. EPA ignoring health benefits of coal rule it plans to weaken: economists
U.S. EPA ignoring health benefits of coal rule it plans to weaken: economistsThe six economists said an Obama-era rule to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants would cut U.S. healthcare bills by $33 billion to $90 billion per year, because the regulation also forces plants to cut emissions of fine particulates that cause heart and lung illnesses.
This will have to be replaced by at least 30 GW of new grid-scale renewables above what is already committed.
"More renewables are required to replace conventional generators because of their naturally lower capacity factor,'' said the report.
Renewable energy development zones are earmarked across the five states.
And to support the transition away from a coal-based market, there needs to be up to 21 GW of dispatchable resources through pumped hydro or battery storage.
Efficient gas plants could be effective, especially if gas prices came down.
Read more about our energy future from our Power Switch series:
Goldman Sachs pledges $750 billion to environmental causes by 2030 .
Goldman Sachs pledges $750 billion (AUD$1.89 trillion) to environmental causes by 2030The bank also updated its internal environmental policy framework to rule out providing financing to any new projects that will drill for oil in the Arctic or that create new thermal coal plants or new thermal coal mines.