Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill is on the campaign trail at the moment – promising to introduce Australia’s first renewable energy storage target (which the state will subsidise) and also upping the current state-based 2025 renewable energy target from 50% to 75% (given they’re already at 48.9%).

Renewable Energy Storage Target

Jay Weatherill - Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia
Jay Weatherill – Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia (source: @jayweatherill on Twitter)

Weatherill was at an election forum which was about the environment on Tuesday (the 20th) and said the South Australian state election to be held on March 17 will be primarily focused on renewable energy – a ‘referendum on renewables’ of sorts: 

“If we go down, they will be wagging their fingers at everybody around the nation, to say that’s what happens if you push too hard into renewable energy,” Weatherill said. “That’s what the prime minister is trying to do and that’s what is going to happen.”

He has promised to lift the renewable energy target to 75% and implement a renewable energy storage target which would be 25% of SA’s peak demand – approximately 750MW of storage. The government would help the private sector meet this target through subsidy arrangements. 

Weatherill discussed his party’s policy further with Guardian Australia, noting that South Australia are happy to continue ‘going it alone’ if they’re not going to get any help from the Turnbull government:

“It’s a rejection of the federal government’s approach – and the state Liberal party’s approach,” Weatherill said. “We’re not interested in putting our leadership in renewable energy in the hands of people that don’t believe in a renewable energy future.”

Carnegie Clean Energy reported yesterday that they have secured $3 million in government funding to build a 2MW, 500 kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, South Australia. With the rapidly decreasing cost of large-scale energy storage, it seems that the Renewable Energy Storage target shouldn’t be too much of a problem and will be a massive help to baseline power and will also assist in reducing the blackouts which plagued the country in 2016.

“This solar and battery project by Carnegie is part of a wave of new investment in South Australia we have leveraged through the $150m Renewable Technology Fund announced as part of our energy plan,” Weatherill said at the time.

In further news, Weatherill has today announced that South Australian households will be able to apply for a $10,000 loan to cover the cost of installing solar panels and battery storage – which we’ll cover tomorrow. 

 

Coal-fired power stations in France to be shut by 2021

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that all coal-fired power stations in France will be shut by 2021. Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, had planned to shut down the plants by 2023 but President Macron has decided to move that date forward in an ambitious timeline to help France lead the EU (and the world) on climate issues.

Coal-fired power stations in France

Coal-fired power stations in France to close in 2021- President Emmanuel Macron
Coal-fired power stations in France to close in 2021- President Emmanuel Macron

Although France only produces around 1% of its energy from coal-fired power stations in favour of using nuclear power, President Macron’s commitment to shutting them all down is a great step forward for climate change. In 1960 France had 36.5% of their power generated from dirty coal power stations. They currently generate around 75% of their electricity using nuclear energy due to a long-held policy on energy security, but they have a goal to reduce this percentage to 50% by 2025, with one of the main problems what to do with the radioactive waste. In the Champagne-Ardenne region of eastern France, near the village of Bure, they are talking about storing it deep below ground while the radiation slowly reduces. 

Regardless of the fact that it only represents a very small decrease in coal generated power, Mr Macron called the decision “a huge advantage in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness” in a speech discussing France’s view towards climate change: 

“We should stop opposing on one side productivity, on the other side climate change issues,” he said.

Liddell Power Station To Close in 2022 – AGL Energy

AGL Energy will be closing the Liddell coal-fired power station in 2022, resulting in a 1000MW shortfall of energy. AGL has an exciting plan to cover this missing amount by using a mix of solar power, wind power, pumped hydro, battery storage, and gas peaking plants over a three-stage period leading up to 2022. 

The Closure of Liddell and its implications

The Turnbull government had asked AGL Energy to consider extending the life of the Liddell power station or selling it to someone else, but it doesn’t seem like that plan is on AGL’s radar. According to the SBS, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has asked the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) have a look at AGL’s idea, advising that it is best to “leave the judgement of (the plan’s) merits to the experts”. 

AGL’s plan for solar/wind/pumped hydro/storage and gas peaking plants will cost $1.3b and is expected to provide electricity at $83/MWh for up to 30 years, in contrast to the much higher cost for Liddell. By keeping it open for just an extra five years the cost would be $920 million and it would cost $106/MWh, according to figures stated on the SBS

“Obviously it’s a significant proposal, there is a host of new technologies and new investments as part of it,” Mr Frydenberg was quoted in Melbourne on Sunday.

“You need all forms of energy in Australia’s future energy mix, there’s a role for coal there’s a role for gas, there is increasingly a role for wind and solar and for battery storage,” he added.

Liddell Power Station - AGL Energy to close it in 2022
Liddell Power Station – AGL Energy to close it in 2022 (source: wikipedia.org)

This news comes hot on the heels of the closing of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria in March this year. Numerous other coal-fired power stations across New South Wales and Victoria are nearing the end of their 50 year lifespans – with two of Victoria’s three coal-fired plants having outages during last February’s hot weather. 

Federal opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler was complimentary of the plan – whether 

Solar Grid Parity in Australia – By 2020?

According to power and utility leader EY Global Advisory, Australia may reach solar grid parity by 2020 – a point where it costs less to produce renewable energy than fossil fuels. This would make Australia one of the first nations to reach this stable grid party point, according to EY’s Serge Colle.

Solar Grid Parity – An Overview

The 2020 parity target was forecast by the EY team by modelling solar panel and battery storage installation uptake in Australia – which will result in a reduction in renewable costs. The rapid expansion of commercial solar is also helping grow Australia towards solar grid parity. 

Solar Grid Parity in Australia By 2030 According to EY Global Advisory
Solar Grid Parity in Australia By 2030 According to EY Global Advisory (source: wikimedia.org)

Serge Colle, head of EY Global’s power and utility section, told the Sydney Morning Herald  “For those in the industry that still believe that [the renewable technologies] we see now will never be technically and economically equal to traditional energy solutions they should reconsider their thinking.”

The information is supported by a study from the Australian National University (ANU), which forecasts that new-build large-scale renewable energy generators will cost as low as $50 AUD per megawatt hour within the next 10 years. 

The report, titled “Meeting Australia’s Paris greenhouse commitment at zero net cost” and written by Andrew Blakers, Matt Stocks and Bin Lu last month, posits that Australia’s current renewable energy install rate of 3GW / year, if continued until 2030, will mean that we will then meet the Paris greenhouse emissions reduction target. At that point, half of Australia’s electricity consumption would be generated by renewable energy. 

The report also takes into account the need for baseline power and the sometimes unreliable nature of renewables (i.e. the sun’s not always out and the wind’s not always blowing), saying: 

“The cost of renewables includes the cost of hourly balancing of the grid to retain the same reliability as at present. Hourly balancing comprises pumped hydro energy storage, stronger interstate high voltage power lines and the cost of PV and wind spillage on windy, sunny days when the energy stores are full.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Australia goes with its Renewable Energy Target and also meeting the Paris emissions reduction target given how quickly renewables have been growing in the country, especially in the last 12-18 months. 2018 is shaping up to be a massive year for wind and solar energy in Australia – strap yourselves in. 

Labor’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” Plan

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her incumbent Labor party have fired the first renewable energy salvo ahead of the looming Queensland state election on the 25th, promising $150m to support new large-scale renewable generation and solar power in schools as part of their Powering Queensland’s Future plan. 

Powering Queensland’s Future

Premier Palazczuk announced the Powering Queensland’s Future Plan on Sunday while she was touring the Clare Solar Farm project in Ayr (in the Burdekin electorate which is currently held by the LNP). It includes $97 million for solar schools, a huge $50 million down payment for a new solar thermal power plant, $3.6 million to decarbonise remote communities, and a $1 million study for renewable solutions for the Daintree.

Annastacia Palaszcuk - Powering Queensland’s Future
Annastacia Palaszcuk & Labor – Powering Queensland’s Future (source: couriermail.com.au)

Under the plan, the Government will establish a new company called CleanCo which will be mandated to deliver 1000MW of renewable energy in Queensland – with a special focus on flexible and dispatchable renewable energy (e.g. portable solar power). 

According to the Brisbane Times the funds would support a pipeline of $20 billion in proposed investment and it’ll create up to 15,000 full-time jobs, situated mostly in regional Queensland where unemployment is higher than in the cities. 

“We are committed to our transition to at least 50 percent renewable energy in Queensland by 2030,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“Our Powering Queensland’s Future Plan (delivers) delivering more of the cheapest form of new generation – renewables sooner to complement our young and efficient fleet of coal and gas-fired generation.”

This is in stark contrast to the LNP’s plan to scrap the RET (Renewable Energy Target) if they are elected, believing that it’s time for the free market to decide on renewables vs. fossil fuels via their ‘Cheaper Energy Policy’. According to Labor’s policy, “Funding was cut (under LNP) for the Solar Dawn project, which would have delivered Queensland’s first solar thermal plant near Chinchilla, along with investment and job and training opportunities in regional Queensland,” calling the Newman-Nicholls government “complete renewable energy blackout”. 

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls called the policy “more subsidies for more renewables that are going to cost jobs in regional Queensland”, and noted that they think baseload power is more reliable. 

 

 

Solar Powered Trams in Melbourne / VRETs

Victoria has been working on a plan for solar powered trams over the past year and it looks like the Andrews government has moved one step closer with the project – announcing plans to build two new Victorian solar farms to power Melbourne’s tram networks. If that phrase conjured up the image of a bunch of trams with solar panels on top, unfortunately not yet – but using renewable energy to power public transport is a great step forwards. We already have projects like the Valdora solar farm run by the Sunshine Coast Council to power all their energy needs so it’s very encouraging to see the public sector moving in (some semblance of) lockstep with private innovation and investment. 

Melbourne’s Solar Powered Trams

Premier Daniel Andrews Solar Powered Trams
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces Solar Powered Trams.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Bannerton Solar Park and the Numurkah Solar farm have won tenders to provide renewable energy to power Melbourne’s trams, offering 100MW and 38MW respectively for the network. The $100m Bannerton project will consist of 95,000 solar panels and is expected to reach full completion by July 2018. The Numurkah Solar Farm will output 100MW via 300,000 solar panels on 500 hectares, but only 38MW of this will be going to the government. French solar plant developer Neoen (who will partner with Tesla to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia) will commence construction in early 2018.

In January Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio advised that they would use one solar plant with 75MW of power – and that half of this would go to the tram network as 35MW was sufficient to cover the energy needs of 410 Melbourne trams. Despite opposition energy minister David Southwick decrying it at the time as a ‘media stunt’ and said Andrews’ government should be ‘fighting for the most affordable power deal for Victorians’, the government has forged ahead and have doubled down on their renewable energy plans – announcing Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020 and 2025. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Target

Legislation introduced to Parliament (the first time RETs have been enshrined in state legislation in Australia) last week has set Victoria’s RETs (Renewable Energy Targets) to 25% at 2020 and 40% by 2025. According to the Herald Sun, they haven’t released any modelling showing what the figures are based on, but the RET will mean a cut to energy prices of $30 p.a. for an average family. 

According to Andrews, “The VRET will cut the average cost of power for Victorians by around $30 a year for households, $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies, while driving a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034-35.”

The VRET legislation allows for a competitive reverse auction (i.e. the lowest bidder wins) for up to 650MW of power (enough to power Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined) , which Clean Energy Council chief exec Kane Thornton says will ‘turbocharge’ the renewable energy industry in Victoria, calling it a ‘major step forward for communities, businesses and the state’s renewable energy industry’. 

Political grandstanding or a massive step forward for renewable energy in Victoria? Is it necessarily a zero-sum game? We’ll know very soon – watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on how things are going! With the first legally binding state RETs Victoria are certainly putting their money where their mouth is and doing their bit to reduce emissions and move towards a renewable energy future. 

Solar Power in Australia reaches 3.2% in 2016

The Clean Energy Council released figures on Tuesday that show Australians’ energy needs were powered by renewables to the tune of 17.3% in 2016 – the highest since Snowy Hydro was completed 50 years ago. 3.16% of this 17.3% renewable energy was from solar power in Australia – a massive jump of 29% from 2015. According to RenewEconomy, it’s expected to grow considerably in both small and large scale solar PV production – putting us well on track to reach our Renewable Energy Targets (RET) for 2020.

Solar Power in Australia

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton advised that 10 major wind and solar farm projects were completed in 2016 and there are 20 more in the pipeline; he’s confident that we’ll reach our RETs with time to spare.

“Every month brings new project announcements. While total investment in large-scale renewable energy was $2.56 billion last year, $5.20 billion worth of projects have secured finance in just the first five months of 2017 and have either started construction or will begin this year,” Thornton said.

“Innovation continues right across the renewable energy supply chain and new technologies such as energy storage are beginning to get their time in the sun,” he was also quoted as saying. We assume the pun was intended.

Solar Power in Australia 2017
Solar Power in Australia 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Target 2020

Some more takeaway statistics from the report:

  • Renewable energy provided 17.3% of all Australia’s energy in 2016 – up from 14.6% in 2015.
  • 6,750 battery systems were installed in 2016, 13 times the number installed in 2015.
  • Hydro is still far and away the biggest contributor to Australia’s renewable energy, comprising 42.3% of the total amount.
  • In 2017, building a renewable energy plant is now cheaper than coal and gas-fired power plants.
  • About half of the projects already underway or set to commence in 2017 are for large-scale solar, due to price per kWh nearly halving in the last two years.
  • Approximately 17,500 GWh of renewable energy was created in 2016 – as the Renewable Energy Target is 33,000GWh we still have a way to go but progress is looking positive.
  • Large scale solar is almost 50% of its cost two years ago and is slated to play a huge part in reaching our RET in 2020.

Click here to read the Clean Energy Australia Report 2016 in full at the CEC website.