Any new bulk electricity generation in Australia will be sourced only from renewables
The only new generation that will be built in any great quantity in the next decade will be renewables THE AUSTRALIAN BY: GILES PARKINSON August 10, 2012 LAST year was a notable one for the global green energy industry: for the first time, the value of new generation exceeded that of fossil fuels. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, $US187 billion ($176bn) was invested across the globe in new plants generating electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass, while $US157bn was invested for natural gas, oil and coal. It is not a trend that is expected to be reversed.
This figure is rarely mentioned at home. Yet Australia seems destined for an even more dramatic turnaround in energy investment.
As the annual Electricity Statement of Opportunities published by the Australian Energy Market Operator concluded this week, there was no need for any new coal or gas baseload generation in the country for the next decade.
The only new generation that will be built in any great quantity will be renewables. Most of this will come from wind, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of the green energy plans, although solar may play a more prominent role in years to come. AEMO estimates that some
8500MW will be needed in total to meet the 20 per cent Renewable
Energy Target (RET).
It is not clear how much “peaking gas” (extra gas-fired power to meet
peak demand) will be required. But South Australia discovered that in
lifting its wind capacity to nearly 30 per cent of production,
virtually no new peaking gas was needed.
None of this will come as a surprise to the leading utilities, because
they have been carefully reading the same tea-leaves and market
indicators over the past 12 months. But it will provide some food for
thought, and possibly some ammunition, in the upcoming debate around
the RET, emerging as the biggest battle of wills and economic models
seen in this country for some half a century.
At stake is some $20bn in new investment, and probably as much value
in capacity that has already been built, because, as AEMO notes, wind
power is already lowering wholesale electricity prices, and hence the
returns of fossil fuel generators. By what extent by 2020 is hard to
Bruce Macfarlane, an associate director of the consultancy group
Exigency, has highlighted some of the issues that will be raised
during the Climate Change Authority’s review of the RET that must be
completed by the end of the year.
And it is more than just whether the 20 per cent target should be
increased or reduced, or “fiddled with” to reflect actual demand
rather than predicted demand.
Macfarlane notes that the fossil fuel generators, aware that
renewables are affecting the economics of gas and coal generation,
will probably argue that renewables should bear any ancillary costs
that they cause to the system to maintain security and reliability of
And they could also push for so-called “capacity payments” –
essentially compensation for operating at reduced output. These
measures exist in Western Australia and elsewhere, although their
effectiveness is hotly debated…..
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