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Australian news, and some related international items

Energy experts and executives are impressed by AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman

Zibelman is not on board the coal-power train with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Jones.
Views such as Jones’s are alien to virtually anyone who works in – or closely observes – the energy industry.
Energy executives are impressed. “I was quite buoyed by Audrey’s approach on demand response,” said Steven Neave, head of electricity networks for Powercor and Citipower, the largest Victorian distributor, who attended the CEDA lunch.
Zibelman said while the CET and consistent national policy would be useful for energy companies – because it would make their investment decisions easier – it wouldn’t make much difference to AEMO’s actions because the shift to renewables is happening and they have to deal with it.
AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman shocks jock with pro-wind and solar energy plan http://www.afr.com/news/aemo-boss-audrey-zibelman-shocks-jock-with-prowind-and-solar-energy-plan-20170713-gxace5Audrey Zibelman has barely been in the country 100 days. Yet she has already aroused such ire in Sydney shock jock Alan Jones that he wants her “run out of town“.

How has she done this? In one word, “energy”.

Energy policy has become one of the most polarising issues in the country. Electricity and gas prices are soaringblackouts and shortages plagued South Australia, NSW and Victoria last spring and summer, and debates about whether wind and solar power are to blame – even whether they can “kill people” – have hit fever pitch.

Zibelman landed in this cauldron in March, fresh from New York, to run the Australian Energy Market Operator – one of three agencies responsible for delivering stable, secure and affordable energy markets.

She is a cleanskin in the local energy debate but is hugely experienced, most recently as chair of the New York state utilities regulator–- responsible for implementing New York’s pro-wind and solar “Reforming the Energy Vision” plan – under Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo. Before that she was chief operating officer of PJM, a huge utility company covering 13 north-eastern states and Washington DC.

Get on with it

She has swiftly mastered her brief, impressing local energy executives, and is steadily becoming more outspoken about what needs to be done to put the energy markets back on an even keel.

On Tuesday she told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch that our politicians – who have been unable to agree on energy policy for a decade – should take the emotion out of energy and get on and back the 49 recommendations of the Finkel review that the Turnbull government has embraced.

There isn’t any alternative, she argued, because consumers and businesses are embracing wind and solar power, and now batteries, in mounting numbers – regardless of policy – as the prices of these new energy technologies continue to fall at stunning rates.

Expert policymakers like herself and the heads of the Australian Energy Markets Commission and Australian Energy Regulator need the tools that Finkel sought for them in order to deal with the consequences of growing shares of renewable energy in the power grid and less coal power, including price volatility, outages and blackouts.

To do this they need to redesign the electricity market and the price signals it sends out, to encourage energy companies and users to provide more firm capacity and grid stabilising services such as inertia, frequency and voltage control, and to participate in “demand response” markets. State and territory energy ministers granted her wish on Friday.

Demand response draws on the distributed energy resources “behind the meter” in people’s homes and business, ranging from solar panels and batteries to energy-hungry appliances such as air conditioners, pool pumps and electric vehicle chargeRs to automated industrial machinery, heaters and refrigerators. It offers customers incentives to reduce their power usage and export power to the grid to reduce extreme peaks and prices and avoid blackouts and outages.

In other words, Zibelman is not on board the coal-power train with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Jones.

“What I think we need to get out of is this idea that there is a silver bullet or a single resource that makes sense. Really it’s like an orchestra that’s grown much more complex but we can use them in an orchestrated way to optimise it and the music that comes out is that much better,” she said.

Jones’s response was to cast her as a villain in the Turnbull government’s existential war over energy and climate change, which pits Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and energy minister Josh Frydenberg against Abbott, Joyce and a sympathetic party room rump.

She’s “a lefty, a global warming hoax alarmist” who “says ‘get on with Finkel’ – well she should have been sacked yesterday, she never should have been appointed”, Jones told his listeners.

‘That woman – watch her’

“The woman is Zibelman, Audrey Zibelman. She wouldn’t want Hazelwood (a shuttered Victorian brown-coal power station) open. She’s totally opposed to fossil fuels. She’s the American head of the Australian Energy [sic] Operator.

“Who gave the woman the job? Frydenberg’s the minister. Turnbull’s the Prime Minister. You see, they think they can get away with it. That woman – watch her – she should be run out of town.”

Views such as Jones’s are alien to virtually anyone who works in – or closely observes – the energy industry. Energy is undergoing a technological disruption which threatens to be as transformative as the disruptions that have hit music, media, retail and telecoms.

Experts are optimistic about the potential for demand response to help avoid blackouts – even as more and more variable wind and solar power displaces coal power in the grid – because Australians have embraced behind the meter energy more eagerly than any comparable nation.

Nearly 1.7 million homes have solar panels on their roofs, business is embracing the technology as power prices soar, and battery installations are starting to take off from a low base. Small-scale solar connections hit a new record 475 megawatts in the six months to June 30, say energy consultants Sunwiz. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that Australia will lead the world with behind the meter energy accounting for a massive 45 per cent of total system capacity by 2040, comprising 44 gigawatts of rooftop solar and 15GW of batteries.

Energy companies and users have told AEMO and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that they can deliver nearly 700MW of demand-response power as early as next summer, and a whopping 1938 MW – more than the 1600 MW Hazelwood – by December 2018.

Unpack

Zibelman said on Tuesday that AEMO and the other regulators needed the powers recommended by Finkel to be able to “unbundle” energy tariffs to provide incentives for energy companies and customers to participate in demand response and grid-stabilising services such as frequency and voltage control, and inertia.

Energy executives are impressed. “I was quite buoyed by Audrey’s approach on demand response,” said Steven Neave, head of electricity networks for Powercor and Citipower, the largest Victorian distributor, who attended the CEDA lunch.

Zibelman was less exercised about the fate of Finkel’s Clean Energy Target, which the government has put to one side in order to push the other recommendation through the Council of Australian Governments.

Many people see the CET as the centrepiece of the Finkel review, because it would extend the Renewable Energy Target to 2030 and 2050 and expand its scope to include any energy source that can beat a threshold for carbon-dioxide emissions.

Zibelman said while the CET and consistent national policy would be useful for energy companies – because it would make their investment decisions easier – it wouldn’t make much difference to AEMO’s actions because the shift to renewables is happening and they have to deal with it.

“When we wake up, the way we have to think about it, it’s probably not going to make much difference.”

 

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July 15, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics

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