State-owned coal power stations to be retired by 2030
PERTH, 20 June 2022
“SEN welcomes the announcement by the Western Australian State Government to retire State-owned coal fired power stations by the end of the decade and to invest $3.8 billion in green power infrastructure” said Ian Porter SEN, outgoing chair and spokesperson for Sustainable Energy Now (SEN).
“SEN also welcomes the $550million support package for the affected communities in Collie as part of a just transition.” he said
“This is a good next step in WA’s emissions reduction in support of the State’s and the country’s net-zero transition.”
“The State Government has either completed or is in the process of completing the necessary preceding steps by setting up the Distributed Energy Resource Roadmap (rooftop solar), undertaking the Whole of System Plan (WoSP) process, redrawing the market rules, tariff adjustments and support for rooftop solar.”
“The government's announcement is broadly in line with SEN’s advocacy over the last six years. SEN modelling in the SEN Jobs Report 2020 clearly shows that if WA were to deploy wind at the rate seen in 2020 each year until 2030, facilitate rooftop solar to grow on trend, and commission large amounts of storage we could achieve 90% renewables on the SWIS grid by 2030 at affordable prices.”
“The transition would lead to thousands of new jobs, with half in the regions.”
“The State may need to deploy additional dispatchable generation by way of flexible gas (standby) generation before 2030. However, additional amounts of wind and solar must match the installation rate of the standby gas units, to ensure that there is minimal reliance on gas into the future”.
“In WA, gas accounted for 30% of the energy mix on the SWIS last year — compared to 2% in NSW, 3 % in Victoria and 9% in Queensland. SEN modelling demonstrates that most — and eventually all — of this gas can be displaced by cheaper renewables.”
“This requires the right policy instruments and market rules to encourage the uptake of utility scale renewables and supporting infrastructure”.
“We encourage the State and the planning agencies to maximise the use of renewables, especially utility scale wind in favourable locations with good wind resources and supported by private developers.”
“Favourable locations are known to be north of Perth and would require significant upgrade of the transmission system, including the critical Three Springs to Neerabup transmission line to enable this wind to enter the market.”
SEN’s modelling indicates, that while solar PV (particularly that of rooftop) is a run-away success, its capacity factor is only half that compared to wind. To optimise renewables and minimise reliance on fossil fuels, SEN estimates that, in the context of the planned coal retirements, an additional ~2.5GW of wind is required in the SWIS which is 2.5 times the current installed capacity.
As well as this added wind capacity, additional firming capacity in the form of batteries and/or pumped hydro is recommended so the reliance on gas fired generation can be minimised and ultimately used mainly in a standby capacity during lulls in solar/wind resources.
The deployment of new technology throughout the electricity sector is encouraged, including demand side management (DSM) which recent trials in the US and elsewhere indicated can significantly reduce peak electricity demand and associated costs.
“The privately owned 416 MW Bluewaters coal fired plant is not directly affected by the announcement and may benefit from the Collie closure by the increase in load passed through from Collie coal retirements.
“SEN encourages the government to develop emissions targets for individual plants and associated mechanisms to reflect the true cost of carbon emissions.” said Ian Porter
“I applaud the government’s intention to plan the transition of the energy system carefully” he said.
“The 2023 Whole Of System Plan (WoSP) currently being developed needs to set a clear and decisive direction for the SWIS in the form of an integrated system plan and not scenario possibilities as with WoSP1 . It will also need to be fast-tracked to meet the target announced.”
“SEN encourages the State Government to establish mechanisms such as Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) where renewable generation and green industries can be co-located.”
“The NSW experience is that REZs with visible government commitment, government investment in essential infrastructure, changes to regulation and providing power price certainty, attract high levels of private investment.”
“SEN’s analysis is that an informed and well-directed government policy with supporting legislative and regulatory changes is essential for a timely and well managed transition.
“As seen elsewhere, market forces alone cannot achieve the necessary signals to ensure a smooth energy transition.”
“SEN is also supportive of the Electrify Everything concept in the home, business, industry and transport to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel, increase our energy security, reduce emissions and lower energy prices.”
PO Box 341, West Perth WA 6872
Why is it so bloody hard to bring renewable energy projects to fruition in WA?
PERTH, 31 May 2021
Last week in a public meeting held by renewable energy thinktank, Sustainable Energy Now, it was revealed that there were no commercial sized Renewable Energy (“RE”) projects in development or construction in the SWIS (Southwest Interconnected System), the equivalent in Perth of the NEM in Eastern Australia.
This position in 2021 (in a world beset with global warming) and the reasons behind it, were the focus of discussion in the meeting.
Sustainable Energy Now hosted three senior energy executives to answer this question. Together, they represented the entire spectrum of the energy industry with combined experience in utilities; commercial project development; system planning and engineering; and leading-edge renewables development.
Geoff Glazier, Managing Partner at Merz, Richard Winter, General Counsel and Company Secretary, Solar River Project and Rod Hayes, Chairman of Balance Group, gave their views and answered audience questions in an open, challenging, and positive session moderated by Sustainable Energy Now.
In addition to the shocking status, the biggest take away from the discussion was that there is an absence of a commercial structure that supports new energy. So, even though there are investors and funds available, being unable to forecast how much energy would be allowed to be input to the system stops any investment.
How can you enter an energy provision contract with Aldi, for example, if you do not know how much energy you are going to be allowed to sell to Aldi in future years? If you do not know how much energy you will be able to sell, how do you know how much revenue you will generate? It is impossible.
What has brought about the current situation?
It was noted that rather than rules changing to make it easier to add clean RE into the system, the opposite has happened, making it harder. Contracts and rules have changed from just a few years ago when you could at least forecast how much energy you would be allowed to be paid for.
The SWIS market is now the opposite of countries which offer clear conditions of investment, the ability to provide steady energy supply and be paid for it. After all the complaints about intermittent energy supply from RE, even steady energy supply is not guaranteed to be allowed to be transmitted in the current system, and rules can change any time, destroying investments. Participants noted that no sensible RE investors want to participate in such a system.
Right now, Western Australia provides no support and has no plan to bring RE onto the SWIS system.
While it may seem like RE is just being forced to compete on a level playing field, unlike the current energy providers, new energy providers have no idea how long the current rules will last for them and have no idea how much energy they can sell. The system absolutely supports current electrical generation, no matter what emissions may be and no matter what costs may rise to in the future. So, the recipients of electricity supply on the SWIS, from monopoly supplier Synergy, cannot choose cleaner power and are stuck with any increase in fossil fuel costs as has been happening.
In addition to the above, new energy applications are not exactly fast tracked. The slow progress of network connection applications and agreements often means that offtake commitments have lapsed before construction can begin. It is no surprise then that WA is not attracting the elite RE providers in the world to set up an office.
While it was agreed that a carbon price is an obvious missing factor, the current rules are a more subtle way of making sure RE projects do not go ahead in WA in 2021.
It was noted that, though it’s easy to understand the drive to ensure that the system must keep the lights on, in a climate emergency, other drivers should also influence the challenge of connecting renewable generating assets.
Sustainable Energy Now has been watching as the transition to RE is generating masses of well-paid highly skilled jobs in the rest of the world. To have that occur in WA needs a commitment to a transition and changes to the underlying laws and rules which support that.
The result of the current position, having undermined RE, rather than enabled it, is that the next commercial RE project is many years away. Getting big projects up and running does not happen overnight.
SEN Policies Required for 2021
SEN believes the following four policies need to be immediately implemented to ensure a rapid transition towards net zero emissions as we head toward the WA state election in March:
Long-Term Planning For A Major Energy Change Is Needed
Changes to the sources of energy in WA from the transition to renewable energy (RE) will be the biggest change since the arrival of the Internet and cannot be allowed to occur with little to no planning, if we want to see good results.
WA Should Target A Renewables-Led Jobs Recovery
Cheap, reliable, and abundant renewable energy that creates thousands of jobs and decarbonises our economy should be an easy target. There is plenty of data to show that transitioning through construction and operational management of new RE projects will provide many jobs.
Gas Producers Should Measure Their Emissions To Give Accurate Data
Producers must be held accountable for the carbon and methane pollution that occurs during exploration, extraction, processing and shipping but the first stage is accurate information on how much is produced.
WA Should Get Its Fair Share Of Federal Infrastructure Funds And Use Them To Help Fund The Transition
While Snowy 2.0 is being funded by the federal government for the eastern states, similar projects are not being funded in the West. There is a need to negotiate a better deal for WA. Federal funds could be used to strengthen the Western Power network in areas where cheap renewable energy can be added to ideal locations.