A study from the ANU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science found that Australia is leading the world in renewables deployment, is on track for 50% renewables by 2024, and will meet Paris Climate Accord commitments from the electricity sector alone has drawn criticism and praise for unlikely corners.
The study, published today, was led by solar PV technology pioneer Andrew Blakers, alongside co-researchers Matthew Stocks and Bin Lu.
“To meet our Paris target, using our assumptions, we need to get to about 55% renewables. Status quo deployment rate of renewables gets us there in 2025 in the absence of big changes elsewhere in the economy,” Blakers told pv magazine Australia. “It will be difficult to meet our Paris targets without a large contribution from renewables. “Fortunately, the cost of renewables continues to fall and the net cost of installing much renewables will be approximately zero.”
The Federal Government was quick to seize on the ANU findings: “The ANU research confirms the Government’s position: that we will meet our Paris target in a canter,” energy minister Angus Taylor responded in a statement. “The research also recognises the need for investment in new, dispatchable generation and storage.”
The joint ministerial statement, with environment minister Melissa Price, pointed to “significant demand and supply pressures” in the electricity sector experienced this summer despite the record renewable deployment.
“The Government is backing 24/7 reliable power by underwriting new electricity generation. This will improve competition, increase supply and reduce wholesale prices. The very strong response to the Government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments program demonstrates there is no shortage of willingness to invest in Australia’s future energy supply.”
However, and as Blakers notes, the 50% renewable share and Paris commitments will only be achieved if current high level of renewable deployment continues.
Renewables sector weighs in
In response to the ANU study, the Clean Energy Council says that the current levels of solar and wind installation are being fostered by the Renewable Energy Target – a target that will “has been achieved”.
“The reality is that the Federal Government’s current approach to the energy sector is undermining confidence in future investment, which is essential to reduce emissions across the energy sector and the entire economy,” said CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton in a statement. “The clean energy sector has the potential to make a huge contribution to reducing both emissions and power bills, as suggested by the ANU. But one of the biggest drivers of investment – the national Renewable Energy Target – has now been achieved. There is nothing to replace it.”
Storage, interconnection and demand response
The ANU study finds that stabilizing Australian grids with such high levels of renewable penetration is “straightforward” using technologies already being deployed today. A combination of energy storage, including batteries, EV capacity, and pumped hydro, alongside increased interstate interconnection and demand response will be sufficient to deliver secure electricity supply with high levels of solar and wind.
“The cost of hourly balancing of the Australian electricity grid is modest: about $5/MWh for a renewable energy fraction of 50%, rising to $25/MWh for 100% renewables,” the ANU report authors write.
The CEC observes that the deployment of such storage and interconnection technologies, including the Snowy 2.0 plan and Hydro Tasmania Battery of the Nation project, will require policy support and investment certainty.
“None of this will happen by accident. It needs planning, consultation and political leadership. The current lack of federal government climate policy, combined with ad-hoc market interventions, risks squandering the amazing opportunities outlined by the ANU,” said the CEC’s Thornton.