South Australia moves to fast-track big battery developments


South Australian companies planning to build large-scale battery energy storage systems can now apply for planning exemptions to get their projects off the ground faster as the state government seeks to accelerate the roll out of battery developments to help stabilise the grid as the rapid uptake of renewable energy continues.

The state government said companies seeking to build big batteries can submit expressions of interest (EOI) for Crown Sponsorship from the Minister for Energy and Mining for their proposed development.

The Department of Energy and Mining (DEM) said these projects will be considered for a planning exemption, which could streamlined the approvals process and improve project timelines. The exemption pathway relates to planning approval of the battery energy storage systems component of a project only.

The move comes as the state government seeks to introduce new dispatchable firming capacity into the market by 2027 to address reliability gaps forecast by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The DEM said grid-scale battery storage facilities have a key role to play in supporting the reliability and security of South Australia’s grid, which already has an average share of variable renewable energy of more than 70%.

“South Australia has transformed its energy system from 1% to over 70% renewable energy in just over 16 years,” the department said.

“The high penetration of solar and wind in the state means periods of low renewable resources could have a high impact if there is insufficient dispatchable firming technology.”

Large-scale battery storage can store and release energy over short periods of time, with the flexibility to respond to grid events in fractions of a second contributing to grid stability.

The EOI applications must be received by 15 November 2023.

The announcement coincided with electricity transmission network operator ElectraNet’s forecast that South Australia is expected to reach “net” 100% renewables on an annual basis within four years.

In its latest Transmission Annual Planning Report (TAPR), ElectraNet said data from AEMO shows South Australia “will reach 100% net renewable electricity generation by 2026–27, two years earlier than forecast last year.”

The planning report notes wind and solar energy supplied all of South Australia’s electricity demand for at least part of the day during the 12 months to 30 September 2023. The share of renewables averaged more than 70% throughout that period.

“Energy from renewable sources supplied about 71% of South Australian electricity generation in 2022-23 and is forecast to exceed and remain close to 100% of South Australian demand from 2026-27,” the report reads.

ElectraNet said the state has “frequently” experienced periods of 100% or more instantaneous renewable energy since October 2021 and has demonstrated that operating at 100% instantaneous variable renewable energy is achievable.

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