When Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen stated at the Press Council that no jobs would be lost in coal or gas through Labor’s policy he received a strong challenge from Mike Foley of the SMH and The Age (from about 40:00 on the tape) who pointed out that the Government’s modelling showed coal-fired power reducing from 25GW to 14GW, which was more than can be accounted for by stated station closure timelines. Labor is going harder on renewables and claims that 82% of power generation will be renewables by 2030. Surely this means early closure of coal.
Bowen said stations may close, the market will decide, but there was no causal relationship with the policy, and the small percentage is explained by the fact that if we follow the call to ‘electrify everything’, especially heating and transport, much more power will be needed.
Coincidentally AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) has just produced it’s 2022 Draft ISP Consultation plan which show coal disappearing, evaporating before our eyes.
Here are some links:
Goodbye to coal podcast RenewEconomy podcast
- Angela Macdonald-Smith in the AFR – Early coal power exit demands $12.5b transmission spend
Australia’s coal power plants are retiring at least five years faster than anticipated, requiring an acceleration of investment in grid transmission, renewable generation and storage to replace it, including $12.5 billion of urgent transmission projects.
Almost two-thirds of coal generation capacity is likely to be gone by 2030, the Australian Energy Market Operator said in its draft blueprint for the power grid for the next 30 years, which has been overhauled with the race to net zero emissions, which the electricity sector is now expected to reach well before 2050.
Power plants that run on brown coal are expected to have all shut down by early next decade.
Almost all coal power plants will be shut by 2040, with the last perhaps clinging on until 2043, AEMO said, anticipating closures will come much earlier than the official dates given by their owners such as AGL Energy and Alinta Energy.
That means a nine-fold increase in utility-scale renewable energy generation is needed to help replace coal power and meet higher demand for power as the economy electrifies, AEMO said in its draft 2022 Integrated Systems Plan, which was drawn up after extensive consultation with industry, policymakers, governments and other stakeholders.
In addition, more than 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines are needed to connect wind, solar and other new generation plant to consumers. Local networks must be reconfigured to allow two-way flow of power as rooftop solar booms.
AEMO’s base case outlook is now the “Step Change” scenario rather than the “Central” scenario used in its 2020 blueprint, which has been left behind by the rapid expansion of large-scale renewables and rooftop solar, and the accelerating shift away from coal power.
It is important to note that AEMO is not pushing a barrow, it is simply reflecting what industry stakeholders think will happen and we should be planning for.
Here are some graphs to grasp the scale of what is happening.
First, what the Step Change scenario looks like against the official closure times of coal plants.
Here is the pattern of coal closure by state:
This one shows the stunning increase in renewable energy:
Macdonald-Smith points out that the ISP:
- anticipates the construction of nine times the NEM’s existing large-scale wind and solar generation, from 15 gigawatts to 140 GW.
On a per capita basis, that means maintaining Australia’s world-beating rate of renewables growth of 2018-19 every year for the next decade to triple capacity by 2030, then almost doubling it again by 2040 and again by 2050.
Coal is a smudge at the bottom which disappears.
Gas, which is currently supplying about 4% of NEM power, maintains its output, but is dwarfed by the growth of renewables.
This graph shows that much of the storage capacity will be decentralised:
None of the above can happen unless a modern grid built to cope with decentralised power generation and consumption is built at an early stage. The ISP calls for more than 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines. This work is “Urgent and extensive”. AEMO has now released NEM Engineering Framework: Initial Roadmap, December 2021 laying out the technical requirements and strategic design decisions needed.
I suggest the truth is that we do not need to fret about closing down coal. Coal is leaving in a manner that may be disorderly. Our struggle is to optimise the outcome and keep the lights on along the way.
This is a three day intersection showing the daily NEM pattern which has been evident for some time:
Black coal is being ramped twice a day as solar floods in. Batteries discharging only account for 0.07% of the market at present with gas fired power at 4.2%.
Coal power is not meant to be ramped and it is not good for the plant. The biggest damage, however, is to the price. The following image is a representative day of the spot price in Queensland from a talk by Dr Maia Schwarzer, CEO of CleanCo, I think in July this year:
In the September quarter record levels of renewable energy drove down electricity prices across Australia:
- Prices were zero or negative for 16% of all trading intervals during the quarter, more than double the previous share set during the final three months of 2020 at 7%. (Emphasis added)
Stanwell explains that it costs more to stop and start a coal-fired power station than to suffer negative pricing. I did hear of one instance where a coal power station bought renewable power to fulfill its contract rather than crank up their own boilers.
The AFR reports that prices were at an eight-year low, according to the latest ACCC report. The Government claims credit where it is not due.
Returning to the AEMO ISP they see renewable power share as progressing in this fashion:
In remarkable synchronicity Labor’s Powering Australia sees 82% renewables by 2030.
The Climate Council has renewed its call for 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 with “so much at stake”. At the same time it has, with other organisations, issued a statement saying that renewable energy transmission lines are essential to reducing pollution, protecting climate and preserving nature. The scale of what is needed is shown in this image from the AEMO ISP:
When asked by Laura Tingle at the Press Council what the main drivers were in Labor’s emissions reduction plans Chris Bowen deferred to the Reputex modelling which mathematically gives it to the SafeGuard Mechanism, then “https://alp.org.au/policies/rewiring_the_nation”>Rewiring the Nation.
The truth is that both are essential, and then some. However, pushing coal out the door is not the immediate problem. It is leaving and we have to deal with the consequences.
It is a fair bet, I think, that Bowen was not surprised by the AEMO draft ISP. As to what goes on in Angus Taylor’s mind, no-one knows. I think not even himself. That constitutes a problem while he has access to the levers of power.