The current fuel mix within the National Energy Market (NEM) is predominantly made up of fossil fuels. Black and Brown coal still dominate the mix followed by Natural Gas. Which makes perfect sense as we live in a country which is rich in natural resources. Power stations can be directly next to the fuel source and provide low cost energy to an energy hungry population.
The retirement of old coal fired generation is not only inevitable due to the age of the plant and technology but, a necessary step to tackling the climate crisis. The International Energy Association has determined that CO2 from coal combustion was directly responsible for over one third of the 1⁰C rise in global average temperatures (taken above the pre-industrial levels).
Renewables have the potential to fill this gap with a much smaller carbon footprint than their traditional fuel counterparts. However, the nature of renewable technology is inherently intermittent. It will be important to have a broad-brush approach across technologies. This will ensure the balance between supply and demand can be met without increasing costs associated with fast response generation.
The Integrated System Plan (ISP) talks heavily about the need for Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) within Australia. There is no questioning that the sun will shine, and the winds will blow. But harnessing this on ageing and existing infrastructure will not work. Constraints are currently being placed on Northern Queensland due to the load centre being too far from the abundant Solar in the North. This is causing the transmission lines to be over utilised. As such, everything we are discussing in this paper is reliant upon upgrades to existing and new transmission lines ensuring that the capacity is there to service this technology which is not in the traditional load centre vicinity.
In exploring some of the possible Renewable Energy Sources currently available here in Australia, along with some which are not yet being used, we can see where we may expect the energy of the future to come from.
Renewable Generation Changes
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Written by: Kate Turner (Senior Manager, Markets & Advisory)
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