Clean energy sector says big batteries and pumped hydro can solve crisis

As Australia introduces more renewables to the grid, batteries – both domestic and grid-scale – are seen as crucial. Large-scale batteries, such as the ‘Big Battery’ in Victoria near Geelong, can store electricity in the event of an oversupply, so that it is available for delivery in all weather conditions.

However, since most large-scale batteries only have two to four hours of storage, energy officials and experts point out that other solutions, including fast-start gas plants and options Longer term storage, such as pumped hydro, will also be essential.

Alison Reeve, an energy expert from the Grattan Institute, said a mix of storage capacity and dispatchable capacity would be essential as more renewables entered the grid to “smooth out the bumps”.

“The problem with storage is that you end up running out of it,” Reeve said. “So there is an optimization question that needs to be asked as part of power market reform – how do you decide how much to store, versus the ability to generate power from other sources,” she said. “There is no miracle solution here”.

Negotiations between state and federal energy ministers over market reforms come as the East Coast power grid remains fragile. Wholesale electricity and gas prices are trading at well above average levels amid a cold snap that has boosted demand for heating, while a series of coal-fired power plant outages forced gas generators to fill the void.

Many power generators said they could not remain viable under the tight caps Australia’s Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had imposed to halt soaring prices, prompting them to withdraw supply bids. feeding the network and forcing AEMO to take control of the market for the first time. moment in its history.

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The AEMO lifted the restrictions following the return of more than 4,000 megawatts of supply, about a fifth of the grid’s needs.

However, as the winter peak period approaches, the network remains vulnerable.

EnergyAustralia, the country’s third-largest power company, has informed AEMO that it will be decommissioning a unit of the giant coal-fired power station at Yallourn in Victoria for maintenance by Tuesday, while the Hallett power station will be offline for the rest of the week. due to work undertaken by South Australian transmission network provider ElectraNet.

“We are doing everything we can to make our generators available to power the system when needed,” said Mark Collette, managing director of EnergyAustralia.

“Our gas assets operated seven times more in volume compared to the same period last year, playing an important role in keeping the lights on for customers. »

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