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Australia’s Northern Territory pushes for more renewable energy

In another significant step towards 50 per cent renewables by 2030, the Northern Territory Government has announced priority electricity market reforms to address system security and reliability, encourage private investors and maximise the amount of renewable power in the network.

These priority electricity market reforms will encourage investment in innovative solutions to the challenges of a modern energy market.

Better integration of new, cleaner and cheaper power technologies in the region’s electricity systems will boost industry and create jobs for Territorians.

The Territory’s power systems are evolving as they transition to solar. With current and committed large scale solar projects planned for construction in 2020, and projected residential and commercial rooftop solar system installations, renewable energy is expected to supply up to 16 per cent of electricity consumption by the end of 2020.

These reforms will:

  • improve coordination of solar and gas-fired generators (dispatch)
  • ensure there is sufficient generation capacity available to meet consumers’ needs (reliability)
  • facilitate payments between retailers and generators (settlement)
  • improve the efficiency of the provision of essential power system security services (system services)

Electricity industry stakeholders will be fully consulted on the detail of the reforms and their implementation through stakeholder workshops and formal consultation papers.

Two consultation papers have been released along with an invitation to join a Stakeholder Working Group.

The announcement of the Government’s priority electricity market reforms follows the Government’s announcement in April 2020 of the procurement of a large-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) for the Darwin-Katherine system at a project cost of $30 million.

Procurement of the BESS is progressing in line with delivery in the second half of 2022.

The Northern Territory Electricity Market Priority Reform Program and Essential Systems Services consultation papers can be found here.

The region’s Minister for Renewables, Energy and Essential Services stated, “Territory Labor is delivering more renewables because we know it means cheaper, cleaner power and more local jobs.”

These market reforms will encourage private investment in the new and innovative technology that will allow more renewables in our electricity system while ensuring reliable and secure power.

They continue the significant progress Labor has made towards the government’s target of 50% by 2030 with renewables projected to reach 16% by the end of 2020 – up from 2% in 2016.

Pushing clean energy

The state of New South Wales, home to Sydney and its iconic opera house, has designated a large area north and west of that city as the site for 3 GW of new renewable energy systems. Called the Central West hub, it will be the first step in a planned 17.7 GW renewable energy system for NSW.

Other renewable energy zones in the New England and South West area of the state will be developed to complete the plan, which government sources say will attract $14 billion in private investment and create 2,000 jobs.

The NSW climate plan released this year sets a target of 126 GWh solar energy by 2024, which is more than double the existing 55 GWh goal. Local regulators say 75% of the electricity in the state could come from renewables as soon as 2025, “provided action is taken against the imbalances triggered by increasing uptake of variable capacity.”

Last year, renewable energy set new records in Australia as a surge in wind and solar generation pushed the share of electricity generated from coal to an all-time low. Providing a combined 21% of electricity generation, renewables have also surpassed gas generation for the first time, one article notes.

While Australia’s energy mix is still dominated by coal and gas, together accounting for 77% of electricity generation, the latest data from the federal Energy Department make for welcome reading.

According to the official Australian Energy Statistics published by the federal government on Wednesday, renewable sources contributed 55,481 GWh (21%) of total electricity generation in 2019, an increase of 12% compared with 2018.

Renewable energy’s share surged on the back of a massive 46% jump in solar power, including large-scale and rooftop PV, and a 19% increase in wind power.

The largest source of renewable generation in 2019 was wind (7% of total generation) followed by solar (7%) and hydro (5%), as wind and solar overtook hydro for the very first time. The biggest individual surge was seen with large-scale solar power generation, which went up by 135%.

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