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Energy ministers pushed to remove barriers to disruptive technologies

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The clean energy industry is calling on federal and state environment ministers to push through reforms to remove barriers that threaten to stifle the deployment of renewable energy and the much-vaunted “energy revolution”.

The Clean Energy Council has written to the ministers outlining the barriers to deployment of large scale renewable energy, and to the deployment of rooftop solar and batter storage on households and business rooftops.

It is particularly concerned about the presence of rules that discriminate against new technologies, and tariffs that are structured to discourage the deployment of new technology such as solar and storage.

rooftopZen

The CEC says Australia’s predominantely coal fired electricity grid remains stuck in the 20th century, and policy makers, regulators and market operators are being slow to respond to new disruptive technologies.

“With ongoing cost reductions of renewable energy and battery storage, the pace of technology change will only continue to accelerate across Australia,” CEC chief executive Kane Thornton says.

“It is increasingly apparent that policymakers, regulators and market operators need to take a more strategic approach to prepare for future electricity system needs.”

Listen to Thornton talking to RenewEconomy editor Giles Parkinson below.

The clean energy industry is more hopeful now of a positive response than it has been in the past.

The COAG energy council has been transformed since the change of governments that swept across the states, and caused a change of ministers at federal level, in recent months.

Four of the council members – Tasmania, ACT, South Australia and Queensland – have targets of 50 per cent or more renewable energy by 2030 at the latest. And in Western Australia, energy minister Mike Nahan, a former conservative die-hard once dismissive of reneable energy, accepts that solar and storage will dominate the energy market within the next 10 years.

Indeed, there is widespread accepetance that an energy revolution has started, and could spread faster than anyone had thought.

But there are also real concerns that the pace of change may be artificially slowed because of the poor response from policy makers and regulatory, and a range of reglations that favour the fossil fuel incumbents.

This has become obvious by the regulatory and tariff measures against new installations of solar PV, including fixed charges, demand charges, low export rates, and bans on exports, higher metering charges, and in some cases refusals for installation.

“It is time to step up energy market reform to overcome the barriers to renewable energy and battery storage and start developing a 21st century energy system,” the CEC says in its letter to COAG ministers, who are due to meet on Friday.

“(There are) a range of barriers already distort the energy market. The result is frustration and delays to the efficient entry of new technologies that will empower consumers, deliver greater competition and lower energy sector emissions,” the letter says.

The issue is particularly important as South Australia – already with more than 41 per cent of its energy supply coming from wind and solar energy – about to see its last coal fired generator closed down within the next few months.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has said that even with the withdrawal of the last coal generator, the 570MW Northern power station, the reliability of the grid will remain wwell within the guidelines. Despite the fear-mongering of the fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies.

Still, the performance of the grid will be closely watched and hotly disputed, such as a recent outage in South Australia that was caused by a substation fault but blamed on wind energy.

The CEC has proposed a detailed plan to address and remove those barriers, and make renewable energy and storage a priority, and encourage a more strategic approach from regulators and policy makers.

The CEC warns that the pace of technology change will continue to accelerate with ongoing reductions in the cost of renewable energy and battery storage.

Of critical importance was the need for a mechanism to encourage the retirement of coal fired generators that had already operated beyond their expected operating life.

“More than 70 per cent of Australia’s coal-fired power generators are at or beyond their expected operating life, and the expectation is that they will be progressively replaced with clean, modern renewable energy generators, yet the electricity market remains stuck in the 20th century,” he said.

The CEC has proposed a detailed plan to address and remove those barriers, and make renewable energy and storage a priority, and encourage a more strategic approach from regulators and policy makers.

These include:

  • Accelerate the transition to a cleaner energy sector by overcoming conflict between institutions and ensuring that the National Energy Objectives recognise the importance of climate change policy and renewable energy commitments.
  • A strategic approach to South Australia’s transitioning electricity sector with reforms that can facilitate technology changes and increased renewable energy deployments, while ensuring reliability and at lowest cost.
  • Establish best practice regimes that end the discrimination of new energy technologies and their access and connection to electricity grids.
  • Ensure tariff reform that encourages innovation and consumer investment in new technology.
  • Work with industry to ensure a regulatory framework for energy storage technologies that ensures integrity and safety of battery storage installations and prevents discrimination.

  

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  • Ray Miller

    Energy Productivity? Why is this not included in the list of actions and at the top of the list?
    Minister Hunt seems to be confused that Australia is leading in Energy Productivity but the facts are we are less then average. The potential to make a very significant impact on energy demand and peak demand is huge. We seem to be locked into the generation side with over capacity, outdated, high polluting, inefficient etc. I agree with Kane that is very much 20th Century at the same time ignoring the energy productivity side which will solve (or greatly assist) a number of the problems at the cheapest cost.
    The barriers seem to be more of thinking and vested interests putting up the barriers.

    By doubling the energy productivity the renewables will automatic increase in percentage at no cost, at the same time further erode the incomes of the coal plants encouraging closures. This seems like the win win combination equation which will make it cheaper for everyone.