Our electricity grid looks likely to progress more systematically to a cleaner more secure future thanks to Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel being brought in – to lead the analysis and policy recommendations. For those who could not make Tuesday night’s 2.5 hour session in Adelaide with him, here are some of the key comments made by him and his team:
1. Dr Finkel and SA’s Chief Scientist Leanna Read both see the grid becoming 100% renewable powered as the end point.
2. Dr Finkel is walking the talk: all electricity at his home is sourced from green power electricity and he is an electric car user.
3. He and his team will travel shortly to other renewable energy leading regions with few grid interconnections to share best practices for SA (Texas and Ireland), to high penetration locations committing to further quick transitions to distributed renewables (California, New York, Denmark, France, UK and Germany) and meeting GE and Siemens who are leading in creating distributed grid systems and controllers and grid storage.
4. Is looking at technology that is technically proven and cost-effective over a 20-year time frame and their team has chosen to focus on:
c. Battery backed frequency controlled synthesis and converted fossil fuel turbines to be on standby for grid stability;
d. Storage (pumped hydro, batteries) and Combined Cycle Gas turbines to add more “on demand dispatch-able power”;
e. More interconnections, competition and two-way flow of power on the grid.
5. His team has chosen not to consider further:
a. Any more baseload of any kind – the grid does not need more fixed output generators, but instead only fast acting on demand dispatchable generators;
b. Asked about coal, he does not see any financiers backing the risk of building any more coal power stations in Australia;
c. Asked about nuclear, he does not see over the 20 year horizon any technologies being proven or cost-effective and thus getting funding;
d. Wave and geothermal for same reasons as nuclear;
6. Often raised the theme “social licence” – gas fracking and nuclear has lost its license in much of Australia, and grid retailers are at risk of losing theirs if they don’t improve transparency, quality and fairness.
7. The grid needs more competition with more suppliers (especially in SA).
8. There needs to a system transition that meets three key goals: meeting our Paris obligations, grid security and affordability; cannot focus on just 1 or 2 sides of the triangle in transitioning to the new grid.