Finkel: Storage burden falls on wind and solar farms, not system

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Chief scientist Alan Finkel has caused created controversy by recommending that individual wind and solar farms be responsible for providing “dispatchable” generation – a generator reliability obligation” rather than looking at system-wide solutions.

Although many wind and solar farms plan to include battery storage when they are built – such as facilities proposed by Lyon Solar, and say that the combined cost is cheaper than new gas generation – the renewable energy industry is concerned that a blanket rule may not reflect system needs and could add unnecessary costs.

“Many new renewable energy and energy storage technologies and solutions are now available to help manage energy security,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said in a statement.

“We need to accelerate smart reforms to encourage this rather than introduce punitive measures that would force renewable energy projects to include backup power, stifling innovation and unnecessarily driving up costs,”

The Australian Solar Council and Energy Storage Council also expressed its concern about the potential constraints on new renewable energy generation, without focusing enough on existing generation and networks.

Finkel does identify issue with existing generators, particularly their relaxed “governor” controls which experts say nearly brought the grid to its knees last summer because it meant that gas generators were slow to respond.

Finkel recommends that new wind and solar plants be equipped to provide voltage and frequency response, which the industry accepts. but it is struggling to understand why each new plant would need to add battery storage or strike a deal for “firm capacity” with a neighbouring gas plant.

This idea of stapling was proposed by AGL Energy, but is contested by many in the industry. “Reliability isn’t a function of each individual power station but all of the system,” says Tristan Edis of Green Energy Markets.

“Some business interests are trying to push for individual wind farms and solar farms to provide their own back-up, potentially making it mandatory that they have quite expensive batteries to cover all their available capacity.

“This makes no sense and there are likely to be far cheaper and easier ways to manage the fact that output from wind and solar farms varies.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 1.26.52 PM

Finkel’s own modelling suggests that wind and solar paired with storage or “firm capacity”  is cheaper than “baseload” gas and way cheaper than peaking gas. It is around the same price as brown and black coal, even with the coal being excused for their carbon penalties.

The Finkel review says the Generator Reliability Obligation will consist of new obligations for wind and solar generators to ensure reliability is maintained. The a mount will be determined by market bodies in order to maintain system security and reliability.

How much dispatchable generation is required in any region will depends on a number of factors, such as the percentage of wind and solar, the strength of the network, interconnections, the load profile, and expected future trends.

“In regions where dispatchable capacity approaches the determined minimum acceptable level, new generation projects should be obliged to also bring forward new (i.e. not contracting existing) dispatchable capacity to that region.

“This obligation should be expressed in terms of a percentage of the new VRE generator’s nameplate capacity, able to be dispatched for a required time period.

“The new capacity should not need to be located onsite, and could utilise economies of scale.” It suggests that multiple wind and solar farms could “pair” with new battery storage array or gas fired generation.

It seems particularly designed to control the deployment of wind and solar in more ambitious state-based targets.

“If technology cost reductions or policies such as more ambitious state and territory based renewable energy targets lead to very high levels of VRE in a particular region, the Generator Reliability Obligation would ensure that adequate dispatchable generation is also brought into the market to maintain reliability.”


  • David Creevey

    I wonder, isn’t there a counter-argument that additional VRE generator build will smooth out the variability and improve the reliability? I recall an article on Renew Economy written about this very issue. (

  • Chris Drongers

    No mention of pumped hydro for dispatchability, the largest, cheapest, most robust and best understood storage technology

    • Chris Drongers

      actually the review itself, but not so much Reneweconomy, gives considerable weight to the options for pumped hydro storage. Right up there with commentary on how complicated, technically challenging and economically difficult accommodating millions of generators and storages and consumers at millions of connections to the long, sparsely interconnected grid, will be.
      There is an acknowledgement that getting the incumbent generators and retailers to give up their economic power and right to operate in data silos instead of sharing information across the industry will be very difficult. Lots of incumbents squealing to Abbott and co coming up.

      • Ian

        Here’s a study by Irene
        It’s quite a while ago but shows capital costs of hydro from $1000 upwards/KWH but reasonable $3500/KWH. These schemes last a very long time, and that’s one advantage, but the through-put efficiency is about 75 to 85%

        Maintenance costs are about 3%, interest costs 5% so yearly cost per KWH installed @$2000/KWH is $160/KWH cycle this daily: 44c/kWh plus wholes sale price 5c/kWh / 80% = 50c/kWh not very good economics unfortunately.

    • juxx0r

      Actually normal hydro is just as dispatchable, even larger, even cheaper, even more robust and better understood.

  • Ren Stimpy

    Fair enough that solar and wind farms pay for their own storage, but such sites are like every other large generator – dependent on the grid lines staying up.

    Fink should’ve recommended an SSET (similar to the SRET) for home and small business storage. Connected via ‘smart network’, a highly distributed storage model will have had a dozen major benefits including better grid security, lower costs and higher and more distributed clean energy generation.

    An opportunity – and significant political capital – wasted.

  • Ian

    The LGC and wholesale prices together are very generous to new build solar farms and wind farms and make these exceptionally profitable. Large scale solar is competing directly with rooftop solar and many imposts are placed on domestic generators, low FiT’s, restricted grid access to export, fixed grid connection fees, the threat of taxing solar exports etc etc. It’s not unreasonable to tie battery storage to large scale solar and wind LGC entitlements, these are after all incentives to decarbonising the grid, however, grid stability and cost depends on rapid responses to dispatchability requirements. Coal is not dispatchable, gas is but slowly, so these need to be upgraded to include battery storage. Across the board then, all large scale generators should be required to install storage either on site or at the end of the transmission line. If the current needs are 5GWH of storage, then all large scale generators of what ever type should share the battery installation burden, if it’s 20 GWH then share that amount. Hydro is unique, in saying that it already is a type of rapidly dispatchable storage. Other rules should apply to once through hydro, namely, this should be reserved for its long term storage function. ie, it should not generate electricity when wholesale prices are below a certain threshold, eg no generating below $70/MWH

  • Clay Suddath

    “This makes no sense and there are likely to be far cheaper and easier ways to manage the fact that output from wind and solar farms varies.”

    Don’t they call it P2G?

    • Joe

      Of course it makes no sense to us RE believers. But then Finkel had to deliver something for the COALition ie barriers to slow down RE. I couldn’t imagine this happening in Europe. All so that that the COALition’s wet dream of Coal, “Clean Coal”, “HELE” Coal plants have a lifeline. Its all wrong, this country sucks.

  • Craig Allen

    I suspect that the government will ensure that the amount of storage/backup mandated is high enough that solar and wind remain uncompetitive regardless of how much their costs drop. They could simply legislate that projects need to include storage equivalent to a week of nameplate capacity, and no more will be built ever.

    • neroden

      There’s a reason home solar + batteries is quickly replacing the grid in Australia. They can’t legislate that out of existence. Spain tried; they failed.

  • Nick Thiwerspoon

    It might make a lot of sense for individual wind and solar farms to have their own storage. As the percentage of wind and solar in the grid increases, the probability of very low or negative wholesale prices also increases, because (without interconnectors to other regions) all the solar panels or all wind turbines will be delivering power simultaneously.

    If renewable generators had storage, they could store their electricity when wholesale prices are low/negative for use later when prices are high. At present, when wholesale prices are negative they must curtail output. Above a certain level of solar or wind penetration it might well be profitable for generators to include storage. It might also make sense for existing baseload generators to have storage too, as it’s even harder for them to curtail output.

    The critical variable in all this is battery costs, and they are falling so fast that it will soon make sense even for existing wind and solar farms to retrofit a few hours worth of storage.

  • Ray Miller

    No matter the plant technology it should still need the paired backup (which could be variable load management) that would mean a single 500MW coal fired turbine will need the same obligation.

  • yarpos .

    Yes of course , its someone elses problem. The supplier of variable power should be responsible for stabilising , not leaving others to pick up the pieces SA style

    • Jonathan Prendergast

      Is storage really necessary in NSW, where we have 3% solar, 4% wind, and lots of pumped and normal hydro?

      • Gary Rowbottom

        Probably not yet, but nothing wrong with adding some as you go, and not getting a little embarrassed at not having any when it would be mighty useful to have had some – SA has ended up a little like that, other states should well heed that lesson. NSW is a big contributor to emissions (I think the biggest in Aust), so it is lagging behind the rest of the nation, lots of hydro or not.

        • Jonathan Prendergast

          I agree. Add as you go.

          We were discussing reliability rather than emissions.

          For emissions, the case is even stronger to prioritise renewable generation in NSW rather than storage.

      • Clay Suddath

        How much would you need if you had say, 200,000 EVs to charge…? Can you be sure you’ll have sun/wind every day in the quantities and at the times needed…?

        • Jonathan Prendergast

          I would hope that EVs are charged smartly to make use of times of renewables abundance rather than adding to peak demand.

          • Clay Suddath

            There’s a lot of ‘hoping’ going on in America with the likes of Tesla et al pumping out thousands of EVs with absolutely no consideration for how the grid will be balanced, and the grid absolutely must be balanced.

            Meanwhile, in Japan, Korea, China and Europe, they’re doing what we call ‘planning’.

            Three years should suffice to see whether hopes or plans make for sustainable mobility.

            Meanwhile, I’m PLANNING to go to the Tokyo JO in 2020 where H2 technology will be on full display. HOPE to see you there ! J

  • itzman

    The correct place to put storage is at the power stations. That ensures that the lines connecting them to the grid are as utilised as they can be.

    Separating generation and storage or even generation and co-generation, as in the case of gas backup, leads to large and unnecessary flows across the grid, increasing its vulnerability to link loss, or overload.

    The cost of local storage is of course completely dependent on how much you

    put in… Is a night’s worth OK for solar, or should it be a winters worth?

    Certainly stockpiling a year or more’s coal is not problem, for a coal fired power station ( or uranium for a nuclear power station.)

    No renewable can ever hope to match that – except maybe hydroelectric.

    Renewable energy has for far too long survived on myth and marketing. Its time the truth about the holistic cost and environmental impact it has on the grid and on the environment should be understood.

    As an electrical engineer, if I wanted to build a low cost low carbon emissions grid, the last place I would start would be with wind or solar.

    • juxx0r

      “As an electrical engineer, if I wanted to build a low cost low carbon emissions grid, the last place I would start would be with wind or solar.”

      This is the problem. There’s too many retards in electrical engineering. And other engineering. If you just dont have the ability to think, maybe you’re better off driving a bus.

      • itzman

        I love an unexpected ad hominem in the morning.

        Shouldn’t you be back at work lying for the renewable industry by now?

        It always amuses me, that there are people who know so much they know that they don’t know everything, then there are people who know a little who think they know everything, and then there are people who because they know nothing, think there is nothing to know.

        • juxx0r

          Yeah, when you want something low cost and low carbon it’s always good to avoid the lowest cost and the lowest carbon.

          And then why would you expect to be called a retard.

          • itzman

            Well exactly. lowest cost and lowest carbon is of course hydroelectricity and then nuclear, and following that, if you class it as low carbon, is burning imported American wood pellets.

            Windmills and solar panels have been shown on the facts to contribute next to nothing to carbon emissions reduction, due to the lack of dispatchability mostly.

            And renewables have 2-3 times the cost BEFORE STORAGE of any other generating technology.

            With storage, 6-8?

            You sit there sneering at something you either know nothing about, or have deliberately chosen to lie about.

          • juxx0r

            This is why I lol’d when you claimed to be an engineer. I know more useless engineers than useful ones. Which is what happens when you work in engineering.

            On the facts.

          • itzman

            Failed your O levels did you?

            Sour grapes.

          • juxx0r
          • itzman

            I see the context isentirely omitted.

            That would be cost to the operator including subsidies?

            Not cost to the country eh?

            Well if its so cheap, why not scrap the subsidies. They obviously are not needed eh?

            No, I thought not!


          • juxx0r

            Oh I see, you’re a POM and likely reader of the daily fail. Well this is Australia mate and our Chief Scientist says that wind and solar are the cheapest. And 1000 applications to the AEMO a month tend to suggest that he’s not the only one who thinks that.

          • itzman


            All you are saying is your chief scientist has been bought,

            Do you actually know what the AEMO is?

            Until renewables are operating in a free market on a level playing field and are able to fulfil contractual obligations about further energy supply without get out clauses for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, nothing you or anyone else says has any more meaning than an excuse as to why they should receive massive subsidies.

            If they are cheaper, let them compete in a free market.

            If not, STFU

          • juxx0r

            Other power stations don’t have spare power stations for when the coal doesn’t burn or the cooling can’t keep up or the transformers trip. Level playing field my arse.

            Lol at your engineering.

          • itzman

            Thank you for completely demonstrating the level of your ignorance to any readers of this board.

            I rest my case.

          • juxx0r

            Enjoy your Hinkley C. And the Hinkley D to back it up.

          • FeFiFoFum

            Were you talking into a mirror?
            Ignorance indeed..

            Coal fired generators do have a nasty habit of tripping off when least expected and also tend to be restricted in their output during extremes of weather conditions ( only my personal experience). We had a few that were converted over to gas firing and they tended to be more reliable .

            Spinning reserve is carried on the network for that purpose ( in the event of the loss of a generator) so anyone who has worked in that industry would understand that you can’t expect 100% reliability from ANY generator.

            As far as I am concerned its not one or the other, but a mix of all, and how you manage that is dependent on that mix.

            We have UK and Germany announcing significant totals of renewables on given days ( over 50%?) and no suggestions of grid collapse.
            Its is manageable and we do have the technology to make it work.

          • #Indivisible

            Funny how you committed Corporate Socialists can parrot “let them compete in the free market” right wing pap, while you ignore the massive market failure the fossil industry has used since it’s inception, as their business model relies on them dumping their toxic waste disposal Costs, essentially Socializing their Externalities onto the populace and the environment.

            You folks are a particularly insidious and intellectually dishonest lot.

          • itzman

            Well as for socialising the externalities, that is of course hydroelectricity which destroys whole local habitats, biomass which destroys food growing ability over millions of acres, wind, which wrecks whole county sized bits of countryside, destroying wildlife as it does, and solar panels whose toxic waste of manufacture is even externalised to someone else’s country, and of course the cost of dealing with their intermittency, is externalised to other players in the power industry like gas operators and the national grids.

            So I would not cast the first stone if I were you. The physics of energy density ensure that the environmental impact of renewable energy will always be 1000 times greater than say a nuclear power station.

            And the inherent intermittency of wind solar tidal etc will always ensure they are never a solution alone, and will always impose extra strains on the grids they are connected to, but the cost of these is not borne by them.

            I am sorry you have to be the one to tell you that you have been sold a pup, but a pup you have been sold.

            Renewable energy is not marketed to power companies but to end users,. because they have the voting power to elect usfeul idiots to legislate for its adoption.

            No power company ex of legislation or a subsidy would give renewables a second thought.

            Civilisation exists because of fossil energy. Steam/coal wiped out every other form of power inside of 50years, and the internal combustion engine being lighter and more compact completed the process.

            Because they were better. Because they were true progress. Windmills belong in museums.

            Corporate socialism sounds to me exactly like the Green advocates of renewable energy. Greed and profit and complete disregard for society hiding behind moralising virtue signalling.

            Greens are by and large the people they warned you about.

            They were taken over by what you seem to call corporate socialism years ago when they kicked out Patrick Moore and airbrushed him out of Greenpeace.

            I cant magically give you wisdom knowledge and intelligence sadly.

            Nor am I blessed with psychic power to tell if you are simply a fool who has been cruelly misled, or a fully paid up member of the corporate socialist front making a living out of selling snake oil to the gullible.

            But I can tell you that behind the slick glossy marketing and all the talk about ‘progress’;’ renewable energy is an unadulterated heap of wombat turds, All chrome and tailfins on a 14th century ox cart. Its just another product to sell to idiots, and you bought it.

            Because it made you feel good.

            I spent many years building solutions for industrial customers. They dont buy stuff that makes them feel good. They buy stuff that has to work. The 21 year old IBM system 36 covered in glue that had run the companies accounts for 21 years ‘she still does what we bought her for, but we want email now’ . That’s value,

            People today have a choice. The choice is whether to commit cultural suicide by an overdose of virtue signalling trash, or whether to take the red pill and realise that by and large, there is an enormous difference between what makes you feel good, and what puts food on the table, a roof over your head, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, water in the tap and flushes your turds away.

            All that is done with fossil energy, and none of it can reliably be done with what paltry amount new renewables allow


            In the grand scheme of things we are entirely fortunate that only 1.6% of the world’s energy comes from wind or solar.

            And that is already too much – far too much.

          • #Indivisible

            Your dishonest gish gallop of un sourced assertions is going to be challenged.

            What part of it do you back up in a debate first?

            Pick it.
            Pick one.
            Or just start with your first assertion, back it up, then move to the second one.
            Use a credible source.
            Either way, Your very legitimacy depends on it.

            We’ll be here ready to verify every word.
            Take the challenge.
            Don’t gish gallop and run like all the other Corporate Socialism supporters.

          • itzman

            Do grow up

          • #Indivisible


            You refuse to speak to one part of your dishonest gish gallop in a discussion, even if you were allowed to cherry pick it, instead you act like a wave of the hand and the words “grow up” will make the challenge go away?

            Is that your way of somehow fooling people here that you somehow demonstrate credibility?

            Fossil energy production relies on massive market failure and has since their inception, over 100 years.
            That is a lot of Socialized externalities and dumped waste costs the industry has benefited from.

            If you refuse to address your silly gish gallop, do you think that leaves anyone here you haven’t already bamboozled with your donor class bs, with the confidence that you have a shred of legitimacy?

            Take the challenge itzman.
            Prove you aren’t a committed Corporate Socialist

          • juxx0r

            You know the chart I posted is from the article above.

    • FeFiFoFum

      Certainly stockpiling a year or more’s coal is not problem, for a coal fired power station ( or uranium for a nuclear power station.)

      Clearly you have never worked at a power station otherwise you would not make such a clueless comment.

      The ‘optimum’ place to put storage is at the ‘load’ as this minimises having to transport the energy in the first place.
      Your old world thinking about placing the storage at the power stations does not consider the fact that those lines tend to trip of from time to time rendering all that storage completely useless to anyone.
      Except maybe to that power station as a source for a blackstart to get it back online maybe ?

  • My recently extended computer modelling of a wind power, pumped-storage hydro and back-up generators system predicts the following relationships between system features.

    Table of wind, pumped-storage & back-up factors
    The factors in the table are peak demand power multipliers. Each row triplet describes a possible system configuration for 24/7/52 reliable 100% renewable energy generation*

    __ Wind power __| _ Storage days __.|_ Back-up
    ______ 7 ______.|______ 1.5 ______|____ 0
    _____ 5.5 ______|______ 1.1 ______|____ 0.15
    ______ 4 ______.|______ 0.7 ______|____ 0.3
    _____ 2.7 ______|______ 0.6 ______|____ 0.4
    _____ 1.5 ______|______ 0.4 ______|____ 0.5

    * Assuming of course that the back-up generation is from renewable energy, such as biomass burning – not diesel, nor natural gas, nor coal nor any fossil fuel.

    Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power

  • DogzOwn

    Outside major cities, especially at end of long skinny power line, where quality of grid power is dubious, brown outs burning appliances, responsibility denied by Distributors and Insurance, isn’t this where you need storage, with quick inverters to smooth transients and fill gaps from remote supply. Presumably, power from La Trobe Valley is perfect into transmission lines but the further it travels…..

  • neroden

    Deliberate attack on renewable energy. It will fail, of course; Australians are already going off the grid in high numbers and batteries are getting cheap enough that they’ll just be installed.

  • Clay Suddath

    In light of the modularity and fungibility of hydrogen, is it not a no-brainer to consider storage an essential component of any RE installation? If storage – and thus, grid balancing – is indeed Finkel’s only argument, why not just assume that it must form an integral part of RE systems? We thus counter his objection, thank him for the discussion, close the discussion and move on. Power to Gas (P2G) addresses precisely this problem and provides a comprehensive economic solution, as evidenced in already countless P2G installations worldwide. With smart metering, the grid would be readily balanced and more economical than coal while allowing for the multifarious uses of hydrogen (mobility, CHP, industry, etc.) in ways that coal cannot even dream of. Not to mention the enormous possibilites of exporting H2 to Japan, for example. While you’re at it, demand that Finkel put a price on the use of coal on public health before boasting of any price advantage that is quickly dropping…like a stone.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    If renewables are to pay themselves for ‘firming’, shouldn’t centralized large scale generators pay for their transmission costs, rather than customers?

  • coreidae

    All about propping up coal and gas generators, the network operators and putting impediments in the way of wind and solar.

  • Matt S

    It undermines the whole premise of a market, where ‘firming’ costs are spread across all ’causers’. I don’t see any problem in asking new VRE’s in constrained areas (SA) to contribute proportionally higher share towards localised FCAS reserves if the market operator deems that its required. This would indirectly result in the build-out of storage and/or GT. But just mandating it as an obligation without articulating what grid requirement its addressing is old-school, and I’m unclear whether the VRE’s will actually be able to get fair value for the services provided.
    Interestingly, I would imagine the proliferation of batteries will destroy a gentailers business model built on peakers… I wouldn’t think it would be in AGL’s interest to push it, unless they deem it would make their baseload plants comparatively more valuable by slowing down the deployment of renewables threatening their market power.