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WA grid could be 100% renewable by 2030, say Greens

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Western Australia remains one of the few Australian states seemingly in lock-step with the federal government on renewable energy and climate ambition, but a new study has found the state could transition its south-west grid to 100 per cent renewables by 2030 for cheaper than business-as-usual.

In a report called Energy 2030, the WA Greens modelled two scenarios for the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which found it was technically possible to achieve a 100 per cent renewably-powered grid through a mix of solar PV, wind, solar thermal, biomass and battery storage without raising the cost of power bills.

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The study found it would also be cheaper for the state to make this transition by 2030 – that is, adding around 500MW of new renewable capacity to the grid each year – than to continue with business as usual, with the addition of a carbon price of $30/tCo2 and with surplus generation sold at $30/MWh.

The research also finds that move to 100 per cent renewables would create 151,000 – 156,000 jobs to 2030 or about 12,000 new jobs a year.

The findings comes at an interesting time, politically, as the federal Coalition intensifies its campaign against ambitious state renewable energy targets, and as Western Australians head to the polls in March.

Greens Senator for WA Scott Ludlam says his party’s report has exposed the Liberal Barnett government’s “comprehensive failure” to tackle climate change, and to plan the state’s transition to renewable energy – currently renewables provide only 9 per cent of the state’s electricity.

“This state has suffered under a serious lack of leadership on renewable energy, starting with (WA Premier Colin) Barnett scrapping the Climate Change Unit in 2013,” Ludlam said.

“In his time we have seen the commencement of the Pluto and Gorgon LNG hubs adding a further 10 million tones of carbon into the air, which is in contravention to the Paris Agreement.

“That’s why we will call on whoever wins the election to establish a new government authority called Renew Western Australia, to get us back on track.”

WA Labor leader Mark McGowan has campaigned relatively strongly on renewables, recently revealing his party’s plan to power the major city of Albany on 100 per cent solar, wind and wave energy.

The announcement included about $112 million worth of commitments, including plans to take $19.5 million already budgeted for the now shelved Bunbury to Albany gas pipeline project and put it into a local wave energy project, most likely by local outfit Carnegie Clean Energy.

McGowan has also spoken often of his plan to keep Western Power publicly-owned and to create more jobs.

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WA Labor leader Mark McGowan. Image Source: Albany Advertiser

WA Greens candidate Tim Clifford says his party’s new research shows that targeting 100 per cent renewables by 2030 would create 156,000 jobs in the industry, through construction, installation and ongoing maintenance.

“Our modeling found that 12,000 jobs would be created each year, to build the infrastructure needed and provide ongoing maintenance to deliver 100 per cent renewable energy until 2030.

“This is higher than the number of people employed at the height of WA’s mining boom of 127,221 including construction, extraction, exploration, operations, administration and maintenance.”

A key part of the Greens’ Energy 2030 plan is to establish a new government authority called Renew Western Australia to drive the transition to 100 per cent renewables, responsible for planning and leveraging $500 million of investment into construction of new energy generation over the next four years.

It would also set up a $100 million Clean Energy Transition Fund to support coal and other fossil fuel energy workers with the transition, with $6.6 million a year to go to direct training and reskilling programs and investment for new businesses.

A staged fossil fuel Phase out Plan would also be established, based on new state based emissions and pollution intensity standards, to enable the orderly and stable closure of the state’s dirtiest coal and gas-fired power stations, and a fair transition for all.  

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  • solarguy

    Hopefully Labor and the Greens will get over the line in the upcoming election, must say it will be a hard ask to achieve 100% by 2030 in WA. I wonder if their modelling included the much needed storage?

    • Michael Baldock

      Intermittent generation was designed for in the two scenarios with solar thermal stations, biomass plants plus battery storage at the household and business premises level. What is actually installed by 2030 will likely be different but the main point is that it is achievable and cheaper than business as usual. The upside is that renewable and battery technology is falling in cost.
      http://energy2030.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/103/2017/02/Energy-2030-1.pdf

      • solarguy

        Michael, by biomass do you mean biogas?

        • Michael Baldock

          Biomass is the term used in the report. Ultimately in this case it is about finding alternative methods to generate electricity and use existing infrastructure in places such as Collie. I was at a presentation by Infinity Renewables last night that was looking at the potential of installing concentrated solar thermal in Collie and connecting into existing steam turbines instead of using coal. They have just completed the Vast Solar CST project in Jemalong. http://infinityoffshore.com.au/sectors/renewables/
          What the final technological solution is will be determined by detailed feasibility studies and the cost of electricity generated.

          • solarguy

            I have been doing some research on making biogas from sewerage and there is obviously plenty of that for feed stock and what I discovered are some interesting facts. 1cubic meter of biogas= 1.2lt of petrol in energy content. Many treatment plants would be suitable to have a digester installed and gas compressed and stored for use in gas turbine as a back up for when solar and wind weren’t able to contribute enough and when battery storage was low or exhausted for 5c/kwh.

            Green waste can also be used and has even more energy content. A lot of this green waste is going to make compost, but I believe it should be used to make biogas first as compost is the end product anyway.

            I’ll have a look at the link you posted, I’m a big fan of CST with storage.

      • LGH

        Their Solar Battery Policy is economic and environmental vandalism of the highest order. They are promoting the connection of batteries at points in the network where they cannot fulfil their most important function in reducing environmental footprint – being able to supply power back to the grid when it needs it. By localising supply only their proposal removes 50% of the potential benefit of batteries. The trouble with that? Because of their own environmental cost (manufacture/shipping/disposal) battery benefit for the enviro is marginal already. Utilise batteries at less than 80% of their potential and you are harming the environment not helping it. Money should have been spent on a smart grid first, with batteries located at COMMUNITY POINTS connecting MULTIPLE HOUSES. That is how we do it when working for enviro benefit and reduced costs. AMAZING how wasteful Greens are prepared to be with public money. THE RIGHT GRID FIRST, and batteries later, would mean we also got the batteries at a cheaper price and could make best use of them WITHOUT NEEDING a $600m public subsidy. The policy was written by children, well intentioned, but without the scientific and engineering background to see how their policy will harm, rather than help the enviro. -FROM A SUITABLY QUALIFIED ENVIRO CONSULTANT.

        • Michael Baldock

          The Greens Battery policy includes grid connected households and businesses and comments on the importance of batteries in reducing network peaks and improving energy security. That includes development of smart grids.
          The Greens Energy 2030 package covers all the things you mention above. I suggest you read the whole package first before commenting. http://energy2030.org.au/

          • LGH

            Good heavens – thank god the Greens vote will be shattered at this election and this policy has Buckley’s chance. You desire to throw $600m to China and the US on batteries first, connected in a style that UNLESS FUTHER CHANGES ARE MET will come at an environmental cost. So rather than say, get the ageeements in place for a smart grid first and build the smart grid and then install batteries at half the cost (and no longer requiring any government subsidy because they are now at the new price economically viable) you want to do it the other way around, in a manner that should a political gridlock occur later you have harmed the environment not helped it and where you spent $600m more than would otherwise be required. This is why I left the Greens and withdrew my donations and support. Pure ideology without sense.

          • LGH

            By the way Michael Baldock nowhere on here do you state that you are a representative standing for the Greens at this election. Making you comments very partisan in this manner and not wanting to admit the faults in the policy or your own self interest in defending them. Another shameful look by the Greens who I might add are so afraid of reasoned debate on their enviro policy that they delete and hide replied on their social media that provide links to ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP research into batteries connected in the manner proposed and conclude that they came at a significant environmental cost. Because without the smart-grid installed first and without INTELLIGENT LOCATION of batteries, not just having them installed in Peppermint Grove or Dalkeith as this policy would affect ANY ENVIRO benefits of batteries disappears. From ex director national solar business Regen Power, installer of battery connected solar systems (remote use) for 15 years, founder of Sunterra Solar, and Masters of Sustainability, deans honours list, + Grad dip urban management and the environment. What is your background and qualification to comment other than as a well meaning but ignorant member of the Greens looking to get elected?

          • LGH

            To be very clear Michael, candidate standing for election for the Greens, were the policy to design and activate the Smart Grid FIRST and put in place the legislation to enable households to play a role (buying, storing and selling/returning) power to the grid then NO SUBSIDY WOULD BE REQUIRED. And you could also be sure that the batteries would have a much higher utilisation rate, enough to tip them over to enviro benefit, not cost.

          • Michael Baldock

            Yes, I am the Greens candidate for the Seat of Bunbury in the WA election.
            Regarding smart grids in WA, it was only in November 2015 that Western Power and Synergy allowed connection of battery storage and electric vehicles to the grid. It was the advocacy Greens MLC Robin Chapple along with others that changed that and smart grids including batteries could then be considered in the WA SWIS.
            http://reneweconomy.com.au/w-a-sees-solar-future-but-battery-storage-and-evs-are-not-allowed-70610/
            Providing tax credit incentives that diminish overtime to help develop an industry sector is not new and batteries will be an important part of high penetration of renewable energy into the SWIS. Incentives were put in place for household solar PV with generous feed in tarrifs in WA yet for largely imported components. Governments have provided tax credits for cars and other business expenses especially during the GFC to help local businesses where you can argue that went towards imported products. If there is a case to attack these type of incentives the first target should be government subsidisation of Clean Coal and carbon sequestration and coal projects in the eastern states to the benefit of foreign companies and at great cost to the environment.

          • LGH

            It seems you site other instances of government waste to justify this one. The solar panel example is a good one. Without overly generous government subsidies in 2008~2011 the installs during that period would have been less, but we would have been able to install twice as many panels for the same money. Now, which do you think is more environmentally friendly? Moreover, marginal install cases (like solar panels being installed in shaded southern roofs would have been avoided as they only stacked up under government subsidies. At the time we could GIVE AWAY solar systems and still make profit the subsidies were so high. You need to realise this had a cost – government funds were drained into solar businesses (with as much as 30% going in fraud) and this was money that was not available for schools or hospitals or other enviro projects. Solar panels have an environmental cost, in the right conditions this cost can be recovered quickly. Start messing around with marginal install cases and the payback period gets longer… add batteries and it gets longer again. Add batteries in the wrong locations and it gets longer again and in fact often becomes a net environmental cost as recent environmental group studies in the US and Europe have shown despite being desperate to show the opposite. The fact is, the subsidy is unnecessary (batteries in 5 years time will be market competitive), and without the right smart grid in place WILL HARM THE ENVIRONMENT. What you are going to end up with, with this policy is pockets of installs in Dalkeith and Peppermint Grove, without the agreements or mechanisms in place for the batteries to interact with the wider grid except in a second hand fashion. Because you are a Green, you do not care if this exact instance of policy helps the environment, and you certainly don’t care how much it costs – you care only about putting pressure on for future changes to occur. You fail to realise, that one of the reasons we are slow in moving on the environment is that Greens lose credibility for these very reasons. How many schools could we get for $600m? How many more batteries could be installed if we shelved this policy for 5 years and in the meantime built the right conditions in the grid to allow the batteries to operate efficiently? HOW MANY FEWER BATTERIES WOULD BE REQUIRED to run the grid if $600m was invested in tidal/wave power? How many fewer if their installation was controlled by authorities and located where they could be of best effect? You do understand that the less batteries used in a sustainable grid the more enviro friendly it is right? I mean you are not an idiot, just a person trying to get elected that was hiding the fact from the discussion.

            One last thing I will agree with you on – yes, government subsidisation of coal should go too. Intelligent government investment in the grid should be the big push, just like with the NBN. Stop trying to subsidise Mr and Mrs Peppermint Grove and instead direct the investment to areas WHERE THE MARKET WILL NOT FILL THE ROLE ADEQUATELY. That is in infrastructure, not in consumer purchases like the personal choice for a person to install batteries, which they will anyway without subsidy as the price continues to fall.

            Wasteful in money, wasteful for the environment and worse, directing the funds away from where they should be spent. An ill-thought policy by a party that too often ignores the true costs of its ideological positions.

  • Andrew Oldfield

    They’re modelling selling excess energy for $30/MWh, to where, exactly?
    And they’re saying approx 12% of Western Australia’s workforce will be working 9n renewable energy projects? I might believe 150,000 job-years but not that many jobs

    • Mike Shackleton

      Investment in renewables would require construction of RE generating resources eastwards along the south coast, specifically wind turbines. That would extend the grid towards SA. SA is building their wind generating resources westwards so it wouldn’t take much more to connect the two states. Then WA could export energy eastwards.

      • Andrew Oldfield

        You’d need to build out a line from collie to pt augusta. 2000km or so. It would be very cool but seems implausible considering we haven’t built a new SA -NSW or QLD line yet that would be half the length to do the same thing.

        • LGH

          A hugely more promising effort, one that would also keep the dollars in the state rather than send them to US and Chinese Wind and Battery manufacturers would be to invest in Carnegie Wave Energy for undersea wave power. The extra investment would result in export dollars and employment at Carnegie AND SEE A MUCH HIGHER BENEFIT than their wholly wasteful $600m gift to Telsa in the form of solar batteries that harm the environment at public expense. Batteries can have a place in a sustainable grid but not where they are locked behind private homes unable to connect to a ‘smart’ grid. Plenty of research to back this – unfortunately Greens keen to delete any comments that point to it.