CSIRO, networks put lie to conservative campaign against wind, solar | RenewEconomy

CSIRO, networks put lie to conservative campaign against wind, solar

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CSIRO and networks body put a lie to the conservative campaign against wind and solar, saying Australia could reach renewable energy levels in the high 90 per cent by 2050 and South Australia could reach 80 per cent by 2036 without affecting reliability, or increasing costs.

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Australia’s premier science body and the owners of the country’s electricity networks have put a lie to the conservative campaign against wind and solar, saying Australia could reach renewable energy levels in the high 90 per cent without compromising the reliability of the grid.

The CSIRO and the Energy Networks Australia also say that such grids will be cheaper than business-as-usual, and as a way of illustrating the pathway forward show how South Australia could be powered 80 per cent by wind and solar by 2036.

See also our story: CSIRO sees $100 billion savings in zero carbon grid by 2050.

The South Australia situation is deeply topical, because right-wing bloggers and think tanks, many in mainstream media and state and federal Coalition have used recent outages and price spikes in the state as an excuse to criticise wind and solar and state-based Labor targets that aim for 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

But the CSIRO and networks study – Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap shows that way more than 50 per cent could be integrated into the grid without too much problem. By 2050, and Australia-wide, it could and should be in the high 90 per cent level for renewables, and nearly all of this will be wind and solar.

The report says that a range of new mechanisms will be required to ensure that the security of the power system is maintained as the sources of generation change at both the transmission and distribution level. And those initiatives should be put into place soon.

But this is how a three-day period in summer, and a three-day period in winter may look, with 80 per cent renewable energy in South Australia in 2016. (South Australia is already nearing 50 per cent wind and solar and will likely reach that point in the next 12 months).

csiro south oz

In the summer scenario, nearly all the demand is met by wind, large-scale solar and rooftop solar, with battery storage and gas plants filling in the gaps. (Some have forecast that rooftop solar will meet all of daytime demand for the state on some occasions as early as 2023).

In winter, with less renewables in this three-day period, more gas is needed. What’s interesting to note is that “baseload” power, in this case combined cycle gas plants, are hardly needed at all. The system changes to one focused around renewables and flexible generation.

The report notes:

In the example shown for summer (Figure 21), excess energy will be produced in the middle of the day, some of which is transferred to battery storage. Overnight demand is met from battery storage, in combination with some baseload, peaking gas and a small amount of dispatchable biomass.

Figure 21 also indicates that on the third day it remained sufficiently windy overnight (green), which allowed for renewable diversity to meet the energy balance on that day without the need for other capacity.

In Figure 22, winter renewable output in 2036 can be observed as being lower than during summer, and as such the system producing less energy for battery storage during the day. This results in the system needing to utilise gas peaking plant much more during this period. It should be noted that this example could be modified to include other solutions such the deployment of further demand management or state interconnectors.

This example ultimately demonstrates that individual NEM region balancing is unlikely to rely on one single strategy or solution but will need to consider all possible combinations of solutions to provide a secure and reliable power system.

As more low emissions generation is installed, and in the absence of sufficient alternative strategies, consideration should be given to the needs of each NEM region. This includes if there is a need to specify a requirement for provision of firm capacity to meet the system security needs – the amount needed to deploy to support intermittent renewables in special circumstances.

Of course, wind and solar are not the only technologies. Battery and other storage technologies also thrive, as do smart controls. Electric vehicles become popular and micro-grids are also widely used. And the way the network is run also changes dramatically.

“Australia’s future power system must transform to become a sophisticated and intelligent network that will enable new and diverse technologies and services; increasingly dynamic markets and access to third parties; more active customer choice and control; and, new business models,” the report says.

This next graph illustrates the issue about minimum demand in South Australia any 2027 under different scenarios.

csiro south oz 2027 copy

As this graph shows, by 2027 the state could be experiencing significant negative demand on certain days in summer months, largely as a result of solar – both rooftop and large-scale. Managing these swings, it says, will require close attention, both in the deployment of smart controls, storage and market design.

But other states will also have issues. This next graph shows that Tasmania could also reach near zero minimum demand by the same date. “This should not pose excessive challenges in terms of balancing and frequency control,” the report says, although careful planning will be needed.

csiro states 2027

Next is the graph that shows how the CSIRO and the network owners envisage the grid being powered by 2050. It is almost exclusively wind and solar, with a little bit of hydro, a tiny bit of gas, and storage.

csriro oz 2050

The analysis assumes a primary role for storage in balancing the output of intermittent variable renewable energy.

The other solutions include the use of synchronous condensers, large-scale batteries, flywheel technology and emulated inertial responses from wind farms. Additionally, the distribution system is also a potential source of new ancillary services to support transmission-level system stability, and that means storage paired with solar on homes, business, and in communities.

While battery storage is forecast to provide the dominant new source of energy balancing, pumped hydro storage, ‘Power to Gas’ hydrogen storage, concentrated solar thermal generation, demand management and other systems could all play the same role.

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  1. Jack Gilding 4 years ago

    I wonder what is the basis of the assumption that electricity demand will increase by 50% between 2015 and 2050 and whether this is for network delivered electricity or if it includes the self-consumption of the large predicted increase in rooftop solar. Surely any sensible policy for moving to zero emissions has to start with a full-on effort to increase energy efficiency and manage demand. I do note that they are assuming a “20% adoption of electric vehicles by 2035”. But I guess it might be a bit optimistic to expect the Energy Networks Association to argue that the grid we have is enough!

  2. DevMac 4 years ago

    Is it worth considering avoiding the term “right-wing” where it refers to people who actively dispute science and refer to them instead as “those who disagree with the scientific consensus” or “science deniers” or “conspiracy theorists” or some other terminology?

    Right-wing is political, whilst science is not. Using the term right-wing in regards to science and the advice of experts politicises the issue. It also seems to me that politicising the issue of climate, in particular, galvanises those that are right-wing against it because they see it as left-wing.

    Denigrate and humiliate the science deniers as much as possible, but don’t paint them politically, as that will have the opposite effect to that which is desired. We want right-wingers who believe science to be on the side of renewable energy. Capitalist, small government, free-market thinking can co-exist with renewable energy and the environment, but not if you paint them entirely as the enemy.

    Think tanks should be identified by where their money and membership comes from: “Fossil-fuel, mining, and tobacco company sponsored think tank Institute for Public Affairs” for example.


    • Giles 4 years ago

      worth considering. Except for one small point, almost to a person, climate deniers are right wing. it goes hand in hand with their ideology. if climate science is real, governments have to intervene. right wingers won’t want government intervention. nd the sad fact is that this has become a political issue – in english speaking countries, right wingers deny climate change. would love to do that with IPA, but we just guessing on sources.

      • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

        Which right wingers – the Republican ideologue right wingers, or the us-first people? Most of the 60 million who voted for Trump are us-first people. They in fact want Trump government interventions to “Make America Great Again”. If only they were aware that solar panels and LED lighting and electric cars etc could save them a shit ton of money (yes with just a small amount of government intervention), then climate change would be well on its way to being solved – with improved productivity to boot.

        Have to agree with Dev Mac. We’ll win this argument one way or another, but better to win graciously and more inclusively – win them over with sweet economics rather than bitter politics.

        • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

          Don’t get me wrong I still want to crash tackle the ideologue right winger MPs who just don’t have the capability to learn on the job.

          • DevMac 4 years ago

            Hit them over the head with a “rational thought correction” bat

          • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

            Nah just the usual stock standard spear tackle / payback for a high shot / grind them into the dirt crusher combo type of tackle.

        • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

          “solved”? the only greater inertia than has unconscionably been exhibited by energy industry incumbents’ behaviour in the past 30-40 years is the 300-3000 years of inertia built-in to inevitable sea level rises This happens even if we could magically stop all CO2 emissions this afternoon, and magically do safe geo-engineering to ever-so-slowly start the gargantuan task of permanently sequestering the umpteen gigatonnes of CO2 squirted skyward in the past 2 centuries. We should accept/nurture our tiny fragile patch in the vast cosmos with humility and try very hard to “win the battle” against our own dumb hubris.

          • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

            Hey I was rooting for Hillary. I think all rational-minded people were rooting for Hillary too. But Hillary lost. Sad but true.

            Sixty f-ck-n-g million people voted for Trump in a so-called educated society. They don’t give a Rat’s Anooss about your opinion or my opinion.

            So now to the 300-3000 problem. Do we keep force-feeding our moralistic collective and complex and at times greenie solutions for climate change down these people’s throats? And in turn alienate them further and turn it into the 500-5000 problem?

            Or is it time to try a different tack? We can easily simplify the problem down to the universal language – economics. If only we were prepared to cease the brow beatings.

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            hey, reduce all the effort of the climate movement to “moralistic” then show we haven’t solved climate, then go on to assert that you know better and it’s proof that your methods work better. show me your data, because these a lot of research going into Climate communication methods and impacts. For a start arguing with deniers is a waste of time and energy and only legitimises their views in the eyes of some and provides them with a sense of purpose to continue with their mad catastrophic agenda. Referring them to the 97-99% scientific consensus on the causes and impacts of climate change is the better path and has been shown to work better on many of the conservatives you’re referring to.

          • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

            Just have a look at the US election result. 60 million people voted for Trump.

            You’re right about arguing with climate change deniers. A waste of time and energy.

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          Except many of them probably eat meat from ruminant livestock and thats the single greatest GHG emissions source on the planet today. BZE puts Australian Land Use emissions at 56% of national total, when you do the accounting in a more rigorous way than the UNFCCC and use a more timeframe more relevant to methane emissions i.e. 20 year GWP.

          • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

            You’re never going to get average people to change their meat consumption. Trying to do so is counter productive – it will only cause people to associate climate change action with vegetarianism. Not good. Try telling the typical Trump voter they have to cut back on their meat consumption. Also it’s probably unnecessary because science has made real progress in solving methane emissions from cow burps. There was a piece on the ABC recently which showed Australian researchers who added a small amount of a certain type of seaweed to cattle feed could almost eliminate methane emissions. Could be an export industry in and of itself – selling methane elimination feed additives to the world’s livestock producers.

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            you seem to be an expert in these matters. and yet you know nothing. Meat consumption in USA is falling fairly rapidly in fact for a variety of reasons, one being environmental impacts, but there are many.

          • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

            Everyone’s an expert on everything.


            Total meat consumption was at its highest ever level until the GFC hit. Yes there is a steady downturn in red meat but with an increase in the consumption of white meat more than making up for it, and health concern is the reason.

            In terms of climate change there are no shortage of emissions in the poultry and egg producing sectors as well, with manure being the main source of methane emissions. Again this can be resolved, with manure collection systems which capture the methane and use it to generate electricity on site.

      • DevMac 4 years ago

        Maybe that’s the way it is because that’s the way it’s been painted historically. Chicken / Egg problem.

        IPA funding isn’t public? For an entity that so heavily bends the governments ear, that’s troubling.
        Keep up the good work Giles, thanks for taking the time to reply.

      • Nick Potter 4 years ago

        Giles, good point re “small government” advocates. And where has small government with little regulation got the US? Big pharma running their health system, astronomical higher education fees, the sub-prime mortgage boom which led to the GFC. In Australia it’s privatised infrastructure like Sydney airport, large untaxed corporations, banks with no regard for customers just profits…..

      • Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

        Hi Giles and thanks for your work.
        The right/left nature of our political systems is entirely ideological and splits society almost exactly in half, effectively removing the voice of the people. When ideology rules logic, reason, truth and facts are optional and disposable extras for both sides.
        The ‘Lock the gate’ movement showed well over 90% of people are environmentally concerned but, because the greens took the environment into that political bunfight and positioned it on the left, around 50% of the people will never vote for them on purely ideological grounds. Ideology is easily manipulated by the unscrupulous and usually is.
        The problem is a completely dysfunctional joke of a system where leadership is determined by who is the least worst unprincipled lying thief, practically all of whom are owned by ‘business as usual’. Personally I’m unwilling to give these mongrels on either side any oxygen.

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          “splits society almost exactly in half,”

          Oh really? ALP are in neoliberal lockstep with Libs and Nations (agrarian socialism mixed with neoliberalism and crony capital links to resources sector) on general economic policy and have been since Keating embraced economic rationalism and ‘big-picture’ economics.

          • Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

            I couldn’t agree more, the actual difference is negligible. Most of them are unprincipled lying thieves. However the real world effect of their garbage is an almost equal ideological split. As the public argues, cancelling each other out and, effectively, removing the voice of the people ‘business as usual’ carries on regardless.
            As I mentioned ideology is nonsense and the easiest thing in the world to manipulate. Democracy is a scam.
            BTW so are all our current political systems. The character of politicians is universal.

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            As Churchill apparently once said, it’s the best “Scam” we have going so far. He was a political and a Torrie one at that but they’re not all the same, just too many of the pathological types rise to the top because the culture has been set to defer to that.

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          “The problem is a completely dysfunctional joke of a system where leadership is determined by who is the least worst unprincipled lying thief, practically all of whom are owned by ‘business as usual’. ”

          I’d say most-lying wins leadership contests at least half the time, in Australia, UK and USA at least.

      • Jon 4 years ago

        Just because climate deniers are mostly right wing, does not mean that all right wingers are climate deniers. DevMac makes a very good point about not perpetuating the politicisation of the issue. It’s like Pauline Hanson saying all muslims are terrorists – Rubbish!

        • Giles 4 years ago

          Look what’s happened to Trunbull’s idea of a emissions intensity carbon price. pulled within 24 hours. Happy to be guided, on condition you can name me one of Coalition right wingers who does accept climate science. And we not talking about traditional conservatives or small l libs (turnbull, bishop, hunt and frydenberg), we talking right wing.

          • Jon 4 years ago

            You’re talking about politics again rather than the issue. I’m sure there are many liberals voters who support climate change policies….just like there are probably many labour voters who don’t.

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            Frydenburg might claim to accept Climate science as might Hunt before him. But the implications of his policy initiatives and running lies about renewables in the national media are effectively climate denialist policy because the implications of the world not getting transformational reductions in emissions (including the politically problematic land use and FF sectors) is near to mid-term ecosystem collapse at ‘best’ (from an anthropocentric POV) and civilisation collapse at worst.

  3. Michael Gunter 4 years ago

    A Tweet I sent during the excellent webinar said Figure 21 was showing “>12hrs large scale PV in winter”. I was wrong so deleted that tweet. But look again at Fig.21 and explain why large scale PV in summer would have broader daytime footprint than domestic PVs. Most (all?) are not steerable, and we’re not talking CST+storage (with their heliostats). This nitpick is small beer, and the really big jug of Ruddles County Ale is the agnosticism implicit in David Swift’s (AEMO) that 50 to 67% of “synchronous centralised sources” will be zero carbon in 2050. Are there any credible independent costings for CST+storage or nuclear that say this can be done without massive energy poverty? Please Giles set me right if I misunderstood what Swift said

    • David Osmond 4 years ago

      9 of the 12 winners in the ARENA large scale solar grant have single axis tracking. I suspect CSIRO are assuming that most large scale will have tracking.


      • howardpatr 4 years ago

        As the efficiency of PV increases there is more income to offset the additional costs in tracking. The best LG modules will have 22% efficiency – bit different to the 14% efficiency of just five years ago.

        Sunpower is really pushing tracking with their high efficiency products.

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          And PERC cells (to become the norm within five years) will be lighter I expect, so less weight to rotate and support, reducing costs on single axis motors, fixings and construction.

    • Andy Saunders 4 years ago

      Most new large-scale solar is planned to be steerable.

  4. Stephen Gloor 4 years ago

    Why would you imagine science or any factual studies will change the attacks of people in the IPA or the climate denier rump of the LNP? Their arguments are based on emotion and what they term ‘common sense’. They are also beholden to the people that pay their bills so why bother? It is really easy to sell to a gullible population that coal ‘base load’ is real and if we don’t have it we will be reduced to living in caves with candles. This is what they are selling. On the one hand is the the conservative ‘right’ with fossil fuels and prosperity and the the other the ‘tree hugging left’ with greenies, hippies, caves and candles. This is not a scientific argument and you are, in essence, bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    They had all the information before this study came out that nothing renewable was at fault with the outage in SA however they still attack it. Anyone who can blame the outage of two coal plants in Victoria to renewables in SA clearly is not operating on any plane that involves science or reason.

    They have their own agenda which is delivering the outcomes their political and financial masters dictate. There are some that know this, and some sheep that follow because they agree with emotions and sentiment in the agenda. I always used to say to deniers that I hoped they were getting well paid for the shit they were peddling and if they weren’t they were really missing out on having a nose in the trough.

  5. matt bounds 4 years ago

    I’ve looked at that headline a few times and read the first couple of paragraphs, but it’s still not clear what the headline actually means. Are the CSIRO and networks fuelling the conservative campaign with a lie, saying that the conservative campaign is based on lies, or something else?

  6. Cooma Doug 4 years ago

    There have been many think tanks putting this together. All the load management requirements are good. As time goes the large base load concept looks worse.

    I believe that the speed and targetting of the load side responses will be more significant than has been assumed in the thinking here.

    The speed and response on the load side will essentially split the grid. Each load will effectively be isolated from the grid and function as if independant of the grid. Because of the speed of response, each location will effectively have a different frequency response multiple that will reflect and crush event power swings in the first half cycle. (0.008 seconds)
    Such loads will be effective grid contributers and the ancilliary service providers.
    Unlike now the service will be almost entirely removing loads or storing generation. I really cant see large gas gens on the HV side waiting for low frequency response in 2040. Then taking a minute to provide a response….it just doesnt fit with the speed and accuracy or the load side
    There wont be large 600 mw individual gens tripping as the coal gens do now. I believe that the load side responses would easily manage the largest generation failures ever experienced on the eastern grid’s last 100 years.

    Another obvious fact is the stability of the grid will require a different market. There will be no incentive for large plant waiting for huge price swings. This will enable some plant to move to a much greater capacity factor as well as running longer and more efficient. Some existing power stations could moth ball half their plant.
    There are many things that will emerge from this overdue move that are rarely mentioned today in the status quo.

  7. Analitik 4 years ago

    The report talks of 34GWh of battery storage by “customers” by 2027. That alone puts the findings in fantasy land.

    • John Saint-Smith 4 years ago

      Is that the same fantasy land where we saw a 300 fold increase in rooftop solar in 10 years?

    • Matthew Wright 4 years ago

      Just 340,000 households with a 100kWh battery. I know two households that currently have >100kWh and I have 16kWh OR 3.4 million households with 10kWh and a Tesla powerwall 2 is in the money when it halves in price again and its rating is 13.2kWh So thinking it won’t happen is fantasy land.

  8. Ian 4 years ago

    Gas is assumed to be dispatchable because gas turbines can be started and stopped rapidly, but regarding the supply of gas: can this be economically piped long distances intermittently or stored economically for occasional peak energy supply? We are not talking about a gas BBQ cylinder here but a huge volume of gas. The cheapest way to supply gas is a fixed flow rate continuously . The infrastructure to pipe in gas for 6 hours a day would need to be 4 times as large as the infrastructure to pipe in the same amount of gas over a 24hr period ( simply stated). A 1GW gas plant running for 6 hours would require about 16000m3 of compressed natural gas that is a cube 30m in diameter or 6.4 Olympic pools. How much would such storage cost?

  9. Geoff 4 years ago

    SA is topical because it has massive (unnecessary) power failures…….

  10. wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

    “in the high 90 per cent level for renewables” this is a very hard phrase to integrate into other writing.

    Also does it mean high 90s i.e. 95-99% or does it mean “90% and above”, which is a high level?

  11. George Michaelson 4 years ago

    I am a complete amateur at network effects, but I am drawn to observe that many networks display long term stability with lots and lots of high frequency variance. And many others display synchronised pulsing. It can simply emerge, even in simple chemical systems of two reactions in a complex of fluids: amazing patterns can just emerge. In this narrow sense, I see some utility in what the gas/coal end call their rotational stability: the effective mass of big lumps of inertia, providing coherency to a system. Nothing like inertia to keep you moving in the same direction, mostly.

    Where I depart from their world view, is believing only coal or gas can provide that. It feels to me, like we can rotate big things to get inertia any time we want. Or find electro-chemical equivalents. Or something else. But we do need this. We need coherency, we need inertia in the system, rotational or otherwise.

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