WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup has just committed to closing the Muja and Collie power stations by 2025 and installing 6000 MW of wind solar (more than 80% renewable electricity) by 2030!
Who would have dreamed that the party of past denialism and inaction on climate would turn the tables completely on Labor and promise clean electricity by 2030?
Compared to the Libs’ promise, Labor’s Whole of System Plan (WoSP), is woefully unambitious. While it provides a good technical foundation for the transition, its system modelling delivers only 62% renewables by 2040.
The WoSP is opaque, showing no cost modelling. It is also confusing, presenting four wildly different and improbable scenarios which detract from the main issue of what is the optimal low-cost low emissions technology mix.
The Labor government imposed three restrictive conditions on the WoSP: lowest short term electricity prices, keeping coal going as long as possible and not factoring in carbon cost.
One suspects the reason for this is to keep their friends in the CFMEU, Collie electorate and coal and gas industries quiet in the lead up to the State election.
The WoSP begs critique and to that end I have modelled the cost of four WoSP scenarios, together with two cost optimized scenarios delivering 85% RE by 2030 and 90% soon after (similar to what Zak Kirkup has in mind).
I used my PowerBalance2 (PB2) modelling software.
It calculates a weighted average levelized cost of energy (WALCOE) for whole scenarios, using renewable energy inputs from SIREN modelling of an optimal grid with dispersed power station locations.
The main things to note from the numbers in the tables below are:
- Realistically, 85% RE by 2030 will cost less than the higher emitting WoSP options
- Though ‘WoSP’ 2040 is about $8/MWh (0.8c/ kWh) cheaper than 85% RE, it leaves the grid stuck on a cliff, with only 62% RE. It has 734MW of old coal thermal and 900 kW of gas thermal running in 2040 with no plan to close it and no costing of the renewable capacity needed to replace it.
- Carbon intensity of ‘PB2 85%’ is 1/3 that of the ‘cleanest’ WoSP 2040 scenario – ‘Techtopia’.
- ‘PB2 85%’ derives its firming generation from flexible gas turbines (OCGT’s) only, while ‘Techtopia’ still has 1650 MW of inflexible coal and gas steam thermal in addition to the same capacity of OCGT’s.
- PB2 85% and 90% have by far the highest storage capacity, most of which is pumped hydro whereas the WoSP 2040 scenarios use batteries only.
- The base case WosP 2040 scenario has the highest LCOE due to its absurdly high PV capacity, most of which would be spilled. Government likes this option because it transfers the cost to self-generators, perversely keeping power prices low while weighted average LCOE is high.
Table 1. Comparison of costs – four WoSP scenarios two clean energy scenarios
Notes: Annualized capex cost of Synergy’s Muja and Collie power stations is assumed to be zero.
RE capex figures are from WoSP; other coal and gas generator capex figures are from AEMO, 2018.
The modelling uses wind, solar and demand profile data from 2014, the equal lowest wind year of 12.
WoSP fails to address the steam thermal ramping issues, which I described here.
Lingering on 62% RE with steam thermal still running spells unreliability for the old, inflexible steam thermal power stations for which fast ramping frequency requirements increase over 1000- fold. Collie and Muja will both be aged 30 – 40 years in 2030.
They are Government owned and it is easy to justify closure before this time. Blue Waters, which will be 21 years old, is reportedly under $360m debt and its $1.2b value has been written off by its owners.
Adding 800 MW of fast ramping OCGT capacity to the already substantial 2100 MW is adequate to replace all coal and gas steam thermal plant, eliminating all ramping problems.
Around 800 MW of demand side management (DSM) capacity will be required for the 85% scenario; both WoSP 2040 scenarios require three times this amount.
Incredibly, WoSP also omits to model the cost of carbon emissions even after the worst ever wildfires ravaged the East Coast 2020, and Perth is now recovering from the most destructive and uncontrollable wildfire in its history, which destroyed 86 homes.
A low carbon price of $10/ tCO2 raises the WALCOE of the WoSP 2030 base case scenario (37% RE) to parity with the 85% RE scenario, as does a C price of $48 for the cheaper ‘Techtopia’ 2030 scenario (44% RE).
WoSP ‘Techtopia’, though cheaper in the short term will cost more than ‘85% RE’ in the long run. It is inconceivable that significant carbon costs will not be factored into the cost of electricity in a decade’s time.
France already has a floor price of $48/ tCO2e, UK $32 and carbon offsets in Australia currently cost $17. WoSP ‘kicks the can down the road’ by deferring 330 kV transmission line extensions to feed in the extra dispersed wind and solar and installation of large-scale storage such as pumped hydro and molten salt.
The planning lead in time for this infrastructure, which is essential for an 85% plus RE clean energy grid, is at least 7 years and should be commenced now. Up to 1400 km of additional transmission will be needed for a clean energy grid with EV’s and demand 37% higher than current.
This will cost less than $5/ MWh (0.5c per kWh) and yet WoSP omits this cost, even in 2040, in order to achieve Government’s holy grail of slightly lower short term power prices.
Congratulations Zak, you have given voters a real choice on energy and ultimately it would not mean higher electricity costs for consumers.
This in addition to promising zero emissions public transport by 2030 and a hydrogen hub to boot makes your energy policy much more attractive than Labor’s.
The question now is whether Premier Mr McGowan will be sensible, see that a significant majority of voters want clean energy and give bipartisan support to this.
Conveniently for him, the WoSP promises regular updates; a little pre-empting would enable him to up the bar before the election.