The construction of new wind and solar projects, combined with battery storage, would be a cheaper, cleaner and reliable replacement to the Liddell power station, compared to the Morrison government’s preferred approach of building a new gas generator, new modelling has found.
Modelling undertaken by consultancy Reputex, and commissioned by Greenpeace Australia, compared the results of the NSW government’s plan to establish a number of renewable energy zones with that of the Morrison government, which wants to see the 2000MW Liddell coal-fired power station, scheduled to close by 2024, replaced with a ‘like-for-like’ investment in coal or gas.
Reputex found that scenarios that saw additional renewable energy and storage projects led to lower wholesale electricity prices in New South Wales, while also achieving additional cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. It raised no issues with respect to electricity supply reliability.
The modelling suggests that the Morrison government’s push for a new gas generator, including threats to build one itself if the private sector doesn’t do so, could ultimately leave consumers paying more for their power.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s head of research and investigations, Dr Nikola Casule said that the modelling showed the benefits of focusing on building renewables and zero emissions storage technologies, and that they should be at the centre of federal energy policy.
“This new report shows conclusively that renewable energy is the best option for replacing Australia’s coal-burning power stations. Building new gas infrastructure is an expensive, unnecessary diversion that won’t reduce emissions,” Dr Casule said. “Replacing coal with gas is like replacing a typewriter with a fax machine – they’re both obsolete technologies that no longer meet Australia’s energy needs.”
“With a new Renewable Energy Zone slated for the Hunter that is set to create hundreds of jobs, a renewable energy replacement for Liddell sets the region up for a bright future. The Federal Government needs to support the best way to secure Australia’s energy supply, bring down prices and create future-proof jobs, replacing coal and gas with clean energy technology like wind and solar.”
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor used a speech to the AFR energy summit on Monday to call out those who have criticised the Morrison government’s plan to use new gas generation, including the potential for a new plant being built by government-owned Snowy Hydro, without producing modelling to back up their claims.
Greenpeace Australia says that it has now produced its modelling, and it shows that building a new gas-fired power station is not the best outcome.
Reputex modelled three scenarios – the first ‘central scenario’ based on current policy settings that will see 2,300MW of wind and solar capacity added by 2023.
The second scenario modelled a ‘market solution’ where an additional 1,000MW of zero emissions dispatchable capacity is added, mostly in the form of battery storage under the NSW government’s freshly legislated ‘electricity infrastructure roadmap’.
The third scenario involved a ‘gas solution’ where the additional 1,000MW of dispatchable capacity added using gas generation and is based on the Morrison government’s preferred solution.
Reputex found that the zero emissions ‘market solution’ offered the best outcome, with the lowest prices and the greatest impact towards reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The modelling found that the worst case scenario was the ‘central scenario’ where no additional dispatchable capacity was built to replace Liddell.
“Liddell’s closure without replacement is anticipated to cause NSW annual average wholesale prices to increase due to the reduced availability of dispatchable resources during both maximum demand and peak periods,” Reputex said.
“An additional 1 GW of dispatchable capacity is shown to alleviate price spikes, and increase the reliability of the power system. Batteries and/or gas fired technologies are flexible enough to be traded in a peaking capacity and are therefore the most likely candidates to be built to provide additional dispatchable capacity.”
Electricity reliability following the retirement of the Liddell power station may not be as large as the Morrison government has made it out to be, with Reputex finding that under all three of the scenario modelled, the NSW’s energy security targets were met.
Senior advisor to the Climate and Energy College at Melbourne University, Simon Holmes à Court, said that the Reputex modelling showed that a shift to renewables and batteries, was possible while delivering cheaper and more reliable supplies of power.
“Renewables firmed with storage solves the so-called ‘energy trilemma’ — affordable, reliable and cleaner power. This report demonstrates that by continuing to add renewables and storage to NSW’s grid, the state will enjoy reliable power that’s cheaper and much better for the environment than gas,” Holmes à Court said.
“The closure of Liddell won’t be like Hazelwood. With only five months notice, Hazelwood’s closure came as a surprise to the community, workers, government and the power sector. The closure of Liddell, on the other hand, was announced in 2015 and AEMO’s modelling shows that the market is on track to replace the lost capacity when the early 1970’s era power station retires in 2023.”