POWER UTILITY | Staff Reporter, Australia

Australia mulls over batteries as grid gets greener: EY

As it struggles to cope with overcapacity in renewables.

The role of renewables and battery storage technologies has shot up the political agenda in Australia amid closing coal power plants, a shortage of natural gas and recent state-wide outages that were blamed on an over-reliance on renewable energy, according to EY's Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index.

On 3 April, ENGIE shut its 1.6GW Hazelwood coal-fired power plant, the country’s largest; an additional 3.6GW of Australia’s 24.6GW of coal capacity is scheduled for
closure over the coming years. Meanwhile, export demand for Australian natural gas means that domestic gas-fired generation is struggling to compete.

Here's more from EY:

Wind and solar, by contrast, account for 70% of proposed new capacity. However, Australia’s grids are struggling to cope with large volumes of intermittent renewables.

In September, the grid operator blamed a seven-hour blackout in South Australia — where 43% of capacity was wind and solar, as of May 2016 — on control settings in wind turbines leading to a failure of grid frequency controls.

Large-scale battery storage has been put forward as part of the solution. Tesla founder, CEO and Chairman Elon Musk won headlines by offering to install a 100MW battery system within 100 days.

The South Australian Government subsequently announced a tender for 100MW of battery storage, as well as a 250MW gas-fired plant, to shore up its grid.

Energy policy remains highly contentious, with the opposition Labor Party pushing for continuing investment in renewables, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been more supportive of fossil power.

Nonetheless, the Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg recently told ABC Radio that the Government has no plans to change its 2020 renewable energy target of 33,000GWh, or about 23.5% of demand.

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