We all know the news stories from recent years: state-wide blackouts, electricity shortages, weather-related transmission outages, aging power stations, grid instability and volatile electricity prices. Australia’s electricity network is facing unprecedented change and challenges with the transition to a new, low-emissions energy system.
However, a revolution is underway, with plans being pursued to meet the emerging system security challenges, including projects that are transforming Australia’s energy supply mix and grid security. The energy landscape is being fundamentally altered, as well as the conventional thinking underpinning network planning, as we take greater responsibility for enabling a sustainable future.
The Government of South Australia had to act quickly after a catastrophic weather event resulted in a state-wide electricity blackout in 2016. It implemented a range of projects to address urgent system security, reliability and price risks for its energy customers, while enabling increased renewable energy on the network.
In recent years the Government has implemented a complex programme of works spanning a range of interventions in the state’s energy infrastructure to improve energy security and grid strength, including:
There is a lot of complexity to understand when developing a future energy strategy and plan to more actively manage energy risks whether these are associated with the decreasing reliability of supply, increasing energy costs or perceptions about energy and carbon footprint.
Aurecon has been engaged on a number of these projects by the Government of South Australia as Specialist and Technical Adviser, providing a range of support including strategic and commercial advice, developing procurement strategies, supporting procurement, preparing technical specifications for projects, and providing programme implementation support.
Some of the key projects show how innovation and a user-centred design approach will lower emissions and exploit new technologies in the energy industry.
South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, currently a 100 MW / 129 MWh battery, is unique not just because it is the world’s largest lithium-ion battery system or because it was conceived and constructed in record-breaking time.
It addresses specific technical and market needs in the South Australian network, providing a targeted contribution to the state’s objective of ensuring reliable, affordable and clean power for South Australian consumers.
Aurecon advised the Government of South Australia throughout all phases of the original project definition, specification, procurement and execution through to final testing.
This included assessment and stakeholder engagement on how the battery’s unique capabilities could best be deployed to meet key government objectives, and on the development of the formal operating protocol for the facility.
In the wake of the Hornsdale Power Reserve’s success, the Australian Energy Market Operator has reported an unprecedented growth in energy storage registration and connection applications. The project has built confidence in the ability of such large storage schemes to be successfully integrated into the electricity network and markets.
After one year in operation, Aurecon produced a report analysing the performance of Hornsdale Power Reserve and highlighted that the use of similar fast response systems could significantly improve the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy across Australia.
A new report released in February 2020 further demonstrated the market benefit of the Hornsdale Power Reserve to the National Electricity Market; reducing the cost of Frequency Ancillary Services by approximately $116M in 2019.
The 2020 report also provided analysis of the major network outage in Victoria on 16 November 2019 which resulted in the South Australian region of the National Electricity Market becoming “islanded” or separate from the rest of the national electricity grid.
The project has demonstrated the ability of such large storage schemes to be successfully integrated into the electricity network and markets. It has provided substantial support to the electricity network and has delivered more than AU $150 million in electricity cost savings in its first two years of operation.
South Australia’s economy is underpinned by access to affordable and reliable energy. Local businesses and industries rely on power for their viability, and householders for their daily lives, health and comfort. Pressures were being felt acutely around the state as energy costs were increasing to unsustainable levels.
The Renewable Technology Fund has committed funding to projects that can increase the supply of renewable energy in South Australia by improving the stable integration of renewables into the grid and improve market competition.
The Grid Scale Storage Fund is accelerating the roll-out of grid scale energy storage infrastructure, providing targeted contributions to the emerging system security and intermittency challenges that will arise as the energy transition progresses.
Energy no longer consistently flows in one direction from large centralised generators to consumers. Instead, ‘prosumers’ can now produce, store, consume and export their own electricity using rooftop solar photovoltaic and battery systems, collectively functioning as a virtual power plant.
The opportunities are enormous but there are still risks. Aurecon worked with the South Australian government on developing a set of minimum technical requirements for batteries eligible for its Home Battery Scheme subsidy. Aurecon developed a plain-language set of universal requirements for all eligible batteries to be virtual power plant-capable, paving the way for a more distributed, modern energy grid of the future.
In this process, the challenge for Aurecon was to find a bridge between a range of competing interests and to translate the specialised languages of: energy technologies; commercial drivers; market behaviours and capabilities; electricity grid connection protocols and operations; state strategic and policy considerations; and safety and product accreditation agencies; as well as the imperative to protect consumers and provide them with value for money.
The Government of South Australia aims to protect the people and state of South Australia. Aurecon is proud to have contributed to its energy strategy, through our advisory and technical expertise, to achieve the delivery of more generating capacity, greater competition, increased stewardship of assets, more renewable energy, pumped hydro and battery storage, and more job opportunities for South Australians.