Energy security and a transitioning power system: the implications of and opportunities for renewable energy and storage technologies

Presented by ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Australia, an enormously energy resource rich nation, has arguably taken energy security for granted until recently. However, energy security has quickly become one of the hottest issues politically and in the research and wider community debate, owing to the intersection of several conditions: a general community desire for energy decarbonisation, a lack of long-term certainty over national energy policy, a power system with a fleet of ageing conventional generators, and the rapid advances in renewable generation technologies. This energy security debate was brought into sharp focus in September last year when South Australia was plunged into darkness during the unprecedented, storm-induced, state-wide blackout.

In this seminar we examine energy security from the perspective of the electrical power system, now on the verge of a massive transition. By highlighting the significant technical differences between conventional generation technology and renewable generation technology, we explore the power system implications of replacing fossil fuel based thermal stations with renewable energy generators. We point to the need for new renewable energy generator operating regimes, the need for appropriately managed energy storage technologies, and the need for new non-energy markets or incentive mechanisms to facilitate these technologies and ensure reliable and secure future supply of energy. By drawing from what occurred during the South Australian blackout last year, we conclude by presenting a picture of what our future, renewables-led power systems will look like.