Ausnet Services, the largest operator of electricity and gas networks in Victoria, has given its vision of what the grid of the future might look like in that state – and it is one dominated by wind and solar.
That is probably not surprising, given that the state government is likely to have its target of 40 per cent renewable energy generation by 2025 locked into legislation in the next few months. But it does reflect how quickly the nature of generation in the state most dependent on brown coal will change.
The chart above, made during Ausnet’s annual results presentation on Tuesday, indicates how the network operator sees the generation portfolio expanding – the number of wind farms will double, and numerous solar farms will be built in the north-west and north of the state.
Ausnet is also looking at local solutions. It recently completed a trial taking part of the Melbourne suburb of Mooroolbark off the grid and back on again, demonstrating how utilities can use solar, battery storage and the internet of things to boost energy security and reliability in the future.
Ausnet said on Wednesday that eight homes had been successfully separated from Victoria’s main electricity grid and operated together as a stand-alone solar and battery storage powered mini grid, as part of the company’s Mooroolbark Mini Grid trial.
And it has created a new community grid brand called “Mondo Power” – to help local communities fulfil their ambitions to be powered by renewables. It has also been actively involved with the town of Yackandandah and its target of becoming 100 per cent renewable by 2022, something that could occur with a localised “micro grid.”
“We are seeing unprecedented change … and the rate of that change is quite dramatic,” managing director Nino Ficca told an analyst briefing.
He said the upcoming delivery of the Finkel Review, by chief scientist Alan Finkel, would be crucial, particularly in breaking the partisan approach to the politics of energy.
“We see the Finkel Review as a once-in-a-generation reform opportunity. It can deliver an instructive template with a long-term focus,” he said.
Ausnet says in the past year it has already had 900MW of large-scale renewable applications, and one wind farm had been approved in recent days.
It is estimated that some 5000MW of wind and solar will need to be built to meet the 2025 target, although AEMO recently raised issues over network constraints. Ausnet says extra spending on networks could be around $400 million, but that would depend on the number of wind farms proposed in that area.
It noted that the events in South Australia were “clearly not attributable to renewables”.
Ficca says it is likely that the traditional reliance on heavy infrastructure may not be the right answer for the future, and while Ausnet would remain “agnostic” on how the various technologies will develop, it was well placed to bring those additional energy sources to the market.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.