How to replace the energy from Yallourn

Victoria is building heaps of clean energy

In the next few years, clean energy like wind and solar will generate one-third of Victoria’s electricity supply. Plus, Victoria is well on the way to reaching the state’s renewable energy target of 40 percent by 2025.

Right now we have 2441 megawatts (MW) of wind, solar and battery projects committed and in the pipeline.

There’s another 8076 MW of clean energy and storage proposed. Some of these proposals are really exciting, like the 2000 MW Star of the South windfarm, which would be Australia’s first offshore windfarm, and create thousands of construction and operation jobs.

Ocean off Victoria's Gippsland could be home to first offshore wind project

ABC News

The Star of the South windfarm could be Australia’s first offshore windfarm, and create thousands of construction and operation jobs.

Last year Victorians installed 1600 MW of solar on their rooftops. We will continue installing solar at a rapid rate, as we take advantage of the Solar Homes rebate. Solar Homes is expected to contribute 12.5 percent of the 2025 renewable energy target.

Victoria’s existing and potential new developments by generation type (MW)

Source: www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/National-Electricity-Market-NEM/Planning-and-forecasting/Generation-information

Key Facts

  • Victoria is on track to produce 40% of its energy through renewables by 2025.
  • Victoria’s coal power stations are the most unreliable in the country. Loy Yang A has had 29 sudden failures since 2017 and Yallourn has had 26.
  • Combined with storage like batteries and pumped hydro, renewables can ramp up electricity output to meet energy demand.
  • We have the technology and the skills to shift towards clean energy. What’s missing is long-term planning from the federal government.

Coal power is unreliable

Victoria’s coal power stations are aging, out of date and the least reliable in the country. Unreliability of coal power is putting the state’s energy supply at risk.

Since the beginning of 2017 Loy Yang A (the biggest coal power station in Victoria) has experienced over 29 outages. This is more than any other power station in the National Energy Market. In May 2019 one of its units broke down and is expected to be offline until December 2019.

Yallourn is the second most unreliable power station. It has had 26 outages. An outage on July 11 caused two of the four generating units at Yallourn to be offline for maintenance.

Faults at these two coal power stations meant that they were unable to meet demand, forcing administrators to plan blackouts in parts of the grid to avoid a state-wide blackout. This affected more than 200,000 customers during a heatwave in January 2019.

Our energy is changing

As Australia moves towards 100 percent clean energy, there are big changes happening in our electricity grid. In the past, grids were built around a small number of large, centralised power stations.

But now, modern electricity grids are a mixture of variable (sun and wind) and dispatchable power, distributed throughout the network. “Dispatchable” means energy sources that can quickly ramp up and down on demand, like pumped hydro, batteries or solar thermal.

One significant change in the electricity market is the growing focus on demand response. This means large energy users are paid to reduce consumption at times of high demand. Demand response is typically a cheaper, smarter and cleaner alternative to building new power supply that might only be needed for a few hours during a heatwave.

Another important area to upgrade our electricity grid is improving of transmission infrastructure. This means making sure solar and wind farms have access to the infrastructure they need to plug into the grid and to get the electricity to where it is needed.

Most of Victoria’s existing transmission lines join Melbourne to the Latrobe Valley, but we need more transmission to the places where renewable energy projects will be built. It’s also important to improve interconnectors between states so that we can import or export power depending on where in the country it is sunny or windy.

Governments need to do more to plan a smooth transition

It is 100% possible to shift Australia’s energy systems to 100% clean energy. We have the technology and the skills. What we don’t have is enough policy certainty and long term planning support from government.

Policy decisions about the National Energy Market are made by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), which is a joint state and federal government process. So while Victoria is leading the way on renewable energy, Victoria also needs to work closely with other states and to get more support from the federal government.

As a community we must keep up the pressure on the state and federal governments to ensure a fast and fair transition to clean, renewable energy. This means urgently making plans to phase out coal, build more renewables and update the grid. By working together and setting clear plans quickly we can also support communities moving away from coal power to unlock new economic opportunities.

Sources and suggested further reading:

  1. How 1GW of grid batteries could see Yallourn coal generator close in 12 months: https://reneweconomy.com.au/how-1gw-of-grid-batteries-could-see-yallourn-coal-generator-close-in-12-months-86904/
  2. Victoria is in the midst of a huge renewable energy construction boom: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/state-s-solar-and-wind-energy-boom-could-power-every-home-for-a-year-20180705-p4zps0.html
  3. Solar PV could kick coal out of the market all on its own: https://reneweconomy.com.au/massive-surge-in-rooftop-solar-would-bring-end-to-australias-coal-era-54303/
  4. Victoria’s coal-fired power plants the least reliable in the country: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/victoria-s-coal-fired-power-plants-the-least-reliable-in-the-country-20190614-p51xvb.html
  5. Victoria’s second biggest battery: https://reneweconomy.com.au/teslas-and-victorias-second-big-battery-completed-at-gannawarra-solar-farm-46361/