How ready is Australia's power system for summer?

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

How ready is Australia's power system for summer?

Summer is always a challenging time of year for the grid, with increasing demand, potential heatwaves and unplanned infrastructure outages threatening to impact power supply. The 2.1 GW of new generation and storage capacity that has entered the National Electricity Market (NEM) during 2018, as well as additional sourced reserves, will help ensure there are sufficient available resources, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The AEMO 2018/19 summer readiness plan aims to address risks to Australia’s power system and ensure consumers have access to reliable, secure and affordable power throughout the summer period. It outlines actions taken concerning four key areas: sufficient available resources, continuing operational improvements, contingency planning, and collaboration and communication.

“Findings from AEMO’s 2018 Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO) projected a heightened risk of involuntary load shedding in Victoria and South Australia for the upcoming summer, in the absence of further action,” said AEMO Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Zibelman.

“The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a hotter and drier summer which, coupled with other risks we have identified, suggests we have a challenging summer awaiting us. But while we know that unexpected events can and do happen, particularly when the power system is under pressure and most prone to failure, AEMO is confident the plans we have made and the targeted actions we have taken in collaboration with the wider energy industry and governments have appropriately equipped us to tackle any unforeseeable events the upcoming summer might bring,” Zibelman said.

As a result, AEMO has sourced up to 930 MW of off-market reserves through the Reliability and Emergency Trader (RERT) mechanism to manage reliability shortfalls in Victoria. This includes 90 MW (70 MW in Victoria and 20 MW in South Australia) of the 132 MW of demand reserves available from the AEMO/Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) trial and 40 MW of off-market reserves using long notice RERT contracts. AEMO will also seek between 405 and 800 MW of reserves ready for rapid contracting if required.

The report said the reserve is only used if the market does not respond with enough supply or demand resources to ensure the reliability standard is met.

“Our continued operational efficiencies and refinements in our forecasting methodologies, together with the increased capacity of approximately 2100 megawatts of new generation capacity, means we did not need to procure the same level of strategic reserves as last summer. We will continue to engage in discussions with industry to ensure additional reserves are available to us should unforeseen circumstances arise,” Zibelman said.

This 2.1 GW of additional new capacity by December 2018 is made up primarily of wind and solar generation capacity, and the two new utility-scale batteries in Ballarat and Gannawarra. The report put this into context, stating wind and solar represented around 6 of the 56 GW of the NEM’s total registered generation capacity in July 2018.

AEMO’s summer plan also focused on undertaking extensive emergency preparedness exercises and hosting information-sharing sessions with a wide range of industry stakeholders and all government jurisdictions. Improving operational forecasting models was another focus for the AEMO, including increased sampling of real-time data from rooftop PV systems to improve the accuracy of short-term forecasts and close collaboration with weather service providers.

Beyond this summer, it expects almost 6 GW of new wind and solar to be operational in the next two years, which will alleviate the short-term risk of involuntary load shedding during summer peak periods. But these issues are not limited to summer alone, and mid- to longer-term strategic planning and resource investment, such as outlined in AEMO’s Integrated System Plan, will be necessary to ensure ongoing reliability and stability of Australia’s power system throughout the year.

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