Since last year’s snapshot, which assessed the capacity and adequacy of the state’s transmission network to meet its energy demands, there has been a 1.6 GW increase in Victorian large-scale wind and solar projects, with a record 16 projects connected or commenced.
“While under typical operating conditions Victoria’s transmission network is secure, strong investment in renewable energy has impacted the stability of power system operations, including record minimum demand levels,” the AEMO report says.
South Australia experienced record minimum demand last summer, with the increased number of rooftop solar systems leading to new, all-time low demand for grid-based power during the hottest part of the day.
The influx of renewable energy – especially rooftop solar panels – has raised problems for the power grid. This increasing gap between minimum and maximum demand puts pressure on older gas and coal units that do not have the flexibility to turn off during the day when demand is low and return for the evening peak.
Energy market analyst Paul McArdle, managing director of Global-Roam, said that when the AEMO describes the operational landscape in Victoria as “increasingly complex,” it meant the level of risk in the national electricity market was increasing.
“This doesn’t mean, automatically, that the lights are going to go out – but it does mean that it’s becoming increasingly challenging to manage that risk.”
Earlier this month, Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries will be built near Geelong to bolster the reliability of the grid and keep a lid on power prices as coal-fired generators retire.
The battery will help to reduce the strain on the grid during peak periods, especially in summer.
Ms Zibelman said AEMO would spend $3.5 billion over the next decade to maintain supply reliability and system security, including on the the Victoria to NSW interconnector – which will boost power flows between the two states – and the expansion of renewable energy zone projects that co-ordinate the development of new grid infrastructure in energy-rich areas.
NSW last week announced $32 billion in private investment to support, among other things, 12 GW of new renewable energy capacity by 2030 in three regional areas.
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Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.