Executive Committee member Brian Attwood represented Consumers SA at the Energy Consumers Australia Board Stakeholder Forum held on 8 November 2017.

The meeting was told of a pilot program to use excess wind power generation to make hydrogen and put it into the gas pipes at no more than 10% volume thus giving us added fuel to fire the gas turbines for generation of electricity at peak times. Hopefully this will lower gas and electricity prices.

In follow-up correspondence to Brian, Australian Gas Networks provided this extra detail about the scheme and related activities:

In response to your question please see Gas Vision 2050, available to download via this link, associated media release available here.

Gas Vision 2050 was released in March 2017 and was jointly developed by all parts of the gas sector from gas exploration and production, to transmission and distribution networks, to gas appliance manufacturers. 

Gas Vision 2050 provides a conceptual outline of how the gas sector can work collaboratively with the electricity sector to provide Australian homes and businesses with reliable base load energy, whilst ensuring Australia can achieve its emissions reductions goals. In particular, the document details the decarbonisation journey of gas networks and the policies that are required in order to facilitate this journey.

It is a qualitative document that:

  • highlights the importance of gas to Australia today;
  • explains the low-emission transformational technologies of biogas, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production; and
  • describes an aspirational and attainable future for gas across Australia in which renewables and gas (including hydrogen and biogas) can support each other to achieve a near zero-carbon energy sector by 2050.

As mentioned above, the document outlines that hydrogen can be produced in multiple ways, most commonly though electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity) and steam methane reforming or coal gasification with carbon capture and storage. The former (electrolysis), has great potential in an Australian context, where we can use excess renewable electricity (wind at night and solar during the day) to produce hydrogen which can be stored in the networks – essentially using networks as a battery and using this clean gas in homes, business and to generate electricity at a later date.

This approach:

  • assists to decarbonise direct use gas (through the use of zero carbon hydrogen in the networks);
  • assists the decarbonisation of the electricity sector through facilitating investment in more large scale renewables); and
  • utilises existing infrastructure as a battery.

We, and the sector more generally, consider this to be an exciting way forward for the energy sector (electricity and gas) as a whole. Networks are actively pursuing pilot biogas and hydrogen projects – for example AGIG is partnering with Wollongong-based AquaHydrex to develop a pilot electrolysis facility at our South Australian depot and we have had initial discussions with SA Power Networks regarding how we could work together and utilise electrolysis to ensure electricity and networks are utilised in the most efficient manner – to the benefit of customers. Energy Networks Australia are also continuing work in the area, having engaged Deloitte to develop a follow on report from Gas Vision 2050, detailing how hydrogen and biogas might be deployed in an Australian context. This report is due for release in the coming weeks.

The use of hydrogen in this way is being actively pursued overseas. For example the H21 Leeds City Gate project is studying the feasibility, from both a technical and economic viewpoint, of converting the existing natural gas network in Leeds, one of the largest UK cities, to 100% hydrogen. The work carried out to date indicates that they can significantly decarbonise parts of the existing gas network at minimal additional cost to consumers. This is coupled with a program to encourage consumers to move to gas for heating and cooking. More information regarding this project is available online at: http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/document/h21-leeds-city-gate/

Brian also reports that:

 Andrew McKenna of Business South Australia spoke of the high costs of power to small businesses, noting that while costs have come down for businesses, household consumers are yet to see this.

Andrew Nance spoke of the impact of rising prices in the essentials of housing, health and energy on low income families, explaining that their income is not covering costs. There was much discussion about cost reduction but how this could be achieved was very difficult.

Energy Consumers Australia ran the meeting, which saw many interstate people attending - along with ESCOSA , other consumer groups, South Australian Financial Counsellors Association and SAPN staff - but no energy retailers. 


AuthorRay Dennis

Detailed statistics recently released by SA Power Networks, in a September 2017 presentation to its Business Reference Group, shows that small to medium businesses in this State are suffering the same price increases as domestic consumers.

Click here for details.

AuthorRay Dennis

The following tables, produced by SA Power Networks, show how the total cost of the electricity supplied to SA consumers is calculated. - and how the mix of various contributing factors has changed over the last two decades.

In brief,  while SA Power Network’s distribution costs to individual households have steadily reduced and Electranet’s transmission costs have remained much the same, "energy retail” costs, which include generators and retailers, have increased significantly in recent years.

SAPN Household Bills 1.jpg
SAPN Bills 2.jpg
AuthorRay Dennis

Yesterday (5 September 2017) the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE) with the support of Environment Victoria launched a revised Small-scale Community Solar Guide.

Introducing the Guide, C4CE said: 

"This Guide is perhaps one of the most useful resources available to community energy groups looking to develop their first project.  The Guide is filled with practical tips, case-studies and the key information you need to know to get started talking to potential host-sites. 

The first version of the Small-scaled Community Solar Guide (originally called the Behind the Meter Solar Guide) was developed and launched in 2015 as part of the National Community Energy Strategy.  Unfortunately, the Guide got lost in all the great content so many community energy groups are unaware of its existence.

That’s why C4CE has prioritised revamping and re-releasing this great resource. 

The Small-Scale Community Solar Guide includes:

  • 10 case-studies of successful community solar models,
  • An overview to the key technical, financial and legal factors that make small-scale projects the most successful approach to community energy in Australia so far,
  • An introduction to a common legal framework, showing how the different case-studies are similar and different legally and sign-posting the different types of legal agreements that you are likely to need,
  • Tips for engaging with potential host-sites, and finally
  • A decision tree that your group can work through to decide which approach you should take.
To find out more you can download the Guide here
C4CE would like to thank all the community energy groups that contributed to this guide, as well as Sustainability Victoria for providing the funding needed to update and get this Guide out into the world.

This is Version 2 of the Guide, we have no doubt there will be a Version 3, so if you have suggestions or tips for making the Guide even more useful please email secretariat@c4ce.net.au."
AuthorRay Dennis


From the “Australia's Science Channel” website, posted on August 17, 2017:

The world’s largest solar thermal power plant will be coming to South Australia – big plans lead to big reactions. Read what the experts have to say. 

Plans to build the world’s largest solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, were announced by Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, today. Solar Thermal Power is generated by using a large array of mirrors (heliostats) to reflect and concentrate energy from the sun to heating molten salt. This is then able to generate steam to drive electricity generating turbines. Solar thermal is one way that solar power can be stored and used at night.

The plant is scheduled to be in operation by 2020, and is estimated to produce 495 gigawatt hours of power annually, or enough to power more than 90,000 homes. The 150 mega-watt system will be completely emission free.

Here are reactions from researchers around Australia.

Dr Ariel Liebman is the Deputy Director for Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI), at Monash University

“The Port Augusta Solar Thermal plant will be a great complement to the range of new technologies now in South Australia and the rest of the nation such as wind, solar PV and electric battery such as the Neoen/Tesla battery announced last month. Solar thermal with storage is an ideal partner to the other new technologies whose growing deployment is now unstoppable. Being able to store its own energy output in a thermal way (not electrically such as in the case of lithium ion) makes this a truly dispatchable renewable technology.

While this particular project appears to be uneconomic without the state government subsidy, de-risking early stage investment is the government’s role and as more deployment of new technologies will bring the cost down as industry learns how to manufacture and deploy at scale. We need the most diverse mix of technologies possible if we are to ensure we limit climate change based temperature rises to two degrees if not 1.5 degrees.

It will add to the downward pressure on wholesale energy prices although at the size of 150 MW, the impact will be quite small and it is unlikely to be felt in the end-consumer bill, particularly as the majority of the retail electricity price rises seen over the past ten years have little to do with the cost of energy generation but more to do with failures in retail competition as well and wholesale market ownership concentration and insufficient transmission inter-connector capacity in the National Electricity Market.”

Dr Mark Diesendorf is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales

“An excellent decision! Port Augusta’s concentrated solar thermal power station with thermal storage will be a dispatchable source of renewable power.

In other words, it will supply power on demand. Along with the Tesla battery and open-cycle gas turbines, it will balance the fluctuations of the variable renewable energy sources, wind and solar PV.

Wasim Saman is a Professor of Sustainable Energy Engineering at the University of South Australia

“This is first large scale application of solar thermal generation in Australia which has been operating successfully in Europe, USA and Africa. The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines.

This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries. While this technology is perhaps a decade behind solar PV generation, many future world energy forecasts include a considerable proportion of this technology in tomorrow’s energy mix.”

Dr Matthew Stocks is a Research Fellow in the Research School of Engineering at The Australian National University

“We have lots to learn about how solar thermal can contribute to a stable, low cost, low emission electrical system, and the announced system will be an important step in understanding the potential of solar thermal.

One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat. If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.

It is not yet clear whether it will deliver a better outcome than wind and solar with electrical storage.”

Honorary Associate Professor Hugh Saddler is a Research Associate at the Centre for Climate Economy and Policy, at The Australian National University

“This concentrating solar thermal power station will be Australia’s first major solar thermal power station.  This will make it one of the most important milestones along Australia’s transition to a low emission electricity system.

The project will deliver both direct generation of electricity when the sun is shining plus up to eight hours of molten salt thermal energy storage.

The storage will allow the power station to keep supplying electricity at full capacity for some hours after the sun has set and peak evening demand for electricity has passed. It will thus combine both generation and storage in the one plant, greatly enhancing the reliability and security of the electricity grid in SA.

At a reported 125 MW it will be large enough to supply 5 per cent of the state’s current total daily electricity consumption.

The reported contract price to the state government of $78 per MWh is not much higher than recent contract wind generation prices and at or below prices for electricity from current solar photovoltaic power stations, neither of which include energy storage. It is also well below the estimated cost of any new coal fired power station in Australia, and well below the spot wholesale price of electricity in the SA market region, which has averaged between $110 and $120 per MWh since March this year.”

AuthorRay Dennis

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has issued an electricity generation licence to HWF 3 Pty Ltd (HWF 3), authorising it to operate 35 wind turbines at a maximum capacity of 112 MW. 

HWF 3 will be required to comply with stronger licence conditions, consistent with those set out in the Commission's Inquiry into the licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia, demonstrating that new technologies can and should contribute to a secure and resilient power system. 

The Commission assessed HWF 3’s application for an electricity generation licence against the relevant provisions of the Electricity Act 1996 and the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 and determined that, with the inclusion of the additional technical licence conditions, all relevant criteria under those Acts have been satisfied. 

A copy of the HWF 3 licence may be accessed here.

AuthorRay Dennis

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has released the Final Report of its Inquiry into the licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia.

This Inquiry was conducted under Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 to determine whether or not there should be any changes to the Commission’s technical licensing conditions for electricity generators connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

In June 2016, the Commission commenced an Inquiry into whether or not any changes would be required to the technical licence conditions applying to electricity generators seeking to connect to the South Australian power system. 

Since 2005, the Commission has applied additional conditions in licences for grid-scale, wind-powered generators. The licence conditions apply in the absence of national rules which effectively integrate new generation technologies, and are intended as a transitional arrangement until such time as adequate national rules come into effect.

Through the Inquiry the Commission considered:

  • whether or not the current licence conditions for the grid connection of wind-powered electricity generators be removed, retained or varied, and
  • whether or not any additional or amended technical requirements be imposed on other grid-scale inverter-connected electricity generators (such as solar generation) or other generation technologies and sources (including conventional synchronous generation).

The Commission has found that there is a need for it to continue to impose transitional technical conditions within licences for new electricity generators which are to be connected to the South Australian power system (regardless of generation type) – on the basis that this will protect South Australian consumers’ long-term interests with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services.

These transitional technical conditions, which will be consistent with and not duplicate existing national rules and frameworks, will require new generators to be better able to:

  • ride through power system disturbances without prematurely disconnecting and will also be available to assist with remediating contingency events
  • control their energy output to maintain stable operation of the power system (as well as being able to assist with the control of voltage and frequency, if required)
  • manage and control voltages to support the network during disturbances and to efficiently transfer power 
  • be capable of operating in weak system conditions (where limited fault current is available), and
  • assist with power system restoration, should there be a major outage on the power system.

While the new technical conditions will not apply to existing generators at this time, over the coming year,  the Commission will work with the Australian Energy Market Operator, network service providers and existing generators to understand the extent to which additional services could be provided by those generators in a cost-efficient manner.

The Commission will continue to monitor and review developments in this sector, with a particular focus on changes in NEM rules and associated arrangements, with a view to removing its transitional local technical licence conditions should they become redundant in the future.

AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to access an informative analysis of the proposed new solar power plant to be built at Port Augusta. Appearing in yesterday’s InDaily news website, the article was written by Ketan Joshi, a freelance communications consultant and energy writer based in Sydney, with government and NGO clients.

Among the questions answered in the article are: 

  • What is a solar thermal power plant?
  • How does it work?
  • How will its output compare to other South Australian generators?
  • Will it bring down power prices?
  • Has anyone else built it already?
  • Why is South Australia building it?
  • How big is it?
  • How big is that compared to the new Tesla battery (see the stories below)?
  • Is this really baseload?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What’s the capacity factor, compared to wind and solar?
  • Will this save South Australia’s grid?
  • Will it make power bills lower?


AuthorRay Dennis

InDaily’s David Washington also reports today that:

"A long wished-for solar thermal plant for Port Augusta will be built at a cost of $650 million after the State Government awarded the plant's private backers its contract to supply the government's power needs.

Premier Jay Weatherill announced today that Californian company SolarReserve would build a 150MW solar thermal plant near the iron triangle town – the biggest plant of its kind in the world, and able to supply about 5 per cent of the state’s annual energy needs.

SolarReserve said the project would create up to 4000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions. The company would open an office in Adelaide at the end of this year, which would become its permanent Australian headquarters.

Work will begin on the plant, to be built about 30km north of Port Augusta, in 2018, with completion expected in 2020.

The SolarReserve bid for the government tender was the lowest-cost option of the shortlisted offers, Weatherill said, with the Government to pay no more than $78/MWh.

The plant – to be called Aurora – will produce synchronous renewable energy that can be dispatched into the grid at any time, including when the sun isn’t shining.

Weatherill said the plant would also improve grid security and stability.

“Renewable technologies are now cheaper and importantly renewables are now providing certainty and stability to the market,” Weatherill said.

“This is a massive game-changer for the energy market in this country.”

The Government has entered into a 20-year agreement with SolarReserve to supply the state with energy.

Earlier this year, South Australian senator Nick Xenophon managed to secure an offer of a $110 million concessional loan for the project from the Federal Government in exchange for his support for company tax cuts.

Xenophon said today the project would be “transformational” for Port Augusta, while strengthening grid security and bringing down power prices in SA.

The plant will use 12,000 billboard sized mirrors to concentrate sunlight on to a central receiver at the top of a 220-metre high tower. That process heats molten salt to 565 degrees celsius with the heat used to generate steam, drive a turbine and produce 150 megawatts of electricity, even when the sun doesn’t shine.

The group that has lobbied for the project for more than five years, Repower Port Augusta, welcomed the announcement, saying it showed what could be achieved when all political parties worked together for a positive outcome.

“Alongside the South Australian Government, the Federal Liberal Government, the SA Liberals, Nick Xenophon, the Greens and the Federal ALP have all supported solar thermal in Port Augusta as a sensible solution for SA,” said Repower’s Dan Spencer.

“This decision shows what can be achieved when our representatives stop using renewables as a political football and get on with making an orderly transition to clean, renewable energy happen for all Australians.”

Weatherill said the plant would enhance SA’s reputation as a leader in renewable energy.

“We are supporting this nation-leading renewable energy project because it will deliver more competition into our energy market and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses,” he said.

“The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project.”

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said his company’s technology was an excellent fit for the SA electricity system.

“Aurora will provide much-needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

SA Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said the project was welcome and had been pursued for some time by the Liberals.

“The crying shame of this announcement today is that it isn’t with a transition arrangement with the closure of (the coal-fired power station at) Port Augusta,” Chapman said.

– with AAP"

AuthorRay Dennis

InDaily’s David Washington reports today that, "Tesla has contracted an Adelaide-headquartered engineering firm to help build its battery facility in the state's mid-north and connect it to a local wind farm and the power grid.

Consolidated Power Projects (CPP) will be the engineering and construction provider for the “world’s largest battery” – designed to be in place before summer.

The State Government says CPP will employ about 50 South Australian workers on the project, including some who live in the mid north.

It is understood that CPP was part of the Tesla bid, but that the contract has just been signed, with the batteries currently being transported to South Australia.

CPP, which has its head office in the Adelaide CBD and employs about 100 South Australians, was established in 1996 under the ownership of a Mauritius company. It became an independent Australian-owned operation in 2008 and was bought by Texan engineering and construction firm Quanta Services in 2014.

CPP has had a close involvement in the wind industry over its history, including building the first grid-connected wind farm in the eastern states near Goulburn in the late 1990s.

The company also worked on French company Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown, which will be connected to the Tesla battery installation.

The Government said today that CPP would update the local substation and install the batteries and inverters supplied by Tesla. The work would also include integrating the battery’s storage control and metering systems with those run by Neoen and Electranet.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis welcomed CPP’s involvement in the project and the local jobs that would be supported during construction.

“The energy storage sector presents huge opportunities for South Australia and we want to see more local companies looking for ways to tap into this growing industry,” he said in a statement.

CPP President Charles Wright said the company’s experiencing in helping to construct the Hornsdale wind projects would be invaluable to the project’s success.

“The evolving energy storage industry is a new service delivery to add to CPP’s porfolio,” he said. “It will allow ongoing growth of our business and people.”

The Government has not revealed how much it is spending on the battery, but Tesla’s Elon Musk said that failure to meet his guarantee of building it within 100 days or it’s free could cost him more than $50 million.

However, today’s announcement raises questions about the relevance of the 100-day deadline, which will begin once the grid connection agreement is signed with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

That agreement has not yet been signed, but civil works have begun on the site and Koutsantonis has confirmed that construction work can begin before the grid connection agreement is in place.

Koutsantonis told InDaily today that “Neoen, Tesla and the SA Government are working closely with key stakeholders including AEMO and ElectraNet to progress approval of the connection agreement as soon as possible”.

“The batteries are on their way to South Australia and civil works have begun at the site, with the project on track to be operational by December 1,” he said.

The 100MW lithium ion battery facility is designed to provide “stability services” to the South Australian grid, by evening out the intermittent nature of renewable energy."

AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to read an article by Jackson Stiles, Money Editor of the the New Daily online news outlet, appearing on 11 July 2017 and reporting that, "Consumers have been urged to consider switching from ‘standing offers’ to ‘market offers’ to beat rapidly rising power prices."

AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to read an article by Campbell Simpson, published online on 9 July 2017, explaining how, "Tesla is building the world's largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia — an installation 60 per cent larger than any other large-scale battery energy storage system on the planet".

AuthorRay Dennis

As reported by the SA online news outlet, Indaily on 7 July, "Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has appeared in Adelaide today, with the promise of more investment in South Australia after his Tesla company won the State Government's tender to install the world's largest lithium ion battery.

Musk appeared alongside Premier Jay Weatherill to announce the deal, which involves a grid-connected battery to provide both stability for renewable energy and emergency back-up at times of shortage.

The battery will be connected to French company Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state’s mid-north".

Read the full Indaily report here.

AuthorRay Dennis


In his recent submission to the ACCC retail pricing review, Dr Martin Gill (an independent consultant specialising in the provision of consumer advice) argues strongly that proper consumer education is required to make Australia’s electricity market work.

Dr Gill says, "Electricity pricing is now so complex it is no longer possible to meaningfully compare prices without using tariff comparison tools. While the Government provides these tools they have failed to provide sufficient customer education or to require retailers to present information allowing consumers to easily use the tools".

He argues that several relatively minor changes could make these tools significantly easier to use.

Download a copy of Dr Gill’s full submission by clicking here.

Access Dr Gill’s website at: www.drmartingill.com.au.

AuthorRay Dennis

The online news outlet, Indaily, reported at the end of June that South Australian homes will "soon be paying the highest electricity prices in the world".

Quoting energy market consultant Bruce Mountain, from economics consultancy group CME, the Indaily report says that SA will overtake Denmark when electricity retailers "hit most households with an average rise of 18 per cent" in the latest round of price increases.

Read the full Indaily story here.


AuthorRay Dennis

Late last month the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCoSA) issued its report into SA Power Networks’ response to the December storm event.

In its response to the report, SA Power Networks has told its community engagement partners (including Consumers SA):

"We are pleased the Commission has acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the storm; the high number of outages caused; that we restored power as soon as practicable; and confirmed our approach to crew resourcing.

SA Power Networks has acknowledged that communication to customers, particularly through direct SMS, could have been better and we are taking a number of steps to improve how we communicate during these kind of major events.

A copy of the ESCoSA report is available at ESCoSA review 27-29 December 2016 storm response

In summary, the Commission report makes the following key points:

·         The extent of damage from the storm was unprecedented.

·         The long average restoration times reflected the severity of the storm.

·         Damage to the network led to an exceptionally high number of outages.

·         SA Power Networks restored supply as soon as practicable given the level of damage to     the network and the weather conditions, which hampered restoration.

·         The cost of building a storm-resistant network outweighs the benefits.

·         SA Power Networks’ approach to crew resourcing is appropriate.

·         There is no justification for increasing resources to respond specifically to these type of events as the resources would otherwise be idle other times during the year."

Queries about the report can be directed to: Grant Cox, Manager Regulatory Affairs at grant.cox@sapowernetworks.com.au


AuthorRay Dennis

This article [except where indicated] is made up of passages from the June 2017 report of Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market by Dr Alan Finkel AO.  It was compiled for Consumers SA by Executive Committee Member Brian Attwood.

Passsages are extracted from the sections of the report indicated by the bold headings.  Readers can download the full text of the report by clicking here

5. Improved System Planning.

It would appear more transmission networks than required have been built, adding to the cost of power.

The combined value of distribution network assets is $68billion. This is more than three times the value of transmission networks.

The Review Panel heard that recent investments in network assets were informed by inaccurate forecasts, which contributed to the networks being overbuilt, with consequent impacts on electricity bills.

Voluntary write-downs of assets values would have the effect of lowering prices for consumers, and reducing the size of the regulated asset base without increasing the risk profile of the investment.

However, given that there is a reasonable likelihood that some assets will be stranded (not being used) in the future, there is merit in a future examination of the most appropriate method for handling this issue in the long-term interests of consumers.

6. Rewarding Consumers.

[Brian Attwood comments that: retailers need to develop plans to allow consumers to participate in the market with solar panels and battery storage. Consumers cannot withstand the constant price increases way above the CPI]. 

Consumers have installed more than 1.44 million rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts that by 2036 the annual electricity generation from rooftop photovoltaic solar will increase by 350% from current levels.

Bloomberg ( Bloomberg New Energy Finance report ) expects the average payback period for residential consumers to fall below 10 years by the early 2020s, with around 100,000 battery storage systems to support rooftop solar photovoltaic generation predicted to be installed by 2020.

There is an ACCC special review of the electricity retail market with a preliminary report expected by September 2017, and the final report in June 2018.

Consumers should have access to their electricity consumption data in real time. They should also have control over who, if anyone, can access that data.

A key protection for vulnerable consumers is the requirement for retailers to develop and maintain a consumer hardship policy that sets out their approach to identifying and assisting consumers who are having difficulties in paying their electricity bills. Governments also offer a range of concession programs to assist consumers. In South Australia 1.8% consumers are on a hardship program but interstate it is only 1%.  South Australia also has the highest disconnections at 1.4% for non payment.

At the moment there is no legally enforceable Australian Standard for the safety of lithium ion batteries and no requirement that consumers use an accredited installer for the installation of battery storage devices.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is also considering some of these issues as part of the current rule change on the contestability of energy services, including whether there would be merit in moving to a regime where network businesses’ revenues are based on a single estimate of their efficient total expenditure(totex) rather than having separate treatment of capital expenditure (capex) and operating expenditure(opex).

Recommendation 6.9

By mid-2018 the COAG energy council should direct the Australian Energy Market Commission to undertake a review of the regulation of individual power systems and microgrids so that these systems can be used where it is efficient to do so while retaining appropriateconsumer protections.

The Australian Energy Market Commission should draft a proposed rule change to support this recommendation.

Another area of concern is new buildings that are built on cost and do not consider energy efficiency long term costs.

Recommendation 6.10

Governments should accelerate the roll out of broader energy efficiency measures to complement the reforms recommended in this review.

7. Stronger Governance.

Present arrangements complicate the question of accountability for system out comes in the NEM, largely because of our federal arrangements and allocation of regulatory and operational responsibilities. When high-profile events occur in the NEM and amid the intense debates that follow, it is difficulty for community to understand who is responsible and accountable.

The Panel recommends the strategy be developed in a phased approach. 

Phase 1: The initial program of work should include:

  •  A rigorous gap analysis, to be undertaken in consultation with industry and other relevant stakeholders.
  • It should consider whether additional measures are needed in terms of market bodies’ powers to collect and share information (for example, whether there is a need for a formalised agreement between market bodies and government agencies explicitly detailing information sharing arrangements); the effectiveness of data sharing in operational systems in terms of managing future challenges and supporting innovation; and the publication of other relevant data sets.An initiative to develop a catalogue of energy market data and publications. This will help overcome the barrier of not knowing what information is available, who publishes it, and where to get it. Data.gov.au should be considered as the platform for this resource.

Phase 2: A medium-term program of work to enhance and consolidate existing data platforms and disseminate up-to-date information in three ways:

  • A dashboard that provides transparency on the performance of the NEM against security and reliability, affordability and emissions reduction objectives, allowing progress to be tracked. The dashboard would be a ‘single source of truth’ for this information. It should be easy to navigate, and combine high-level information with the ability to drill down to specific areas.
  • An ongoing Energy Use Data Model. This will support AEMO with demand forecasting as well as helping new entrants to assess market opportunities.
  • A mapping platform that provides a single view into the NEM in terms of generation, networks and consumption, to allow new opportunities to be more easily understood. It should combine the features of the Energy Use Data Model, AREMI and AEMO’s interactive map of planning information to provide detailed spatial information regarding predicted generation opportunities, network constraints, expansion plans and support requirements. All network operators should be incentivised to maintain up-to-date information about constraints and opportunities that are forecast to occur in their network.

Phase 3: A longer-term process whereby stakeholders can request access to non-public data for research and development purposes. 

  • This process will ensure that unanticipated future needs can be met and future innovation supported. It must consider the benefits of the work that the data would enable, the potential risks to privacy, security, and any existing commercial confidentiality agreements, and the costs of making it available.

8. Beyond the Blueprint.

In this sector new technologies are considered.


High-efficiency, modular systems, such as diesel generators, offer a technology pathway to substantially increase the efficiency of electricity generation from a range of fuels. Current research is developing low cost fuels from coal and biomass that are suitable, with appropriate fuel injection and engine modifications, for use in diesel engines at scales up to approximately 100 MW. For distributed coal and biomass applications, Direct Injection Carbon Engine (DICE) technologies offer reductions in CO2 emissions of up to 50 per cent over conventional applications through efficiency gains alone.

Gas alternatives

As discussed in Chapter 4, gas-fired generation has an important role in contributing to the security and reliability of the NEM and emissions reduction. Over time, as Australia transitions to lower emissions generation, natural gas may be replaced by zero emissions fuels such as hydrogen and biogas. The potential of hydrogen and biogas to be used in place of natural gas in existing electricity infrastructure (combustion gas turbines)is being explored.

Energy storage technologies

Electricity cannot be stored in its own right – it must be consumed as it is generated. However, electricity can be converted into other forms of energy that can be stored, such as the chemical energy stored in batteries.

Energy storage technologies can provide solutions to many of the reliability and security challenges facing the NEM as it transitions to a more variable, non-synchronous and distributed generation mix. From a reliability perspective, electricity can be stored at times when electricity is cheap and supply is high, including when excess electricity is being produced by variable renewable electricity (VRE) generators. It is then discharged at times of peak demand, or times of low supply from VRE generators. Storage technologies can also support power system security, by storing or discharging energy in a way that provides services such as frequency control (including ‘fast frequency response’) and voltage control.

The amount of energy that can be stored, and the efficiency losses associated with storage, differs across technologies.  

Some technologies,such as pumped hydro, have the capacity to store large amounts of energy (multiple GWh), while others, such as batteries, can store small to medium amounts of energy (hundreds of kWh or MWh). The rate that each system can discharge its energy is the power. Depending on the requirement, different combinations of power (MW) and energy (MWh) can be implemented. With current technology, no single storage medium has the characteristics to meet all the requirements for energy that the grid demands. A mix of storage solutions will likely be required to address all applications.


Batteries operate as energy storage devices that, when required, convert chemical energy into electrical energy. There are a large range of battery types based on different physical designs and chemistries such as lead-acid, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion and flow batteries, such as zinc-bromide. The characteristics of each type vary in terms of their power density (power to weight), voltage, allowable charge and discharge rates, cycle life and efficiency.

A substantial advantage of batteries is their scalability. They can be deployed from household scale (kWh) up to grid-scale (MWh and GWh), and can also be packaged for off-grid use by household, remote area, and commercial consumers. Another advantage is their rapidly falling prices and increasing availability.

The use of batteries is enhanced by their relatively fast discharge time, particularly when compared with large pumped hydro and thermal storage. This also means that when coupled with appropriate power conversion electronics, batteries are capable of providing a fast frequency response (FFR) service to support power system security. In Great Britain, the system operator has procured 200 MW of FFR from large-scale battery storage.

A disadvantage of batteries is their relatively limited life, which is in most cases less than 15 years. Some batteries are made from hazardous materials, making disposal and recycling difficult. Batteries are also sensitive to climatic conditions and require cooling in hot environments.444

Lithium ion batteries are highly flexible, with lower weight and volume than other technologies. Lithium ion batteries are being deployed for applications such as electric vehicles and grid power quality. Lithium ion batteries typically have high round-trip efficiency, between 85 to 98 per cent, with a typical discharge time from seconds to hours, but energy can be stored for longer periods.

They also have a very long lifetime compared to other battery technologies, with 5,000 or more charge cycles.

The potential for batteries to become widespread in Australia depends both on ongoing innovation in technology and changes to market mechanisms to reward investment. Regulatory reform could assist in rewarding consumers for additional services provided by battery storage. As discussed in Chapter 6, new approaches to aggregate and coordinate the efficient use of thousands of small-scale battery storage systems will be needed to derive the full value of the various services they can provide.

System security technologies

Synchronous condensers

A synchronous condenser is a machine similar to a synchronous generator or motor, having a large rotating mass that spins at a speed proportional to the grid frequency. It does not produce electricity. Instead its benefit is that, as a synchronous technology, it provides physical inertia to help dampen rapid frequency changes, fault current to help maintain system strength, and the ability to supply or absorb reactive power to help control voltage. Operating a synchronous condenser consumes only a very small amount of energy.

Synchronous condensers can be purchased as new, or reconfigured from decommissioned synchronous generators (such as coal-fired generators). Converting a decommissioned synchronous generator to a synchronous condenser may be an economical alternative to purchasing a new synchronous condenser. Cost-savings are achieved through re-using the existing generator machinery, foundation and building, auxiliary systems and grid connections. However, as system security needs are often location-specific, the viability of such a conversion will depend on the location of the decommissioned generator.

It is also possible to make modifications to synchronous generators that are still in operation, enabling them to be switched between generator mode and synchronous condenser mode. This approach has been employed in Tasmania, where there are 14 hydro generators capable of operating in synchronous condenser mode.

Synchronous condensers are a mature technology. There are a limited number of synchronous condensers in place throughout the NEM, though many have either been retired or are close to retirement, and traditionally were designed for voltage control rather than to provide inertia and fault level contributions.

Power Conversion Electronics

Wind turbines can provide an inertia-based FFR (also known as synthetic inertia) using the kinetic energy in their rotors. If their generation is curtailed below full capacity they can then provide FFR by increasing generation quickly when needed. Both wind and solar photovoltaic are able to provide reactive power and voltage control if designed to do so.

A recent example in Australia is Stage 2 of the Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia which has been licensed with higher connection standards than required under the National Electricity Rules. In accordance with the licence conditions, the wind turbine inverters installed have the capability to provide frequency control services to the NEM. In addition, the wind farm is designed to better withstand high rates of change of frequency.



AuthorRay Dennis

According to Jackson Stiles , writing on 16 June 2017 in the online news website, The New Daily, ”[p]ower bills will soar by hundreds of dollars next month in east coast states, and experts blame policy uncertainty in Canberra".

The article quotes Dylan McConnell, an energy expert at Melbourne University, as saying:  “ ... years of policy uncertainty resulted in barely any new generators being built to replace the withdrawal of ageing coal and gas-fired power stations.

This has forced the National Energy Market (which supplies to NSW, QLD, SA, VIC, TAS and the ACT) to rely more heavily on expensive gas-fired generators to fill gaps in supply."

Read the full article here.

AuthorRay Dennis

Chapter 6 of the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel's report (see the article below, introducing the report) is headed: "REWARDING CONSUMERS"

In it, Dr Finkel notes that, “[t]he uptake of new technologies is putting residential, commercial and industrial consumers at the centre of the electricity market. Distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic and battery storage systems installed at commercial and residential premises, energy e ciency improvements, and demand response by consumers can all be harnessed to improve the reliability and security of the electricity system. Consumers of all sizes should be rewarded for taking those actions, which will bene t them individually and also help reduce overall system costs, leading to savings for all consumers.

Achieving this outcome requires action. The retail electricity market must operate e ectively and serve consumers’ interests. Improved access to data is needed to assist consumers, service providers, system operators and policy makers. Increased use of demand response and changes to the role of networks and how they are incentivised are required to unlock these bene ts. Governments also need to take steps to ensure that all consumers, including low income consumers, are able to share in the benefits of new technologies and improved energy efficiency." 

Further, Dr Finkel states:

"Australians are keen adopters of new energy technologies. The uptake of new technologies and new, often digitally enabled, ways of providing services to consumers is an integral part of the transformation of the NEM.

An increasing proportion of investment in new generation assets comes from individual consumers. In the NEM, consumers have installed more than 1.44 million rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. AEMO forecasts that by 2036 the annual electricity generation from rooftop photovoltaic solar will increase by 350 per cent from current levels.

Battery storage is poised to be the next major consumer-driven deployment of energy technology. Upfront costs for solar photovoltaic systems with storage are currently high, with long payback periods for most consumers. Bloomberg expects the average payback period for residential consumers to fall below 10 years in the early 2020s, with around 100,000 battery storage systems to support rooftop solar photovoltaic generation predicted to be installed by 2020.

Innovative companies are starting to develop and market home energy management systems that coordinate and automate a consumer’s appliances, generation and storage equipment. Energy e ciency improvements, particularly in homes with modern appliances and building technologies, can reduce peak demand.

For larger consumers, building energy management systems able to respond to outside control signals are becoming more common. Given appropriate incentives and market opportunities, voluntary load reductions by commercial and industrial users could serve as an alternative to involuntary load shedding to address supply shortages."


AuthorRay Dennis

In its advice to the Treasurer on the justification for the July 2016 South Australian retail electricity price increases announced by the three major SA retailers, the Essential Services Commission found that the increases can be justified by movements in the wholesale cost of electricity. 

Click here to download a copy of the Commission’s full advice.

AuthorRay Dennis