Government Boosts Firming Power Generation: Blueprint or Cautionary Tale?

Edge2020_Power Generation

In a bold stride towards energy security and sustainability, the Australian Federal Government, led by Chris Bowen, unveiled plans on Thursday to augment its support for an additional 550 megawatts (MW) of firming power generation in New South Wales (NSW). This amplification propels the existing plan of the state to nearly a gigawatt of firming capacity, a robust move geared to maintain grid reliability and security.

The comprehensive scheme, anchored in sustainability, is anticipated to attract nearly AUD 10 billion in investment and stimulate the power generation of an impressive 6 gigawatts (GW) to support the national grid’s dependability.

To date, proposals exceeding 3.3GW have been tendered, these initiatives target the void left by the looming shutdown of fossil fuel generators across the National Electricity Market (NEM). The government’s ambitious plan aims to offset the forecasted power deficits in the CAL28/29 periods following the discontinuation of Eraring and Vales Point power stations, operated by Origin and Delta respectively.

Chris Bowen hailed the announcement as a substantial enhancement to energy security, attributing this positive shift to the deployment of large-scale batteries and other zero-emission technologies. These avant-garde technologies promise to swiftly dispatch cleaner, more affordable renewable energy on-demand, such as during intervals of calm weather and diminished sunlight.

However, the ambitious plan is not devoid of challenges. It remains uncertain whether the proposed measures will adequately address the power shortage anticipated from the phasing out of fossil fuel generators. The firming capacity earmarked for support is predominantly anchored in large-scale battery and pumped hydro storage.

Recent delays to the Snowy 2.0 project have sparked fresh apprehensions about the NEM’s ability to maintain a stable electricity supply and avert a surge in power prices. Furthermore, while storage options such as pumped hydro and batteries seemingly complement renewable sources, uncertainties linger about the reliability of renewable energy during periods of calm weather and low sunshine. These concerns will be crucial in determining whether the shutdown of existing coal generation is postponed or accelerated.

The Federal Government’s bid to enhance firming generation capacity in NSW, although ambitious, is riddled with uncertainties. Striking a fine balance between maintaining grid reliability, mitigating price surges, and ensuring project completions will be a delicate act.

As Australia stands on the precipice of a renewable energy revolution, it begs the question: will this be the blueprint for the future, or will it serve as a cautionary tale? The success or failure of this grand scheme will undeniably cast a long shadow over the future of renewable energy not only in Australia but globally.

Australian Manufacturing: Is it time to bring it home?

Australian Manufacturing - Wind Turbine

The English love their football (soccer) and no more so than Baddiel and Skinner who sang “It’s coming home” for the 1996 Euro’s. But with another wind project either being delayed or scrapped is it really time to consider if the Chief Operating Officer of AGL, Markus Brokhof is right “The manufacturing industry has to come back to Australia.”

The latest announcement from CleanCo last week which stated the company is pulling the pin in their investment in the Karara Wind Farm in the Southern Downs in Queensland, citing delays, not in connections or transmission but in turbine parts and rising costs, only acts to further strengthen Brokhof’s argument. This investment was part of the wider MacIntyre precinct and would or may still be, the largest wind precinct in Australia. However, this could be a blow to Queensland’s target of owning 50% of new renewable generation within the state.

This is just the latest in a string of windfarms to hit delays, the Clarke Creek wind farm has been hit with numerous delays between change in ownership from Goldwind to Andrew Forest’s Squadron energy, through to shutdowns for worker safety as well as project management changes causing equipment to be removed from site. With the offtake from the first stage of the project mostly going to another Government Owned Corporation, Stanwell could this be a further blow to the state’s advanced renewable targets, 80 per cent by 2035, and the existing 50% by 2030.

Another one of Andrew Forests wide array of companies is Windlab, whose own windfarm the Upper Burdekin project has not only lost its inaugural customer Apple, but has had to significantly downsize the output of the site from the proposed 193 Wind turbines to a reduced 136 and is now likely to only have 80 following significant opposition from wildlife conservationists who stated that the project was threatening already endangered species.

To further stoke the flames, AEMO has now come into the forefront of media, stating that not only do we not have enough investment in renewable electricity to compensate for the expected closure dates of coal generation, but the firming technology to support this renewable grid has not been fully funded or addressed, this year’s ESOO will certainly paint a bleak picture for the medium term in Australia. This sentiment is only exacerbated by the Australian former chief scientist and first Victoria State Electricity Commission CEO, Andrew Finkel, who last week quit his role at the SEC stating; not only was the capital investment not in place but investment has dried up and the “country is unlikely to reach its emission reduction targets.” I’m sure not a sentiment which was welcome news for the Andrew’s government whose election campaign was built on the premise the SEC would be both decarbonising the Victorian grid whilst reducing the cost for Victorians.

With the COP 28 due in November and Australia looking like it will miss it’s, late to the party but thanks for coming, 2030 targets, increasing international pressure will be placed upon Australia to ask how we will try and achieve some meaningful reductions? Rik De Buyserie, Engie Australia’s CEO implied to even get close to the 2030 climate targets Australia would need 10,000km of new transmission, 44GW of new renewables and 15GW of firming capacity. With components scarce, increasing costs and logistical issues of port slots to physically ship the parts to Australia, maybe it is time to turn our attention inwards and start upskilling and creating our own industry to de-carbonise ourselves?

Possible extension to the gas caps

Image of Gas Stove

It is likely today that the Climate change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will announce an extension to the $12/GJ cap on wholesale gas. Currently the gas caps will expire at the end of the year. Following the release of the draft mandatory code of conduct the market will have several weeks of consultation.

Energy producers are likely to be concerned over an extension or possibly permanent changes to the wholesale gas. Energy producers will also be concerned that changes will impact the pricing of long-term deals as it is likely a reasonable pricing clause will be included.

Under the reasonable price provision, gas companies could only charge a price based on the cost of production plus a reasonable margin. The reasonable price does not consider the capital invested during exploration and development of projects. Gas buyers will be able to challenge the price of contracts via a formal dispute process. The dispute process is designed to determine what the ‘reasonable’ price should be.

While the extension to the cap mechanism will provide certainty for energy users, energy producers remain in a holding pattern.

Gas producers are not finalising new gas supply contracts for 2024 until the government confirms what the impact of the code will have on pricing.

The federal government have also set the expectation that the federal budget will include a Petroleum Rent Tax. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) have shared with its members concerns that changes to the taxing of gas producers will add $100B of tax receipts to the government.

To appease the gas production sector, it is expected the new code will allow for exemptions. New projects that add supply for domestic use may qualify for exemptions from any specific pricing provision.

APPEA said the code “must recognise the importance of gas in a cleaner energy future, and the need to ensure settings which enable investment in new supply to avoid forecast shortfalls and put downward pressure on prices”.

Gas industry developers continues to warn the broader industry that deterring investment in new gas supply will harm the supply to manufacturers and reduce the secure of supplies of electricity across the NEM.

Beach Energy’s chief executive has said that getting the terms of the code wrong could imperil Australia’s transition to low-carbon energy given the role gas plays to support renewable energy.

At the end of the day changes to the industry need to benefit producers, end users and ensure gas and electricity security is achieved. While international cost pressures are impacting the gas and electricity industry. The continued development of gas resources are required to provide gas the opportunity to be the transitional fuel as Australia strives to its Net zero emission targets.

Next test in NSW for the transition to renewables

Hand turning off light switch

For over eight years, there has been talk of AGL shutting down Liddell power station. Finally, this will become reality today, with the next Liddell unit being shut down.

Liddell Unit 4 will be shut down today, followed by Units 1 and 4 over the next 10 days. The retirement of Liddell power station will make 10% of NSW’s availability being bid unavailable.

It would be expected that the permanent closure of 10% of NSW’s electricity generation would put the grid at risk and lead to higher electricity prices.

AEMO has alleviated market concerns by saying, “Supply is not at risk”. However, Edge2020 is not ruling out an upward pressure on prices due to a shock to the market, despite the market knowing the Liddell units would be shut down for many years.

The retirement of Liddell power station is the next big step for NSW as the state transitions from scheduled coal-fired generation to intermittent renewable energy and storage.

While the market has known about the retirement of the Liddell power station for years, Edge2020 expects the market to be firm on the reality of the closures. Spot electricity and forward prices in NSW and Queensland may increase in the short term; however, they will settle over time.

Following the retirement of the Liddell units, availability will still be relatively high in NSW. The capacity factors of the remaining coal-fired units will increase, and gas will fill the remaining gaps. As a result of this and generation from neighbouring regions, it is unlikely that the NSW region will incur a significant drop in availability resulting in a Lack of Reserve (LOR) notice from AEMO.

AEMO confirmed in February that the closure of the Liddell units would not breach the reliability standard; however, AEMO’s latest reliability report has raised concerns that reliability risks remain in NSW. AEMO’s biggest reliability concern has been the delayed delivery of Snowy Hydro’s Kurri Kurri gas-fired generator. The Kurri Kurri gas-fired generator has been delayed by 12 months. AGL has confirmed AEMO has not approached them regarding reliability levels following the closure.

Further to alleviate the availability and reliability concerns of the market as we approach to summer is the news that Energy Australia will have the 300MW Tallawarra B gas-fired generator online in December. Additionally, NSW imports additional electricity from Queensland and Victoria via the interconnectors.

AGL has plans to repurpose the Liddell site into a clean energy hub which will include a 250MW battery with room for expansion that could be linked to a nearby pumped hydro project.

After the closure of Liddell 4 on April 19th, followed by Unit 2 six days later, and then finally Unit 1 on April 29th, AGL will start demolition in early 2024.

The next few weeks will be an interesting time in the industry, particularly for NSW politics and the wider NEM. Edge2020 will monitor the market and provide updates over the next few weeks as the final unit retires.

Renewable energy storage road map released

Edge 2020 Brisbane City

The CSIRO released its Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap at the end of March 2023.

Their modelling suggested that while Australia leads the world in solar generation, and we have reduced emissions significantly, there is still a big task ahead of the country if we are to meet net zero emission targets and maintain affordable and reliable energy to end users. The CSIRO Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap report showed Australia will need significant amounts of storage to meet the transition to renewables.

Storage is the key to integrating renewable energy into the grid and reducing the dependency on coal and gas fired generation. Currently the electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind and solar is intermittent and is not easily dispatched into the grid when it is most needed. Storage allows the renewable energy to be generated when the natural resources are high and dispatching it into the grid when the electricity is needed.

Dispatchable storage is currently available in the grid in the form of pump storage hydro, such as Wivenhoe power station in Queensland and Tumut 3 in NSW. There are also various battery installations located across the NEM.

The dispatch of renewable energy may require different storage technologies to best suit an evolving NEM. Storage comes in various forms from electrochemical storage such as batteries, mechanical storage such as hydro, chemical storage and thermal storage. Each technology has its pros and cons, but a combination of technologies is likely to be required to meet the real time storage volumes and timings of the NEM.

For many years pumped hydro has been seen by governments as the solution to Australia’s energy storage needs, but timing is the limiting factor in this solution.

To enable the transition from coal and gas fired generation to renewables, storage is required now. On a typical day we have excess solar generation resulting in negative spot prices, however over the evening peak as demand increases the supply of renewable drops of coal and gas provide the generation to meet demand. Thermal generation is normally dispatched at prices higher than the cost of renewables resulting in higher spot prices. If storage could be used efficiently the solar energy produced during daylight hours could be used over the evening peak and into the evening resulting in lower electricity prices.

As coal fired generation retires between 2023 and 2035, new dispatchable generation needs to be brought online, the CSIRO report states, development timelines need to be accelerated to bring more projects online by 2030.

Pump storage hydro typically has a lead time of 10 years so either development timelines need to be accelerated or different storage technologies need to be employed in the meantime.

CSIRO chief executive said “there was a need for a “massive increase” in storage capacity to achieve the transition to net zero, with estimates of 11 to 14 gigawatts of additional storage capacity by 2030 alone.

2030 is not far away, to meet the transition targets should industry be focusing on storage rather than generation? Is storage an opportunity to utilise existing infrastructure like old mine pits for pump storage hydro or repurpose retiring thermal power station sites as storage hubs?

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Warning

Edge20202 Drought Landscape

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 6th Assessment Report (AR6) last week, on 20th March. This has been an eight-year assessment and involved over 250 climate scientists.

It was as bleak as can be expected and shows the catastrophic impact of increasing greenhouse gasses. The report discusses how we have already reached a 1.1 degrees Celsius increase in global warming and how this is affecting summer arctic ice coverage, ocean acidification and concentrations of Carbon Dioxide.

The focus isn’t just on the current impacts as it reveals the irreversible affects that can occur at as low as a 1.5-degree overshoot, including species extinction and loss of life.

The report is a must read and will be discussed over the next few weeks by many. Interestingly one of the first out of the gate was the UN, whose secretary general has urged nations to abandon the 2050 net-zero target for new stronger 2040 packs. Antonio Guterres is calling for developed nations to phase out coal by 2030 and block new oil or gas extraction. This may, in his opinion, hold us at the 1.5-degree warming cap.

The true test will be in COP28 in the UAE in November and December 2023. However, with the attendance of chair, H.E. Dr Sultan Al Jaber, being the CEO of the 12th largest oil business will likely see a softening of approaches happening there!

What the AR6 does tell us is that we are close to the point of no return. The impacts of climate change are visible and require immediate action. We must react, or it will be irreversible.

Edge2020 have an eye on the energy market, enabling us to support price benefits as well as customer supply and demand agreements. Our clients rely on our experts to ensure they are informed, equipped, and ideally positioned to make the right decisions at the right time. If you could benefit from an expert eye on your energy portfolio, we’d love to meet you. Contact us on: 1800 334 336 or email:

Market Report – Quarter 3 2022

Overview of National Electricity Market (NEM) Quarter 3 2022

International drivers continue to increase gas and electricity prices across the NEM. The main reason for this increase has been and continues to be the tight supply / demand balance resulting from Gas flow restriction in Europe, associated with the war in Ukraine. The reduced flow of gas in Europe has resulted in a greater demand for Australian gas that in turn has put cost pressures on Australian gas market. Higher priced gas then links into to Australian electricity market, leading to higher spot and futures electricity prices.

For Q322 electricity spot prices averaged $216/MWh across the (NEM). The Q322 average spot price of electricity was close to matching the all time record of $264/MWh that occurred in Q222. Interestingly, the average price of electricity for Q322 was more than three times higher than the same quarter the previous year. In Q321the average price of electricity was $58/MWh.

NEM operational demand increased by 2.6% or 559MW to 22,414 MW compared with the same quarter last year. We also saw demand increase for the first time in Q3 since 2015. Households and businesses used more electricity from the grid as a result of their underlying electricity consumption increasing and the output from their rooftop Photovoltaic systems (PV) not generating as much as normal due to cloudy conditions.

High spot prices occurred at the start of Q322 on the back of record high spot prices seen across Q222. The July NEM monthly average of $360/MWh was $23/MWh higher than the June 2022 average of $337/MWh. Later on in the quarter spot prices fell with August Electricity prices averaging $145/MWh across the NEM. Until this year QLD, NSW, VIC and TAS have not recorded a Q3 average electricity price of over $100/MWh. South Australia reached this milestone in Q316 at $119/MWh.

Historically Q3 is not a volatile quarter, but this year it is different, Q322 saw 24% of the dispatch intervals with a price over $300/MWh. This is on the back of the previous quarter, in July prices exceeded $300/MWh 61% of the time, the highest monthly proportion since  the start of NEM. Many intervals saw prices in the $300-$500/MWh range resulting in spot prices moving above the historical price cap threshold of $300/MWh.

Below are the drivers that elevated spot prices and volatility in Q322.

  • A reliance on thermal generation (coal and gas fired) with higher fuel cost due to the increased demand for these resources internationally.
  • Hydro generation setting prices at elevated levels due to limited water supply and bids adjusted to meet revised trading strategies.
  • An increase in demand as consumption increased and rooftop PV generation reduced due to cloudy skies.
  • Price volatility significantly increased the average spot price of electricity with large jumps in spot price due to the distribution of generation offers within the bid stack. The market operator stacks all offers from lowest to highest to build the bid stack. The spot price for a trading interval is the offer price of the marginal unit at the required generation level to meet demand. The bid stack ranges from -$1,000 to $15,500/MWh. During August the spot price reached over $1,000/MWh as generators withdrew generation for technical and economic reasons.
  • With higher average electricity prices we also saw less negative electricity prices across the NEM. In the previous year we experienced negative prices 17% of the time but for Q3 we have only experienced negative prices 9% of the time.


A La Niña event was declared across the NEM increasing the likelihood of above average winter-spring rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia, while a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event increased the likelihood of rainfall across southern and eastern Australia. Q322 was very wet, with many sites recording their wettest July on record. Wet weather continued across Q3 with September’s rainfall being the fifth highest on record across Australia. Temperatures at the beginning of the quarter were below average in many parts of Victoria and Tasmania and above average minimum temperatures occurred across south-east Australia.

La Niña resulted in wet and cloudy conditions impacting solar generation and the supply of coal to power stations, in additon to the export market resulting in higher prices.

Electricity Demand

As outlined above the NEM demand has changed since the same time last year, the below chart shows this graphically.





The chart below shows how the demand in Q3 has increased in recent years.








The charts below also show the slow down in the growth on rooftop PV and change in operational demand.








NEM Spot Prices

NEM spot prices have increased significantly and have reached unprecedented levels.

The cost of the underlying fuels for generators has led to these increases. Coal and gas prices are at all time highs due to international demands leading to a high cost of generation. The chart shows the correlation between East coast gas price and the price of electricity. Coal also corelated closely to the cost of generation and a resulting electricity spot price.

Prices have also increased as renewables generation (solar, wind and hydro) is lower due to cloud cover reducing solar, low storage levels reducing hydro generation and hence it bids in at higher prices. There have also been large swings in the output from wind which results in spot market volatility.


Generation and Offer Prices

Gas contributed the most to supply in Q322 and as result of the high cost of gas this has influenced the average spot price.The lower volume of generation from coal was a result of bidding behaviour withdrawing thermal capacity and intermittent generation like solar and wind taking a larger market share.

A lower capacity factor for coal generation has resulted in coal fired availability moving higher up the bid stack resulting in coal fired generation needing to dispatch at higher spot prices to meet their long run average costs.













NEM emissions intensities declined this quarter slightly to 0.6 tCO2-e/MWh. Total emissions were 0.2% lower than Q321.

Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)

The futures market was influenced by a higher spot market, gas prices and the delays experienced with large scale renewables, a slowing in the rooftop PV market and climate conditions likely to reduce the output from solar generation.

The future price of electricity traded on the ASX for Calendar 2023 (Cal 23) continued to increase in price across the quarter in the four NEM mainland regions. Cal 23 New South Wales futures finished the quarter at $232/MWh, with Queensland at $224/MWh, South Australia at $193/MWh and Victoria at $157/MWh.

Credits: All charts in this report are sourced from AEMO


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International oil price fluctuations and the electricity market reacts

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), the intergovernmental organisation of 23 oil exporting nations mainly in the Middle East and Africa (with the original core 13 holding most power) is the body which is responsible for around 40% of the world’s oil production. In early October this group agreed to slash the output of crude oil by 2 million barrels a day. To put this in perspective Saudi Arabia produces on average 10 million barrels per day of the current, already reduced, 42 million barrels coming from the OPEC+ nations and this 2-million-barrel reduction translates to about 2% of the global oil supply. It is also worth noting in 2016 when OPEC became OPEC+ Russia joined the organisation and has held a strong voice ever since.

This reduction in production, shows a sign of deepening rifts between the Middle East and the US, and the cynic in me says may be more than slightly linked to the upcoming US mid-term elections where the democrats are already looking weaker than their GOP counterparts – not that those countries have ever influenced an American election in the past *Cough Trump Cough*.  But regardless of motives these new production limits will come into place in November and the impending reduction in production has repercussions which flowed through the broader Australian and global energy markets including oil, coal and gas.

Australian electricity prices are strongly correlated with the international crude oil price, particularly in QLD and NSW, the impact of Brent crude futures hitting a high of $US93.39 on Monday caused a rally on the Australian electricity market, with the Q123 QLD price rising 20%, as the effect of this increase translated to the domestic electricity market. Brent Crude being the international oil benchmark price.

However, OPEC+ are not the only drivers of the oil price, especially WTI and Brent prices. The US dollar, on the back of a fear of a global recession has been strengthening which has dampened the demand for their oil on the international stage. (Consider the FX implications of a strong dollar, if you are buying from Europe the same amount of crude oil now costs more as the number of Euros to achieve the same dollar amount has increased). So, a reduction in demand of America Oil due to FX and reduction in export from OPEC+ can only move the needle up in price regardless of source.

We also cannot ignore the ongoing COVID implications in Asia, especially China. Their glut of demand has not returned to anywhere near the pre-pandemic levels and as such that demand is not translating into a price war to ensure delivery of the commodity. Conversely to above this is actually holding prices lower and reducing the impact of the OPEC+ reduction.

But there is no ignoring the elephant in the room, the impact of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, which has led to global increases in commodity costs, has also acted as a buffer to the oil price despite the recession fears. As many countries imposed their own moral code and refused to buy Russian oil, other sources could benefit from the increase in demand. By the end of September this year Russian oil was trading at $20/barrel cheaper than its Brent counterpart. Some less scrupulous countries such as India and China, sought to benefit from this price differential and ignored the sanctions coming from the West and are now taking at least half of Russia’s oil exports. Further, Russia has now overtaken Saudi Arabia to be the biggest exporter of oil into China. Therefore, could the cut in reduction be as simple as the rest of OPEC+ looking to balance the loss in demand from the East by passing inflated prices to the West?

But back to Australia, we are obviously a commodity rich nation, however with our internal thirst for electricity and therefore generation linked heavily to the export price of that commodity, we are subject to these international fluctuations also. As the price of the oil increases, the global demand from that commodity shifts to other sources. Our gas and coal price domestically are therefore linked heavily to the price that exporters can achieve if they send our home-grown coal and gas abroad. So as the demand shifts from oil, to gas or coal so does the price. Hence the correlation described above with Brent rising and that coming into our domestic market.

Then for fun lets add in our own pressures, we are expecting another La Nina this year, last year’s summer La Nina brought low solar output coupled with flooding, wet coal stockpiles and just-in-time delivery delays due to the tracks being flooded and trains not able to deliver.

We also have an economy which is having increasing inflationary pressures. These inflation increases will flow onto the interest rates (including the interbank rates) and therefore commodity prices. How? Well, a retail return is based on 2 main drivers, network and wholesale costs, the latter we have covered above. But in isolation network costs will also increase, due to the inflation increasing the nominal value of the asset and therefore the increasing value of the debt as the interest rates increase also.

Further any investment required to transition our market to greener fuels will also be increased, as the levelized cost of electricity for these new assets is also increased due to cost of capital and higher interest rates feeding through. As such the ‘Energy transition’ will now cost more.

There is also a regulatory driver, with an impending price cap increase being fast tracked, this will allow system stability to flow through, as gas won’t withdraw at the $300/MWh cap as this looks likely to be increased to $500/MWh. Therefore, does that become the new ceiling of our market?

There is an old idiom that when China sneezes Asia catches a cold, I unfortunately think this now needs to be broadened to when any imbalance occurs the ripples will be felt globally.

The balance is so tight that without some easing of any fundamentals the shocks will continue. AEMO are acknowledging this, but despite acknowledging the issues they are desperately clinging to the hope a capacity market will be the silver bullet to system stability, backed by large synchronous generators, not that they have any benefit from that mechanism. However, I cannot agree, point in fact I point you to the black outs in the UK on August 9th 2019, a market which has had a capacity mechanism for many years yet in a moment of system instability these ‘capacity assets’ could do nothing and they experienced a blackout for 45 minutes and over 1 million people were affected.

What this means for us is without regulation around bidding behaviour based on cost of generation from hedges not advantageous forward prices, we are looking at another summer with uncertainty and volatility based on international fundamentals pulling the Australian market along for the ride.

Market Update – Q3 2022 to date

As we move out of Q2 2022, a quarter that we have never seen behave in this way before, it is interesting to see how things have changed in Q3 to date.

Why was Q2 2022 so controversial? Well, we saw record spot prices, record forward prices, caps put on the gas market, caps put in place in the electricity market, market direction, the activation of Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) and eventually suspension of the National Electricity Market (NEM). As we moved through Q3 has the situation changed?

To make this decision we must first review Q2, to assist us in understanding if things are going to change. What caused all the market intervention in Q2 and the eventual market suspension?

Q2 is normally a quiet time in the NEM, demand is low, and generators take the opportunity to take units offline for routine planned overhauls. The drop in availability that results from the units on overhaul are normally soaked up by the remaining units online. This Q2 we saw a lower than normal number of units online across the NEM to take up this slack, namely Callide C4 that was offline due to the catastrophic failure in May 2021, Swanbank E and thermal generators dispatching less volume due to flooding across NSW and QLD reducing coal supplies.

Q2 2022 saw average spot prices more than double compared with recent years and peaked at the end of the quarter. The average for Q2 2022 reached $332/MWh in Qld, $302/MWh in NSW, SA at $257/MWh and VIC the lowest, at $224/MWh.

Interestingly the quarterly average price for NSW and QLD was above where the Administered Price Cap (APC). The APC is triggered when the sum of the previous 7 days trading intervals equals $1,359,100. The price is then capped at $300/MWh and remains in place at least until the end of the trading day.

Q2 2022 was a quarter of extreme price, low availability, and market interventions. In Queensland for example we saw 42 hours of spot prices below $0/MWh but also 32 hours above $1,000/MWh. While we did not see a significant number of prices reaching the market cap of $15,100/MWh we did see solid prices that increased the average to levels not normally seen in Q2.

During Q2, exacerbating the issue, we saw significant volume bid in below $0/MWh so units would remain online, however with little between this price and higher prices meant there was a visible gap in the bid stack until prices were over $300/MWh. This distribution was a result of higher fuel cost such as spot gas at $40/GJ which converts to a generation price of over $400/MWh. However, we also saw the emergence of strategic bidding that introduced volatility and higher average prices into the market. The result of the strategic bidding was spot prices for the majority of the time across the NEM were above $100/MWh and often above $300/MWh.

As coal supplies became limited due to flooding, the gas price also jumped due to the global supply issues caused by the war in Ukraine. These fundamentals led to the spot prices increasing and eventually forcing the market operator to cap the market when the Administered Price Cap was reached. APC put a cap of $300/MWh on the electricity spot market.

As a result of the APC, generators removed capacity out of the market rather than operating at a loss due to their higher spot fuel cost. This resulted in the removal of over 3,000MW of generation in which forced AEMO to intervene in the market and direct units online as well as being forced to activate RERT to maintain system security.

Over a few days operating under the APC the market became impractical to operate using directions and AEMO eventually suspended the market on 15 June 2022.

During market suspension AEMO took over the control of the dispatch of market participants units.

Simultaneously during the market suspension, availability returned to the market as units returned from overhauls, coal and gas supply restriction improved and trading strategies were reviewed by the market participants.

On 24 June 2022 AEMO lifted the suspension of the market and the NEM returned to normal operation.

Since the lifting of the market suspension and the commencement of Q3 we have seen a change in some behavior, however spot prices remain high. In the first week of Q3 market participants took advantage of market conditions of low intermittent generation ensuring they benefitted from the ability to increase volatility. In the first week spot price hit the new maximum price cap of $15,500/MWh on several occasions.

While these price spike has lifted the quarterly average for the first 21 days of Q3 to $466/MWh in QLD and $418/MWh in NSW we are seeing this average drop each day.

The main driver for the lower spot prices is, as mentioned before, the improved availability across the NEM. Availability in QLD is regularly reaching 9,000MW compared to in June when it dropped 6,600MW. The short-term outlook for generation continues to improve daily with the majority of planned outages now completed.

A secondary driver that has pushed down average prices is the return of the sun. Solar generation is now regularly pushing the spot price below $100/MWh and on some occasions back into negative territory.

Less volatility in the spot market has been reflected in the forward market with Q422 QLD dropping from over $270/MWh in June to $260/MWh and the Q123 product dropping below $250/MWh.

Without delving into the gas supply concerns in Victoria, all other states have removed the price cap on gas allowing the market to operate more efficiently. This has not resulted in the gas market trading at significantly high prices as feared, Qld is $42.75/GJ, NSW is $51.51/GJ and SA at $45.51, translating into a sub $500/MWh peaking gas plant cost of generation.

As the weather warms up and the daylight hours increase, we expect to see a drop in demand, with heating loads reducing coupled with an increase in the generation provided by solar.

All of this, as well as increased thermal generator availability and stability in the gas markets, should see spot and forward prices continue to fall across the quarter.

Is UFE the UIG of Australia?

Anyone who knew me in my past life in the UK knows that I harped on about Unidentified Gas (UIG) A LOT!

The idea behind UIG is simple, allocate the gas which couldn’t be attributed to a meter in an area across all end users in that area, in which it was used (off-taken). Seems simple right. But when was the last time you actually gave a meter reading? Possibly six months to a year ago? Well that means your off-take (unless you are on a smart meter) is estimated and you will be either over or under on allocated unidentified gas.

Although this seems sensible with everyone eventually giving a meter read and therefore it will all work out in the wash, what exacerbates the issue, especially at the moment, is the extreme increase in the gas price at which these charges are now passed through to retailers and then in turn our bills.

Now what does understating this UK gas usage or allocation have to do with Australia? Well, quite a lot. The system is similar, but not the same.

Following Global Settlements being introduced by AEMO we have started seeing Australia’s version of these charges coming into our bills. We allocate the unidentified – called Unaccounted for Energy (UFE) within each region by the off-takers in that area.

What we are not doing yet, which in the UK’s defense they do there (through XOServe), is take into account those meters which are half hourly ready (smart(er) meters) and therefore their usage should be known. Currently in Australia the offtake in a region will be directly linked to your proportion of an energy being allocated to you and you literally have no say in these charges, despite having updated metering capability.

The sore point of it all is that this is occurring at a time when our electricity market is extremely high and therefore there is a possibility of the combination of large UFEs  being passed through to end users at high prices, with companies having no control over the volume or price it is passed through at. This is leading to significant shocks to companies’ outgoings, as there is little to no visibility on the charge on any given month, and no way to forecast them to budget.

I fear that UFE will become my new soap box issue, and I can guarantee this isn’t the last anyone will hear on this. I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one who will be making noise.

Is this happening to your business? If you feel you need more control of your company’s energy spend, please reach out to discuss joining our Edge Utilities Power Portfolio (EUPP) where we use the power of bulk purchasing to help Australian businesses of all sizes save on their energy bills. Read more: or call us on: 1800 334 336 to discuss.