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.

NSW South West Renewable Energy Zone

Street lights at night

Last Friday, the NSW government released their draft declaration for the South West Renewable Energy Zone (SW REZ) access scheme to the public. This is one of five REZs which have been identified within NSW as part of the NSW governments Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. The schemes are overseeing the volume of projects which will be granted to the transmission within these zones and co-ordinate the network and generation investments into the areas.

The SW zone is based towards the Victorian border and the proposed connection point would be in the Dinawan Substation. The access standards are very similar to those already proposed in April for the states Central-West Orana (CWO) region.

With the CWO attracting more than $35billion worth of proposed projects the SW REZ is hoping to attract significant investment for its 2.5GW transfer capacity, noting the location will not allow for offshore wind and as much Hydrogen investment as that seen in the CWO.

The NSW government has stated that the aim of the declaration is that “An access scheme provides an opportunity to control the connection of projects to the REZ. In the case of the South West, the proposed access scheme triggers the application of modifications to the National Electricity Rules (NER) open access arrangements as they apply to the access right network.”

The access granted projects will benefit from significant network upgrades including potential upgrades to the Project Energy Connect (PEC) interconnector which is being developed at the moment and is to run between SA (Robertstown) and NSW (Wagga Wagga), upgrades to the HumeLink which would connect that Wagga Wagga substation with Snowy Hydro and its increasing capacity and further strengthen the investment case for the proposed Victoria-NSW interconnector (VNI West). The latter is currently within the RIT-T (Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission) process.

These proposals will surely give investors’ confidence in providing the required project certification to be granted the access to that zone. They must not only show feasibility and prepare to sign onto the standards set out in this proposition, but must ensure they can manage voltage, frequency especially which there are potential disruptions within the system. However, the rewards of participating in a well-funded, transmission rich environment which has certainty of curtailment risk for the access rights holders, are surely going to outweigh the paper-work process of being accepted and given the over subscription of the CWO, you can imagine a similar uptake in this round.

The consultation for the South West Renewable Energy Zone (SW REZ) access scheme is closing on the 15th May 2023.

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.

AEMO Services shortlisted 4.3GW of renewables in NSW

AEMO Services recently ran a tender process for Long-Term Energy Service Agreements (LTESA’s) and Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Access Rights to support investment, construction and operation of renewable energy generation and long duration storage infrastructure in NSW.

AEMO Services shortlisted 16 projects totalling 4.3 GW of generation and storage in its first auction. AEMO Services is expected to go to tender for more supply and storage in the future as NSW undergoes the transition from coal fired generation to renewables.

To enable the transition from coal to renewables, investment in NSW is likely to be over $32B to allow renewables to fill the gap as the last 5 coal fired generators in the state retire over the next 10 years.

With 16 projects being selected from the first round, AEMO Services will continue to run 2 auctions per year until the end of 2030 to source 12GW of renewables and 2GW of storage to fill the shortfall.

While the generation and storage mix has not been released, it is likely it will be a mix of solar, wind for the generation and batteries and pump hydro will be selected to meet the eight hour storage solution.

Under the auction scheme the successful projects will essentially be underpinned by a long term energy service agreement to ensure the projects receive a minimum return on investment to allow them to get project finance.

The 16 projects have until the 10th February to submit the financial part of the bids to AEMO Services when they will be assessing each project against a set of criteria including technical capability, delivery timeline, cost and social licence. Unsuccessful projects can update their submissions and submit offers in future rounds. The next auction is likely to be in July 2023.

With companies striving to meet future sustainability targets the supply of projects has been tight. Hopefully following the close of the first auction and another round in 6 months we will start to see projects reaching financial close, construction and finally delivering renewable energy to the grid.

At Edge 2020 keeping our customers informed on the energy market is a top priority for us. As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future, we are committed to playing our part by procuring from renewable energy sources, whilst continuing to secure cost-effective energy solutions for our customers. If your business is interested in wholesale or retail renewable PPAs we’d love to help you. Contact us on: 1800 334 336 or email:

High Demand contributes to record prices in Northern States

Increased electricity demand in both Queensland and New South Wales during January 2017 has had a significant impact on electricity prices for this period.

Queensland maximum and average demand was 8 percent higher than January 2016, while New South Wales was 9 percent higher compared to the previous year.

Higher demand helped in setting record prices for both states. The Queensland spot price averaged $197.65/MWh for January 2017. The previous record for January was set in 2013 when the price was $155.90/MWh. New South Wales reached $82.69/MWh eclipsing the previous January record of $66.95/MWh set in 2001.

Higher spot prices are currently expected to continue for the foreseeable future with forward contracts for both regions currently trading above $80.00/MWh on the Australian Stock Exchange.

If you want to discuss your energy arrangements, get in touch with expert energy consultants by contacting us here or on 07 3232 1115.