By ERWIN CHLANDA
Central Australians, don’t sell your house: For home-based power generation there is no better place in Australia than here.
In Australia the vast majority of the population lives in the region with the least solar power (image at top).
Less than 5% of Australia’s solar energy reaches its populated areas; 40% of Australia’s energy demand occurs during useful sun hours.
This is likely to be a hot topic at the “Vision for Energy in Alice Springs” luncheon scheduled for Tuesday but postponed to November 1 because of a last minute cancellation of a Qantas flight.
The function sponsored by Territory Generation (TGen) will hear from RePower Alice, who have told the Alice Springs News Online they will be sending several members to push for 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030, not just 50%, as planned by the NT Government.
TGen’s CEO, Tim Duignan, gave the News a preview of some of the points he will be making. The lunch gathering will also hear from Mark Monaghan (Engineers Australia), Jamie DeBrenni (Regional Economic Development Committee), Jimmy Cocking (ALEC) and Paul Gleeson (Aurecon).
TGen, like the other two in the troika supplying us with electricity, PowerWater (wires) and Jacana Energy (billing), is fully NT Government owned, “structurally separated” in July 2014, with the NT Treasurer being the sole shareholder.
Mr Duignan says he “will outline TGen’s commitment to new energy, recognising the increasing importance of renewable energy across the Northern Territory, particularly in Central Australia”. TGen is the “custodian of $550m in assets,” he says.
The $75m spent by the defeated Giles Government on new fossil fuelled generator engines (above, left) is likely to be front and centre of the discussion.
This is a kaleidoscope of the issues Mr Duignan will be raising:–
The Territory is burning not a single lump of coal to produce electricity. In the four major population centres, for 30 years natural gas-fired power stations, using Territory produced gas, mainly from Palm Valley, west of Alice Springs, have been providing the power.
There has been high diesel usage in remote locations.
Wholesale electricity prices dropped and held, and retail prices are stable with tariffs in the NT dwelling pretty well in the nation’s mid-range (see graph).
Gas sales are likely to drop.
The Northern Gas Pipeline will export excess gas from the NT.
“Assets” – including power stations – in various locations are reaching the end of their life.
Around the nation, for years state governments have been acting independently within a national grid to which the NT is not connected. Darwin powers Katherine but Alice Springs power generation is a stand-alone operation.
Eight out of the nation’s 14 most emission-intensive power stations have closed in past five years. All were coal-fired, headed by Port Augusta and Hazelwood.
In SA Elon Musk is saying: “I’ll fix the energy crisis [by building a giant battery] in 100 days or its free.” In addition the SA Government is committing an additional $550m including $360m for a gas-fired power station.
Alice Springs will soon be operating with a 5MW battery energy storage system which is one of the largest grid-connected solutions in Australia.
Mr Duignan says a remote operating centre “will monitor and allow remote operations of the TGen asset fleet from one location, leading to increased efficiency, improved stability and faster response times”.
(This is a proposal hotly opposed by the Electrical Trades Union.)
Given the abundance of solar power in the sparsely populated Centre, and the comparative dearth ot it in the nation’s densely populated south-east, Mr Duignan suggests: “To use its solar resources, energy storage is needed to move energy in time and in geography across Australia.”
That suggests (not quoting Mr Duignan here) operations by large companies with multi billion dollar transmission wires and batteries.
However, the buzzword now increasingly is community generating, household and neighbourhood based, while the big operators and their big systems are accused of fleecing consumers and have plunged the Turnbull Government into crisis (even if hoping for a breakthrough with the “National Energy Guarantee”).
Mr Duignan said today: “TGen’s key position is that any transition to a renewable future should be managed in a very careful way to ensure reliability, capacity and controlling costs [providing] a more efficient, reliable and greener solution.”
All images courtesy TGen. BELOW: A sample of recent power generation in Alice Springs.