AEMC: Australia’s electricity system increasingly unstable

ACCC

Australia’s power system is becoming increasingly unstable, according to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC).

Last year, the power system dropped outside secure technical limits for more than 30 minutes on 11 occasions, including South Australia’s system-wide blackout, compared with seven in 2015-16 and four in 2014-15.

The AEMC today released a draft report with recommendations to help address deteriorating frequency performance in the electricity grid at the least cost.

The Reliability Panel also released its annual review of the security, reliability and safety of the national electricity market today.

The Reliability Panel’s latest report for 2016-2017, shows managing the power system – by keeping things like frequency and voltage within technical limits – is becoming more challenging.

AEMC chief executive Anne Pearson said this report underlines the importance of the Commission’s plan to secure the power system.

“The good news is there’s enough generation and demand response capacity in the power system over the short and medium term,” Mrs Pearson said.

“But with more weather-driven generation, and more coal-fired generation leaving, the technical characteristics of the grid are changing.”

The AEMC recently introduced a package of new tools to help the market and system operator, AEMO, address the immediate system security issues resulting from the changing energy mix.

These included requirements for networks to provide minimum levels of inertia and system strength, and new ‘last line of defence’ schemes to help AEMO better prepare for, and respond to, a system security emergency.

Mrs Pearson said the Commission had already put in place a range of new tools that can be used by the market operator to keep supply secure and flagged a number of new initiatives set to be proposed in coming months.

“It is not well understood that while we have a good supply of available power, which makes the system reliable, there is a separate problem of maintaining security or the stability of the power system including when unexpected breakdowns happen in the system,” she said.

“Through the frequency control review, the AEMC is focusing on this area to address the energy network’s transformation into a system with a mix of synchronous and non-synchronous energy sources.

“New security measures will help integrate those new generation sources.

“The power system has to be managed differently in response to the changing generation mix.”

Mrs Pearson said 10 major steps had already been taken to tighten security arrangements and put more tools in the hands of the operator under the AEMC’s system security and reliability action plan, with another four major reviews of policy upcoming in 2018.

The AEMC is progressively making other rules to support the new framework, Mrs Pearson said.

The draft recommendations for frequency control add to AEMO’s toolkit.

Proposed changes include incentives for generators to use their equipment more effectively to keep frequency within safe limits, and the harnessing of new technologies like batteries and wind farms to help control frequency in the medium-term.

“The technology revolution has increased innovative generation and demand response capacity across the nation, with wind, solar and household storage now well-established,” Mrs Pearson said.

“Our recommendations to restore good frequency performance are about developing specific, targeted solutions to keep the lights on and secure the future for renewables and other technologies that reduce emissions, at the least cost to consumers.”

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on recommendations in the AEMC’s frequency control review draft report.