Increased renewable energy and storage ‘crucial’ to replace Hazelwood

The closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station last week acted as a stark reminder of the need to develop a long-term energy strategy to sustain and accelerate investment in renewable energy and energy storage to replace old power stations, the Clean Energy Council said.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said ageing coal-fired generation would continue to close, but that a massive ramp-up of renewable energy construction was underway with more than $5.5 billion worth of investment in new wind and solar projects under construction in 2017.

“Some parts of Hazelwood are more than 50 years old. Like a car, the older these plants get, the more expensive they are to maintain and the less efficient they get,” Mr Thornton said.

“Our old coal plants will continue to close, no matter what our politicians do or don’t do.

“We need to ensure the strong momentum in renewable energy and energy storage continues, with a long-term energy strategy and market reform becoming increasingly crucial to deliver confidence for private sector investors.

“The biggest threat to Australia’s energy security is stalled investment in the electricity sector – the kind of situation that arises after a lost decade of energy and policy instability, combined with obsessive political point-scoring.”

Mr Thornton said a long-term energy strategy, that can deliver the strong and steady construction of wind, solar, storage, pumped hydro and smart grid technology, would ensure the lights stay on.

“Wind and solar are now the cheapest type of new electricity generation it is possible to build today,” he said.

“Around 70 per cent of our coal plants are beyond their expected operating life, but so far we have had no coordinated approach to managing their exit from the market and replacing them with cleaner forms of power generation.

“This has led to many of the issues that are now emerging.”

Mr Thornton said the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had made it clear that Victoria’s energy system will have sufficient power capacity available in the short to medium term following the closure of Hazelwood.

“As noted in earlier AEMO reports, there are power generation resources available in Victoria and the NEM that currently are not operating at all or to their full capacity that can be made available to replace the power currently supplied by Hazelwood,” AEMO said in a statement.

“AEMO’s market analysis reveals these resources exceed the 1600MW capacity of Hazelwood.”