New research from the Alternative Technology Association has showed that Australia could transition to a fully renewable energy electricity grid by 2030, which would be cheaper and less risky than building new coal-fired power stations.
“Australia should transition quickly to a 100% renewable electricity grid, as it is cheaper and less risky than the alternative of building new coal-fired power stations,” wrote the Alternative Technology Association’s (ATA) Energy Projects Team, led by Andrew Reddaway, an energy analayst at the ATA, a transition which they believe “can be achieved by 2030.” The report takes into account recent research conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) and considers recent trends and developments in local projects such as the Snowy Hydro 2.0 to forecast likely progress towards a 100% renewable energy electricity grid.
For a fully-renewable operation of Australia’s National Electricity Market, a total of 93.3 GW of renewable energy generation capacity is necessary. If solar and wind installation continues at the 2017 rate this would happen by 2040, but to reach this milestone by 2030 would require an acceleration of 80% from current trends.
On top of accelerating wind and solar development, the ATA forecast envisions pumped hydro storage increasing to cover intermittency issues. The various energy storage projects in mind are shown in the chart below, showing energy storage capacity in MWh and as a percentage of the 490,000 MWh required for a 100% renewable electricity grid.
“Electricity from new-build coal-fired power stations would likely cost between $81 and $182 per megawatt hour,” said lead author Andrew Reddaway. “This becomes a range of $102 to $203 once we allow for hidden health impacts and climate impacts.”
“In a fully renewable electricity grid, electricity would cost about $93 per megawatt hour. This includes the cost of building energy storage and extra transmission to manage intermittency.”
These costs are only likely to continue to widen apart as we increase our understanding of the impacts of coal-fired generation and as renewable energy technology costs continue to decrease.
“Australia should prepare a proper plan for 100% renewable energy, and implement it,” continued Reddaway. “Decisions should not be left to separate companies driven by short-term profits because this might lead to a poor overall system.”