The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) high-performance simulator for the National Electricity Market (NEM) is a step closer with the proof-of-concept phase now underway. 

Following a feasibility study initiated by AEMO and the CSIRO in mid-2019, AEMO is investing in a simulator with the initial capability to better integrate renewable generation and manage threats to the power system, such as bushfire and storms.

AEMO Chief Digital and Business Transformation Officer, Joe Locandro, said that the simulator is a significant strategic investment for the future benefit of AEMO, the industry and consumers.

“We’re pleased to move to proof-of-concept for a simulation tool that will rapidly advance the capabilities of both AEMO and the industry to successfully navigate the transitioning national energy system to benefit consumers,” Mr Locandro said. 

“Australia’s power system is experiencing a transition from a reliance on coal generation to greater volumes of renewable generation at a pace and penetration level not seen in any other major interconnected system in the world. 

“To maintain a reliable, secure and affordable energy supply while the power system is effectively being rebuilt presents unique and highly complex technical challenges, for AEMO as the system operator, but also for the industry.”

In 2019, the Boston Consulting Group conducted a feasibility study which identified an urgent need for a ‘real-time’ simulator as the cornerstone component of an Australian Energy Simulation Centre (AESC). 

The AESC represented a much larger scope than the project that AEMO is currently pursuing. Through stakeholder workshops, the feasibility study identified a suite of tools to implement as a priority. 

“AEMO has taken the prudent financial and operational decision to proceed with a simulator that has foundational elements of the AESC to address the most urgent requirements,” Mr Locandro said. 

“The core real-time simulation platform will support effective operation of the energy system and a new generation connection tool to enable faster and more efficient approval of connections applications for new generation plant.”

The simulator will be built in a hybrid platform, using cloud-based access to allow industry, researchers and developers to simulate the grid in an extremely fast fashion, which has never been done before. It will also reduce the time taken to run a one-minute simulation from two hours to approximately three minutes without loss of fidelity. 

“What that means is during a bushfire whereby powerlines are switched off or damaged, we will be able to quickly simulate and carry out ‘what-ifs’ to plan mitigation strategies,” Mr Locandro said. 

“This is critical for Australia as demonstrated in the 2019-20 summer, when the NEM faced heightened and unprecedented operational challenges.”

Following a thorough procurement process, AEMO awarded a contract to Canadian-based Opal-RT Technologies to implement the electromagnet transient simulator. The project, starting with a proof-of-concept phase, is expected to be deployed in 18 months. 

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