Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Ministers has agreed to an independent review following the South Australian blackout that aims to develop a national electricity blueprint to ensure energy security as Australia transitions to a lower emissions future.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, will chair the review and will be assisted by two deputies to be agreed on by the COAG Energy Council in coming weeks.
The independent review will build upon the analysis and findings of the recent and ongoing work streams of the Energy Council.
A preliminary report will be prepared for the COAG Leaders’ Meeting in December 2016 with a final report due in early 2017.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) welcomed the announcement of the independent review of energy security in the national electricity market.
APPEA Chief Executive, Dr Malcolm Roberts, said, “Let’s hope Dr Finkel’s review will drag debate away from polarised positions to a fact-based discussion of how Australia can cut emissions from the energy sector without jeopardising reliable, affordable electricity for consumers.
“As far as some governments are concerned, this might not be the beginning of a beautiful friendship but it could be the beginning of a long overdue realism in the debate about renewable energy.
“Integrating more and more intermittent renewable energy into the grid is a major challenge. It is a challenge Australia can meet, provided we accept that there are genuine practical problems to be solved and we must co-operate to solve them.”
Dr Roberts said identifying problems was not an attack on renewables and solving them was in everyone’s interests, especially the renewable energy industry.
“Every generation technology has its strengths and weaknesses – that is why Australia has always used a mix of technologies to meet demand,” Dr Roberts said.
“As a starting point, we need to see more co-ordinated action from governments and fewer ad hoc announcements designed to capture newspaper headlines. Integrating climate change and energy policies means striking the right balance between cutting emissions and maintaining reliable, affordable supply.
“An important first step will be for governments to recommit to a single national renewable energy target. Some state governments have announced ambitious renewable energy targets without any detailed analysis of the costs for consumers or the impact on energy security.
“The most efficient renewable energy target is a single national target, not a patchwork of state targets which may change with every electoral cycle.”
Dr Roberts said careful planning was needed so that, as renewable energy increases its share of the energy market, Australia retained sufficient gas-fired plants to provide the immediate back-up required when renewable output falls or demand spikes.
“A recent international study of 26 OECD countries between 1990 and 2013 shows that gas is absolutely critical to system security,” Dr Roberts said.
“That study found that, for every 0.88 per cent increase in renewable generation, an even larger increase (one per cent) in fast-reacting gas-fired generation occurred.
“Dr Finkel’s review is welcomed as an important step forward.
“Minister Frydenberg and his state and territory colleagues are to be congratulated for recognising the need to tackle the energy security issue.”