Energy tsar targets renewable grid by 2025

The new boss of the energy market operator has issued a rallying call for Australia to safely achieve 100 per cent renewable energy in just a few years.

Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Daniel Westerman told business leaders on Wednesday the challenges are too big for any one person or organisation to solve. 

Mr Westerman has set the goal to harness the know-how across the industry to engineer grids that can safely handle instantaneous renewable energy without failing.

“So, that’s a grid able to manage 100 per cent renewables penetration – at any moment in any day – by 2025,” he said.

“This is unchartered territory for a large, independent grid anywhere in the world.”

Solar and wind are driving the price through the floor, and soon millions of motorists will make the switch to rechargeable electric vehicles, he says.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt told ABC radio the idea Australia could run the entire electricity grid on renewables was “complete nonsense”.

“Intermittent wind and solar, as we all know, is not reliable. It needs to be backed up, that’s backed up by gas and other means,” Mr Pitt said.

But the transition is already being seen in AEMO’s control rooms around the country.

Mr Westerman said control room staff were now intervening almost every day to maintain a secure grid.

“Inside these facilities we can see that the way Australia generates electricity is changing, from the traditional spinning thermal generators, to electricity sourced from the sun and wind, and injected into the grid by electronic inverters,” he said.

Across the east coast, there are already points in time when renewable energy contributes to more than half of all electricity supply largely because of surplus solar from homes and businesses.

“That puts us at the front of the pack for renewables penetration for any large grid in the world,” Mr Westerman said.

There’s a capital transfer too.

Power infrastructure investment decisions that were once the preserve of board rooms are now being made around kitchen tables, towns and suburbs.

Mr Westerman has no intention for the lights to go out for all Australians, as feared by Mr Pitt.

The new market operator boss said gas would continue to play an important role in the network, including the gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri that might only be needed two per cent of the time.

Cheap decarbonised electricity also makes the prospect of a hydrogen-powered economy more viable.

“Australia is in the box seat to make green hydrogen the next export hero,” he said.

Mr Westerman returned home to Australia after leading transatlantic energy giant National Grid and its transition into renewables in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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