Changes to the way the power system is managed would allow renewable energy such as wind turbines and solar power inverters to assist the grid in withstanding shocks and contributing to Australia’s energy security, the Clean Energy Council said following the launch of a new webpage and briefing paper today.

Clean Energy Council Director of Energy Transformation, Tom Butler, said the current rules governing the operation of Australia’s power system have inhibited renewable energy technologies from playing a more proactive role supporting the recovery process during unexpected shocks.

“While coal and gas power plants have traditionally provided inertia and system security services, many of Australia’s coal plants are now past the date where they were expected to retire. New wind, solar and storage technologies are ready to play a role in this transformation. But the market and its rules and regulations have to move with the times,” he said.

The new webpage launched today explores some of the concepts that underpin energy security in power systems. The first addition is a new briefing paper, Arresting frequency changes in a modern electricity system, on how to make the most of opportunities from new technologies like wind, solar and storage to support the power system.

“The power system hums along at a frequency of 50 Hz and major disturbances like faults can push this frequency rapidly up or down, threatening the security of the power system. Inertia acts to slow the rate that this frequency changes when a fault or contingency event occurs. It buys time for other safeguards to bring the system back to normal operation.  

“Unfortunately there is increasing evidence that the safeguards we currently have in place for dealing with system shocks are not working effectively. The system relies heavily on inertia to stop rapid changes in frequency.

“A further concern is that the market operator doesn’t actually know how effectively our old fossil fuel generators will respond when a major shock occurs. This ultimately puts Australia’s energy security at risk and is something which has not occurred anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Mr Butler said wind turbines and batteries have successfully provided fast frequency response in other countries to supplement the inertia in the power system.

“The right market settings are all that is needed to bring their capabilities online going forward, and the Clean Energy Council believes this technology will need to play an integral role to support Australia’s energy system in the 21st century,” he said.

Arresting frequency changes in a modern electricity system includes a series of practical recommendations to make the most of opportunities from the diverse technological solutions available:

  1. Establish appropriate standards for frequency conditions that apply to all technologies and focus on the speed and accuracy of their contribution to arresting the change in frequency following a disturbance
  2. Accelerate trials of fast frequency response from inverter-based technologies to further prove this solution in the context of the NEM
  3. Review legacy synchronous generators and undertake testing to demonstrate the performance and capability of the fleet under high rates of change of frequency
  4. Undertake a detailed review of generator governor settings with an aim to refine the power system’s performance, while understanding and addressing the drivers that have resulted in a poorly-tuned power system.

Arresting frequency changes in a modern electricity system is available on the Clean Energy Council website. It is part of a web page on energy security that will explore more of the issues confronting the power system in the coming weeks.

Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.