Australia’s solar thermal industry has welcomed the Energy Ministers’ announcement of a Capacity Investment Scheme which has the potential to address the lack of long-duration storage for renewable energy.
Spokesman for the Australian Solar Thermal Industry Association (AUSTELA), Dr Keith Lovegrove, said he welcomed the reactivation of a capacity scheme that ensures long-duration zero-emission storage is built into the National Energy Market to cover for the exit of coal-fired generation.
“The communique from the Energy Ministers specifically mentions targeting the uptake of dispatchable renewable generation and storage, which is something we need in the grid as coal exits,” said Dr Lovegrove. “Most of our overnight electricity is generated by coal and when these plants are retired – some of them ten years earlier than planned – we need a dispatchable, zero emissions alternative to coal and a framework that doesn’t simply default to gas.”
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) captures the sun’s energy as heat, which can be used to heat steam and turn a turbine for synchronous generation of electricity. Concentrating solar thermal systems include storage of the heat in molten salt tanks which allows continued generation without the sun for 12 or more hours.
Dr Lovegrove said the inclusion of the word ‘dispatchable’ was a key component of the Capacity Investment Scheme (CIS) because it signalled the Commonwealth’s underwriting would not be simply be targeted at short duration battery storage.
In working out the details of the scheme it would be essential to recognise that long duration storage solutions have a greater dispatchable capacity value through their larger amounts of stored energy (MWh), for the power level of the system (MW), said Dr Lovegrove.
He said the CIS builds on the Capacity Market Mechanism that has been under consideration by the Energy Security Board, but the CIS exclusively targets renewable dispatchable solutions.
“This is welcomed since any new construction of fossil fired generation is both unnecessary and incompatible with our climate goals.’’
“If future planning is allowed to include fossil fuels, it is easy to avoid investing in long-duration renewable storage such as CSP and pumped-hydro,” said Dr Lovegrove. “We have an emerging gap in how we power our overnight market with zero emissions, and we believe the Energy Ministers’ scheme has the potential to address this problem and put CSP at the forefront of a group of technologies that must be considered.”
“We congratulate the Ministers for focussing on the medium to long term with this measure. It is important that Australia does not fall back on year-by-year band-aid solutions. Long duration Renewable Energy storage will be the key to lowest prices in the medium to long term, in a decarbonised world.
“We also welcome the commitment to apply the scheme to all jurisdictions nationally. This offers the best chance to progress national goals in a least-cost way and allows Australia to build efficient supply chains for technologies like CSP.”