Electricity Reliability Will Plunge Unless We Build

“The latest electricity reliability forecasts are a stark warning that without faster approvals and faster construction for new transmission, generation and storage, energy users are in for a world of pain,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of national employer association Ai Group, said today.

“There is an energy reliability chasm in front of us. We can either build a bridge over it – or argue all the way to the bottom.

“If announced coal retirements proceed on time and are replaced only by those new assets that already have final approvals and finance, Ai Group estimates that New South Wales and Victorian energy users will see three to ten times more unreliability than government standards target.

“Electricity unreliability on that scale would mean hundreds of millions of dollars a year of lost value to businesses and households.

“Those are costs worth avoiding. And AEMO is clear that they can largely be avoided – if governments, communities and industry work together to get new electricity assets approved and built faster.

“Transmission lines are the key to unlocking more energy and sharing it more widely. They also tend to be unpopular with neighbours, and have been moving with frustrating slowness through tortuous processes for economic and environmental approvals. Actual construction is so far slower than planned for the one major line that has been fully approved.

“We need to do better.

“Approvals need to be faster, bolstered by financial incentives and support for affected communities and landholders.

“Delivery needs to be faster, with standardised towers, cooperation between networks, streamlined requirements for worker qualifications and a firm pipeline of work for trainers and supply chains to prepare for.

“Clarity of purpose is essential, with governments, community and industry pulling together rather than building fractured fiefdoms or indulging obstructionism.

“If we can’t build new transmission, generation and storage fast enough, the inevitable conclusion will be to delay the retirement of old coal fired power stations. Some extension is very likely necessary with NSW’s Eraring, set to close next year, but the same choices will arise with Victoria’s Yallourn if we don’t speed up.

“Extensions are better than blackouts, but they have very large costs. Payments would have to be made to keep unprofitable assets around. Expensive upgrades may be needed to maintain safety at ageing facilities. Uncertainty would rock replacement energy investments, site redevelopments and worker transitions. Old plants may not actually be available when we need them. And emissions would be much higher than necessary.

“If we want to minimise reliance on coal extensions, we have to get our act together. Time is not on our side,” Mr Willox said.

/Public Release. View in full here.