Electricity: Inexpensive, Reliable and Clean

Electricity:  Inexpensive, Reliable and Clean

Can the current national model of electricity supply based on competitive markets adequately transition Queensland to a new but as yet unknown future? Many elements of Queensland’s energy regime have changed since the Electricity Act 1994 was promulgated, to put it mildly. Advancing technology, the east coast National Electricity Market, emissions profiles, ownership, prices, grid reliability and intergovernmental relations are all under critical public and policy review.

Two lunchtime forums followed by deliberative workshops were convened in late 2017 to examine the emerging future in this field, co-hosted with the TJ Ryan Foundation, Queensland’s home-grown think tank, with the support of the Department of Energy and Water Supply. Sponsorship of the Queensland Government under its Advance Queensland program is acknowledged with thanks.

The combined intelligence from both days has been compiled into a submission  A NEW ELECTRICITY REGIME FOR QUEENSLAND to guide the Queensland Government in transitioning to an as-yet unknown future in both generation and distribution, via a hypothetical new Electricity Act.

The submission articulates five “Principles” that can serve as a framework for the new legislation:

1.     The public interest is paramount.

2.     Policy should steer towards a sustainable system.

3.     The Queensland Government is sovereign.

4.     Demand management is the cheapest form of generation.

5.     Competition is a shallow foundation.

An accompanying summary of the plenary discussion sessions is available but is somewhat unstructured so does not carry the Society’s formal endorsement.

Transitioning to a distributed future

On 8 September 2017 the Society hosted a Lunchtime Forum featuring keynote speaker Alan Pears AM, presenting on trends in electricity supply and distribution. Alan Pears, Senior Industry Fellow at RMIT University, has been educated in engineering and teaching. He has been a highly regarded consultant on climate policy, energy efficiency, energy markets and practical design of green buildings, appliances and systems since 1991. He has been a member of the Victorian Government’s Expert Reference Panel for development of its Energy Efficiency and Productivity Strategy. He is a prominent media commentator, having written more than 30 articles for The Conversation opinion website.

Alan Pears’ presentation is available here.

Three experts gave short presentations:

Prof Ian Lowe – the limits to growth in throughput of energy and materials through the economy.

Michael Gutteridge – world views that shape the debate.

Brendan Markey-Towler – the micro-economic model at the heart of the National Electricity Market and the strengths and limitations of competition as an organising principle.

Pumped hydro storage

On 20 October 2017, the second lunchtime forum in this series (flyer here) heard Dr Matthew Stocks present on pumped storage, a here-and-now technology that would allow Queensland to stabilise the grid under conditions of high input from renewable sources. He was co-author of a report by Australian National University on pumped hydro storage.

Dr Matthew Stocks is a Fellow, Research School of Engineering, Australian National University. He has had more than 20 years’ experience in research and development in photovoltaics including high-efficiency solar cell concepts; and in studies supporting high penetration renewables including 100% renewable energy and sustainable transport. From 2000-2012, he was involved in the development, technical transfer and subsequent large scale manufacture of the ANU-invented SLIVER technology.

He was followed by Prof Simon Bartlett AM, formerly Chief Operating Officer of Powerlink, who presented on the merits of four specific sites that have been comprehensively investigated and are already owned by the Government.

Prof Bartlett also spoke of the need for a high voltage DC connector directly between Queensland and South Australia.

Prof Bartlett is API Australian Chair in Electricity Transmission, University of Queensland. He has had forty years’ experience in the power industry in electricity transmission and power generation in Australia, Europe and Canada. His experience includes planning, design, construction, system operations and asset management and organisational leadership. Past roles include Chief Operating Officer, Powerlink Queensland; Board Director, Electranet SA; Chairman, Australian Power Institute and Deputy Chairman, CIGRE Australia.