Generation closures up ante on new build

“The early closure of Loy Yang A and the rapid transition of Queensland’s coal fleet announced yesterday make it even more obviously urgent to accelerate the delivery of new energy infrastructure across Australia,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of national employer association Ai Group, said today.

“Energy users and planners have come to anticipate that our ageing coal fleet would retire faster, so these announcements are no great surprise. The change involved is still gigantic. Old plants have become unreliable, and export-exposed black coal has become incredibly expensive since the invasion of Ukraine. But replacing the bulk energy and dispatchable capacity that these generators provide will be an immense task.

“The latest Integrated System Plan’s central scenario – with which the latest announcements are broadly consistent – expects that the National Electricity Market will need to: double the energy it delivers by 2050; triple the large scale renewable energy it generates by 2030 and triple it again by 2050; quintuple rooftop solar by 2050; build 46 gigawatts and 640 gigawatt hours of dispatchable storage; support firming and peaking by maintaining 7 gigawatts of existing hydro and 10 gigawatts of gas generation; and build more than 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines to connect all this into a resilient national grid.

“Every part of that buildout is vital. And every part faces supply chain, skills, regulatory and social license challenges. We can get it done. But will we?

“The consequences of failure would be dire. The latest electricity market reliability outlook already shows supply shortfalls across Eastern Australia this decade unless we deliver currently planned projects on time. The new wave of exits announced this week raise the stakes: we need to plan and build efficiently for the 2030s at the same time as we race to fill the gaps of the 2020s.

“Delaying exits won’t help. The failures and unavailability of old units this past winter show the limits of the existing generation fleet. The soaring price of electricity futures shows the urgency of replacing bulk electricity from export-linked coal and gas with zero fuel cost sources.

“It has never been more important for the States and the Commonwealth to cooperate to make this energy transition work. The mood from recent Energy Ministers Meetings has been positive. That needs to turn into coordinated action,” Mr Willox said.

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