Western Australia launches vision for 20 years of electricity use

Out-Law News | 28 Oct 2020 | 4:56 pm | 1 min. read

The Western Australian government has launched its first ‘Whole of System Plan’, a study of how the state’s electricity system could evolve over the next 20 years.

The plan models four scenarios detailing how changes in demand, technology, and the economy could shape the way Western Australians use electricity, and guide government investments.

The study suggests that over 70% of Western Australia’s electricity generation capacity will be renewable by 2040, with particular growth in rooftop solar panels. This growth in rooftop photovoltaic generation is likely to displace other forms of electricity production, particularly coal and large-scale solar.

The rise in renewable energy will also reduce carbon emissions, although the overall prediction is for a rise in electricity demand over the coming decades.

According to the outlook on the future of the South West Interconnected System, coal-fired electricity generation will decline. Under scenarios which model lower future demand, electricity generated by coal will partially exit the market in the mid-2020s.

The study predicts that large-scale energy storage, particular two-hour and four-hour duration battery storage, will play an increasingly influential role in Western Australia's electricity system. Growth in intermittent electricity generation from renewable sources will be supported by energy storage and gas facilities.

The plan suggests that as new energy storage systems and capacity mechanisms are embedded, revenue streams for generation and storage will become more diverse.

Little or no transmission network augmentation is required in the near future under the scenarios set out in the plan.

Energy expert George Varma of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said the plan was to be welcomed.

“In many ways, the modelling confirms what many in the industry already knew – renewables will continue to replace coal-fired generation and, coupled with new storage technologies and supplemented by conventional gas generation, will be the medium-term future of Western Australia’s energy mix,” Varma said. 

“Energy storage systems will be key to providing grid stability and while the current focus is on batteries as the primary storage medium, green hydrogen is likely to have a role to play given its diverse applications and hopefully hydrogen will also find its way into the mix as an energy storage medium,” he said.

“It is certainly pleasing to see the state government recognising this reality and giving serious and long-term thought to the state’s energy needs,” Varma said.

The launch of the Whole of System Plan follows other work carried out by the Western Australian government to develop its strategy for future energy generation. In April the government launched a roadmap to guide the better integration of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar panels into the electricity grid.