Regulators are working on new frameworks to ease the transition to a renewable energy system in Australia. 

Australia’s energy sector is undergoing a fundamental shift, as renewable energy sources, both large-scale and residential rooftop PV, displace the ageing thermal fleet.

But the shift is challenging conventional power system operating conditions and has implications for the provision of secure and reliable energy supply for consumers.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) began working with the energy sector in December 2020 on developing an ‘engineering framework’ to together facilitate an orderly transition of the National Electricity Market (NEM).

It has now published the Engineering Framework March 2021 report.

“Together with industry, we’ll be working to identify possible future operational conditions for the NEM power system, understand current work underway to then collectively act to address the most urgent issues,” says AEMO’s Chris Davies.

“Our March 2021 report is about setting a baseline for the Framework, so we can understand all the moving parts across industry and work out how they fit together, including future priorities for AEMO.

“This is an important opportunity for industry to collaborate on what future NEM operations will look like and how these are best managed, so the power system continually delivers desired outcomes for consumers,” he said.

The report highlights operational changes underway, including the accelerated growth in wind and solar over the last few years.

The contribution of wind and solar (including rooftop solar PV), reached 38 per cent of electricity supply at any one point in 2018; this rose to 52 per cent in 2020. 

Further, minimum synchronous generation at a single point in time decreased from 13.7 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 10.8 GW in 2020 across the NEM.

“The NEM is rapidly moving towards operating for hours at a time with a completely different mix of generation sources, which will be unique for any large power system in the world,” Mr Davies said.

“Working together as an industry we can plan our way through these changes to provide a sustainable energy system that delivers affordable, safe and reliable energy for all Australians,” he said.