Simulation modeling of 100% renewable energy in the Australian national electricity market

PhD Research: Ben Elliston, Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf, Associate Professor Iain McGill

A simulation model of 100% renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) region was developed by PhD student Ben Elliston, supervised jointly by A/Prof Iain MacGill from the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM) and A/Prof Mark Diesendorf from IES.

Description

A simulation model of 100% renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) region was developed by PhD student Ben Elliston, supervised jointly by A/Prof Iain MacGill from the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM) and A/Prof Mark Diesendorf from IES. We have shown that it would have been technically possible to supply hourly electricity demand in the National Electricity Market throughout 2010 with 100% renewable energy from commercially available technologies. The simulation uses real hourly data on demand, wind energy and solar energy and achieves the same reliability as the existing polluting system. The results are published in the international journal Energy Policy 45:606-613 (2012).

The model has been extended to incorporate transmission constraints and to calculate the economics of 100% renewable electricity. We find that 100% renewable electricity may become less expensive than a new hypothetical fossil fuelled system for a carbon price exceeding $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide. A paper has been published in Energy Policy 59:270-282 [PDF]

Recently we have compared the economics of 100% renewable electricity with an all-gas scenario and also with scenarios based on hypothetical coal and gas with CO2 capture and storage (CCS), exploring a wide range of CCS costs, carbon prices and gas prices. We find that only under uncommon combinations of costs and prices could these low and medium CO2 scenarios compete economically with 100% renewable electricity. This means that, under climate constraints, there may be little or no future for coal-fired electricity in Australia, even if CCS eventually becomes commercially available. [PDF]

The CEEM-IES team is collaborating with the Melbourne Energy Institute in a more detailed set of studies, funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).