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Is this the day that solar and wind changed the W.A. grid forever?

Renew Economy, 22 February 2019

The Australian Energy Market Operator has been fretting about the increase in the penetration of rooftop solar for some time now, and perhaps most of all in Western Australia, one of the world’s biggest “stand alone” grids, where the solar uptake is accelerating rapidly.

The state now has more than 1GW of rooftop solar on its main grid, which is located in the south-west corner of the state, and which is known as the South West Interconnected System (SWIS).
That makes rooftop solar the biggest source of electricity by capacity, and the uptake is growing at 35 per cent a year, according to AEMO.

It also has a growing amount of large-scale wind and solar capacity, as construction resumes following a three-year hiatus engineered by the previous Coalition government, and reforms are made that will facilitate access for renewables to the grid.

The isolated nature of the SWIS, both in its physical characteristics and some say in the culture of many in the industry, makes W.A. a fascinating case study.

And rooftop solar is particularly attractive because the west gets gets a lot of sun, and because consumers are finally being asked to pay the true cost of the fossil-fuel based grid, which was hugely subsidised by the government that has decided it can no longer foot the $500 million a year cost of making the electricity bills appear slightly more palatable.

But that rapid switch to rooftop solar is creating a very big “duck” curve that the grid operator is having to learn how to manage, as are others around the world where solar is a growing share of production.
The duck curve relates to the fall in demand in the middle of the day – driven by the uptake of rooftop solar – and the “ramping” needed to catch up with grid demand as it rises quickly as the sun sets in late afternoon, early evening.

The operator says that on October 18 last year, it was forced, for the first time, to call in “backup load following ancillary services” – broadly the equivalent of the directions that AEMO has grown accustomed to issuing in South Australia and more recently Victoria.

The operator said this was the result of volatile wind output, which delivered swings of up to 50MW in short time periods during the morning, compounded by variations of up to 100MW in the output from rooftop solar in the late morning as cloud cover moving across the south-west corner and Perth in particular.

At 11.30am, local time, the operator called on 50MW of Backup LFAS Down and 50MW of Backup LFAS Up, for a period of 3.5 hours to meet what it expected to be a volatile load profile. AEMO says it was justified because – as the arrow is pointing to in the above graph – a band of clouds around 1pm reduced solar PV output and caused a 300MW increase in demand, and its passing caused a 250MW reduction in demand in the next time interval (1.30pm). The back-up call was not costly – around $36,000 – although a second back-up call, on December 26, at 1am, caused on this occasion by rapid changes in wind output, was imposed for 8.5 hours (35.5MW) and cost around $81,000.

AEMO says the increasing level of penetration of rooftop PV and other renewable generation is going to increase the amount of volatility experienced on the power system going forward, and the number of directions. AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman addressed this issue at a symposium at UNSW this week, when she said that in Western Australia there is sometimes “too much rooftop solar that is not managed”, causing voltage to drop at a distribution level, and leading to curtailment of rooftop solar output.

“We have to start introducing the solutions now to make sure it works – otherwise we will be in the unenviable position of saying we can’t do any more,” Zibelman said. Those solutions include a shift to “orchestration”, which will allow networks owners and grid operators to use smart inverters to help manage distributed solar output. Battery storage, demand management and aggregated systems through smart controls of devices such as pool pumps could also do the trick.

“We want to be able to use all these investment, in a way to provide a private benefit and a public benefit and integrate then into the system,” Zibelman said. “It’s important for markets to be able to reward people to do that so that they are getting payments for the service. We have to get cracking.”

Is this the day that solar and wind changed the W.A. grid forever?

‘What about the plug?’ Australia’s electric car infrastructure stalled by policy paralysis

The Guardian, 4 February 2019

Why has it taken so long just to move past the bare minimum needed to support what is now an expanding sector?

Most electric car owners will charge at home or at work but one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. Last September, Sylvia Wilson became the second person in the country to drive around Australia in an electric car. The entire 20,396 kilometre trip took the 70-year-old 110 days in her Tesla S75 and cost just $150.90.

Her success served as an answer to critics who have long argued “range anxiety” – the worry about whether an electric car’s battery will die out of reach of a charging station – is a factor stopping more people buying electric cars. “The reality is that if you can see the lights on or that the kettle works, then you can charge. Even in the remotest places, you can still charge the car. In a way there are more places to charge an EV [electric vehicle] than there are a fossil-fuel car,” Wilson told Guardian Australia at the time.

While Wilson showed what’s possible with existing infrastructure, industry insiders and engineers have been left wondering why it’s taken so long for Australia just to move past the bare minimum needed to support an expanding electric car sector.

Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, says the failure to so far provide this infrastructure – from charging stations and uniform standards for components, to the tools needed to maintain each vehicle – is a symptom of political paralysis that has taken hold in Canberra. “Let’s be clear here, these aren’t electric vehicle problems, they’re Australian policy problems,” says Jafari. “In the absence of that, companies are left wondering, well what the hell do we do?”

According to modelling commissioned by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, most electric car owners will charge at home or at their place of work but roughly one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. With just 783 charging stations around the country in 2018, compared with 6,400 petrol stations, building the infrastructure to support the widespread take-up of electric vehicles will cost $1.7bn.

Tim Washington is a director of Jetcharge and a cofounder of Chargefox, one of the biggest companies in Australia which supplies and installs charging stations across the country.

Washington says most of the infrastructure needed to support the mass uptake of electric cars is already in place, because most people living in a city only drive up to 30 kilometres a day. “Public charging stations are a visual signal to the public that you are now able to charge the car. People are very used to seeing petrol stations and they have confidence in buying a petrol car because they have a petrol station,” says Washington. “People immediately think service station-style charging stations. That’s just not the case. A lot of the charging infrastructure is invisible infrastructure. It’s not apparent to the public eye to where the vast majority of charging stations are. “They’re in homes, in basements, in commercial building car parks, in public car parks – in all the places where you don’t see a traditional fuel source – and that’s all that required for a healthy uptake of electric vehicles.”

The problem for companies like his, Washington says, is that the infant nature of the industry and the way people will use the technology makes it a risky investment. “One of the troubles for public infrastructure providers is that you invest all this money to encourage people to come to electric, but once you invest this money, people will charge at home,” Washington says. “It’s classic market failure.”

To get around this, state and local governments have so far been eager to support the building of new charging stations, but often the support they can provide is limited by their resources and their authority.
Instead, help must come from Canberra which for the last few years has been slow to respond to the growth of the new industry – despite some recognition of its potential. Indeed, one of the recommendations in the select committee report on electric vehicles released this week is that the federal government work with “operators in the charging infrastructure industry to develop a comprehensive plan for the rollout of a national public charging network”.

Last October the federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, announced $6m to support Chargefox in building a network of ultra-fast charging stations along the highways that link Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, and four around Perth. These stations have the ability to take recharge times from eight hours down to 15 minutes in some cases.

While it was a welcome announcement, the government has so far failed to address other infrastructure issues that aren’t the most obvious – or headline grabbing. An early example involved the humble plug. With no clear standard in Australia, global manufacturers had no guide for how to build their cars for the local market. In some ways it risked repeating what happened at federation when each state mandated its own rail gauges, making it impossible to take a train across state lines in one continuous trip.

“It had been an understood issue for quite a number of years before but then there hadn’t been any action,” says Jafari. Instead, industry players themselves had to organise to decide on a voluntary standard that was later communicated in a technical document released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. While it was a good news story for the industry, it should never have been left to get that far.

Now researchers such as Professor Iftekhar Ahmad from Edith Cowan University are looking ahead to stop future problems before they happen. “Electric cars will increase what’s called high peak-to-average demand. When the owners go home and plug in, we’ll see high peak demand during those hours,” says Ahmad. “The current distribution network is not designed for high peak. When you think about putting so much load on the network, the infrastructure lifetime can be shortened and also it can put too much stress on transformers.”

While several fixes have been proposed, Ahmad says the problem can be overcome with proper planning.
“It has to be well planned,” he says. “It’s not currently happening in a coordinated fashion and the perspective from the government [and] the utilities is that there’s not enough cars in the market to think about it.
“It will happen, there is no stopping it. If you go to Beijing or Europe, you will see them everywhere and if enough planning can be done, electric cars have a huge potential to complement our renewable energy system.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/04/what-about-the-plug-australias-electric-car-infrastructure-stalled-by-policy-paralysis

Last one for me- happy new year for 2019

This will be my last newsletter that I’m editing for the STCWA, after more than 10 years. There will be a new newsletter in 2019 edited by the STCWA Chair, Stephen Kovacs. I wish you all the best for 2019.

Perth bike paths fail to meet lighting standards

The West Australian, 13 December 2018
Large sections of Perth’s most popular bike paths are poorly lit, with many failing to meet Australian lighting standards. Research commissioned by the RAC examined 67km of inner-city bike paths and found almost 60 per cent had substandard lighting.
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Disability compliance the focus of $18m pedestrian crossing program

Railpage, 18 December 2018
An $18 million program to ensure Perth’s pedestrian level crossings comply with disability standards has begun, with 22 crossings to be upgraded over the next 12 months. Pedestrian crossings on the Midland, Fremantle and Armadale lines will be targeted by the Public Transport Authority (PTA) in the first wave of upgrades, between December 2018 and December 2019.
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Airlines tackle Dreamliner nightmare

The West, 15 September 2018
Since late last year, airlines around the world have been dealing with problems with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Package C engines aboard some Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The engines have been affected by a “durability issue” in which compressor blades have been wearing prematurely. In June, it was reported that some older Package B engines were also affected.

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Trees make way for bike path in Cottesloe

Western Suburbs Weekly, 20 July 2018
GREEN-LEANING councillors face having to agree to cut down about 50 trees to get a long-delayed commuter bike path through Cottesloe that will eventual connect to Fremantle. “I saw the plan this morning, and it was a pretty lazy piece of town planning as it’s just a straight line that doesn’t seem to take into account the trees in the way,” West Tree Canopy member Peter Dickson told communitynews.com.au.
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Tram tech gains speed

The West, 2 September 2018
State and local government officials were briefed this week on the suitability for Perth of “trackless trams” — a new concept of public transport that experts believe could revolutionise inner-city travel.

A team from Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute, headed by the recently announced WA Scientist of the Year, Professor Peter Newman, went to China last month to investigate the trackless tram technology.
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The first Australian utility to embrace era of “base-cost renewables”

ReNew Economy, 7 December 2017
West Australia’s regional utility Horizon Power has become the first major Australian utility to embrace the concept of “base-cost renewables”, recognising that the plunging cost of solar and wind is set to turn traditional theories of energy supply on their head. Horizon boss Frank Tudor has outlined a vision that he says will be an R&D “sandbox” for bigger and more centralised utilities across the country – and the world. And it’s about shifting to a future of “distributed energy”, built around low-cost renewables and enabling technologies like storage and smart controls to fill the gaps.

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The $4 billion bet on Metronet as Perth passengers step off public transport

ABC News, 10 December 2017
It has been more than two decades since West Australians were happier with their public transport options than they are now. More than nine out of 10 Perth people who catch public transport say they are satisfied with the service they get, according to the latest results from Transperth’s passenger satisfaction survey.

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