Western Australian consumers could face huge power price hikes in the coming years unless the State Government starts to factor in the exponential growth of renewable energy, according to a new study by the University of Western Australia as reported by ABC News.
The uptake of rooftop solar in Western Australia has gone up at a rate of almost 20% in recent years as solar households have moved to reduce their power prices. It resulted in an upset in the state’s electricity market, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Professor Bill Grace from the University of Western Australia has stated that the nation’s energy regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), had underestimated the future uptake of renewable energy. He stated that this will result in higher power prices for many consumers.
The professor said that with this current scenario, there will be a significant increase in tariffs within the next 20 years. He said that it may get up to 50%. Coal-fired generation units will keep costs high and will also generate power people have purchased solar panels to produce.
Western’s Australia’s South West Interconnected System (SWIS) that provides power as far north as Kalbarri and as far south as Brener Bay, is fueled largely by a mixture of coal and gas and giving much-needed baseload power for periods when the sun is not shining.
Since 2010, the amount of solar power produced in the SWIS network has grown to 650 megawatts and the professor predicted that it could go up to 9,000 megawatts by 2035. He also said that this scenario made the baseload power almost redundant.
According to Professor Grace, AEMO oversaw the electricity market in Western Australia and makes predictions about future network demands. Their model predicts rooftop solar energy will grow at a linear rate, which means that the market will grow at the same amount each time. But Professor Grace stated that the modelling was flawed because the market was growing at an exponential rate and with uptake doubling in each of the successive periods.
He said that the linear growth model of solar uptake inadequately assessed the growth in demand, and in turn the amount of solar and storage that will be relayed on the grid and will have an impact on the conventional generation network.
The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) realised the scenario in 2013 in their analysis of the impact of solar on network generation.
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