EnergyAustralia will accelerate the closure of a 100-year-old coal-fired plant and install a giant storage battery to achieve a faster transition to clean power that’s leaving aging fossil fuel sites uncompetitive.
Under the plan, the electricity retailer will add a four-hour, 350-megawatt utility-scale storage battery — larger than anything currently in operation
Australia, which added a record amount of new renewable capacity last year, is an exemplar for the challenges the global energy sector faces in transitioning away from fossil fuels. A rush by households to install rooftop solar panels, and a surge in new grid-scale capacity, has hollowed daytime electricity demand and forced wholesale prices lower, upending the business models of utilities reliant on coal-fired power stations.
“The energy market transition is real and it’s happening fast,” EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna told reporters. It’s taking place quicker than most people forecast and the company wouldn’t rule out the potential addition of more gas-fired generation in Victoria, she said.
See also: Green Power Fueled Price Drop Hurts Australia’s Top Utilities
While coal still accounts for the bulk of Australia’s energy mix, a surge in new renewable generation capacity through 2025 will pressure more expensive fossil fuel assets and leave many plants uneconomic, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a report last month.
In New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, four coal-fired power stations are scheduled to close over the next 15 years, starting with AGL Energy Ltd.’s Liddell plant in 2023.
“Coal-fired power stations have been the backbone of our energy system for decades,” Liz Westcott, EnergyAustralia’s energy executive and in charge of generating assets, told reporters. However, the system is “changing before our eyes” and less coal is required, she said.
Shuttering Yallourn, which has 1480 megawatts of generating capacity, raises concerns about energy reliability and affordability, Australia’s Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement. The government “expects the market to step up to deliver enough dispatchable generation to keep the lights on and prices low,” he said.