Australia can reach 100 per cent renewable energy says CSIRO

The nation’s chief scientific body has advised there are no technical barriers to prevent Australia from achieving 100 per cent renewables on its electricity grid, and that levels of around 30 per cent were just “trivial”.

The comments were made by CSIRO lead energy research scientist Paul Graham at the Senate select committee into the “Resilience of electricity infrastructure in a warming world,” on Wednesday.

They contrast with contentious claims from conservatives, and many in mainstream media that even having 23.5 per cent renewables (the 2020 target) would “force feed more … instability into the grid,” as the AFR editorialised on Wednesday.

“We could probably add that introducing renewables at a share of 10, 20 or 30 per cent is fairly trivial on the basis that the existing generation capacity has a lot of flexibility to deal with the variability,” Graham told the committee, noting that existing back-up and redundancy for the current coal-dominated grid was already in place.

“Traditional approaches around peaking gas, using the dispatchability of coal and the interconnection between states allow renewables to contribute to the system. That has generally been the approach in most states.”

Graham said the challenges could start to emerge when the penetration of wind and solar move above 40 per cent – as it has in South Australia, which explains why it is focusing on storage and is finally getting traction on its call for changes to energy market rules.

“When we do modelling where we increase the renewable penetration above around 40 per cent of the energy delivered (where South Australia is now) that starts to force out some of that existing dispatchable generation, and then we find that you need to add other technologies to support renewables,’ Graham said.

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Giles Parkinson