Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) CEO, Daniel Westerman, has given his first public address since his appointment, revealing goals to engineer electricity grids capable of running 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.
Mr Westerman made the announcement during his keynote address at the Towards Net Zero: securing our energy future event, hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Melbourne.
“So, the goal that I’m setting for us, Australia’s independent system operator, is to harness the talents, capabilities, experience and know-how across the industry, to engineer grids that are capable of running at 100 per cent instantaneous penetration of renewable energy. And do this by 2025!” Mr Westerman said.
Mr Westerman covered three main topics in his address: how Australia is leading the energy transition, the strengths of an interconnected network, and contemplating a new era of prosperity that plentiful, cheap, renewable electricity could deliver for Australia.
“Everything I’ve learned in my career in engineering and business tells me that this energy transition, globally and in Australia, is a kaleidoscope of technical, economic, political and societal challenges,” Mr Westerman said.
Mr Westerman said that in Australia more than 90 cents in every dollar invested in generation since 2012 has been in wind and solar and that per capita, Australia is leading the world in installing renewable generation.
“Under my leadership, AEMO will work closely and collaboratively with governments, industry and communities to design the affordable, reliable energy system that Australia needs – an energy system that’s capable of handling 100 per cent renewable energy,” Mr Westerman said.
Mr Westerman explained how Australia is turning regional centres previously renowned for growing oranges or whale watching, into 21st century hubs of technology that power our nation.
“Across the whole East Coast National Electricity Market, there are already points in time when renewable energy contributes to more than half of all electricity supply,” Mr Westerman said.
“That puts us at the front of the pack for renewables penetration for any large grid in the world. But the pace of change in Australia continues to accelerate.”
Mr Westeman referred to the Callide Power Station in Queensland, which caused 400,000 homes and businesses to lose power in early 2021, “It showed what can be done by our industry when we act with united purpose and an urgent call to arms: the generators, networks, retailers, governments, and us, Australia’s independent system operator.
“If all of us can harness that sort of resolve and cooperation in an emergency, united by a common commitment to energy consumers, imagine what can be achieved over the coming years to navigate this energy transition in the best interest of all Australians,” Mr Westerman said.
It is these reasons, along with Mr Westerman’s appeal to the industry to collaborate with AEMO on this shared goal, that he believes Australia can create a grid capable of managing 100 per cent renewable penetration – “at any moment, in any day, by 2025”.
Mr Westerman also discussed the challenges that may hinder Australia’s renewables energy transition, such as the need for more transmission lines, like the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project which is under construction, and the opposition these projects have been met with from the community.
“It’s in all our interests, especially in making energy affordable, not to dismiss the concerns of these communities – because they are truly held,” Mr Westerman said.
“The solution, I believe, is to create the critical social and community licence for this infrastructure, by working with communities, early on and collaboratively, to listen to and address their concerns.
“And to support a smooth energy transition that truly delivers for all Australians, AEMO itself needs to transform too.”
Mr Westerman said that these challenges are too big for any one person or organisation to solve, not just elected leaders, not just businesses, not just consumers or the AEMO, “in order to maximise the benefits of this energy transition for the whole of society, all of us need to play our role and work collaboratively, together, and learn from one another”.
“This is uncharted territory for a large, independent grid anywhere in the world,” Mr Westerman said.
“A combination of technical innovation, economics, government policies and consumer choice, is driving this energy transition faster than it ever has before.”
Read the full transcript of Mr Westerman’s keynote address at the CEDA, here.