Balancing a changing energy mix

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by Ann-Maree Andritsakis, APPEA

APPEA, the voice of Australia’s natural gas industry, has introduced a new initiative called Brighter to promote the success stories and benefits of the product to the country. Here we explore the continuing role of gas in Australia’s quickly changing energy mix.

Businesses around the country are taking control of their energy mix as Australia looks towards a more sustainable future, but what role does natural gas play in working with newer energies and creating a reliable energy system?

With solar and wind energy entering the market at a rapid pace, Australian businesses are going green, opting for renewable energy as part of their energy mix for a variety of strategic, economic and sustainability reasons.

However, as market operators have pointed out, the evolution of our power system to renewable energy can cause volatility in the grid, and solutions need to be identified to remedy this.

Aurecon Managing Director for Energy, Resources and Manufacturing, Paul Gleeson, says that businesses should embrace renewable energy, and at the same time look at the role other energy sources, such as natural gas, will continue to play in the energy system.

“Natural gas can be an enabler of renewable energy, as one of the options for providing firming and backup in a volatile market.

“As more intermittent renewable energy is fed into the wholesale market, we are seeing larger peaks and troughs in the system as our supply and demand profiles don’t necessarily align throughout the day or throughout the year.

“From the consumer’s perspective, we are also contributing to those larger peaks through our choices and behaviours, much of it because of our increased dependence on technology and the electrification of so many of the devices and appliances in
our lives.

“We are still in the early stages of our transition to a low carbon future, and the system still relies on having some synchronous generation in the mix. Natural gas is an obvious choice – it has lower emissions than other traditional fossil fuels, and can be brought online within a matter of minutes.”

But how does this affect everyday businesses?

Natural gas serves to support the renewable energy that businesses are adopting. Not only will it back up solar and wind energy, more importantly, it does still play a part in the day-to-day operations of manufacturing processes which require its specific technical properties.  

Queensland sand mine and quarry business, Southern Pacific Sands, is planning to invest in a 30MW solar farm at its Ningi site.

“Currently, at peak, we are consuming less than 5MW of energy per annum. With the available land on site, we’re planning to build a 30MW solar farm and export the extra power back to the grid,” said Will Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at Southern
Pacific Sands.

“However, while we are striving to use as much as renewable energy as possible, the reality is that we still need gas on site and still need to remain connected to the grid.

“The use of propane gas is the only way of drying our sand, which is the most value-adding part of our manufacturing process. For that process, there’s no substitute for gas.”   

Material changes are occurring in the way we use and manage energy, both on an individual and a business basis, alongside renewable energy targets being set, state by state. Natural gas is ideally suited to balance an overloaded and volatile electricity system while continuing to meet specific technical feedstock requirements for business operations the country over.

A future with hydrogen and battery energy is certainly on the cards, but while these sources and their respective technologies continue down their cost curve, natural gas serves as the ideal transition fuel to a cleaner, greener future in Australia.

About Brighter
Brighter is an initiative of APPEA, the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry. The program is a new way of talking to Australians about the role this naturally occurring and abundant resource plays in their everyday lives. For more information and to sign up  for updates visit bright-r.com.au

This partner content is brought to you by APPEA. For more information, visit https://www.appea.com.au/

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