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The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has released a draft report with recommendations to help address deteriorating frequency performance in the electricity grid at the least cost.

The need to manage increasing instability in the power system is highlighted in the AEMC Reliability Panel’s annual review of the security, reliability and safety of the national electricity market, also released in March 2018.

The Reliability Panel’s latest report for 2016-2017, showed that managing the power system – by keeping things like frequency and voltage within technical limits – is becoming more challenging.

In 2017 the power system dropped outside secure technical limits for more than 30 minutes on eleven occasions, including South Australia’s system-wide blackout, compared with seven in 2015-2016 and four in 2014-2015.

AEMC Chief Executive, Anne Pearson, said the report underlines the importance of the Commission’s plan to secure the power system.

“The good news is there’s enough generation and demand response capacity in the power system over the short and medium term.

“But with more weather-driven generation, and more coal-fired generation leaving, the technical characteristics of the grid are changing.”

The AEMC recently introduced a package of new tools to help the market and system operator, AEMO, address the immediate system security issues resulting from the changing energy mix.

These included requirements for networks to provide minimum levels of inertia and system strength, and new ‘last line of defence’ schemes to help AEMO better prepare for, and respond to, a system security emergency.

Mrs Pearson said the commission had already put in place a range of new tools that can be used by the market operator to keep supply secure and flagged a number of new initiatives set to be proposed in coming months.

“It is not well understood that while we have a good supply of available power, which makes the system reliable, there is a separate problem of maintaining security or the stability of the power system including when unexpected breakdowns happen in the system,” Mrs Pearson said.

“Through the frequency control review, the AEMC is focusing on this area to address the energy network’s transformation into a system with a mix of synchronous and non-synchronous energy sources. New security measures will help integrate those new generation sources.

“The power system has to be managed differently in response to the changing generation mix.”

Mrs Pearson said some ten major steps had already been taken to tighten security arrangements and put more tools in the hands of the operator under the AEMC’s system security and reliability action plan, with another four major reviews of policy upcoming in 2018.

She said in addition to this work AEMC was progressively making other rules to support this new framework.

The draft recommendations for frequency control add to AEMO’s toolkit.

Proposed changes include incentives for generators to use their equipment more effectively to keep frequency within safe limits, and the harnessing of new technologies like batteries and wind farms to help control frequency in the medium term.

“The technology revolution has increased innovative generation and demand response capacity across the nation, with wind, solar and household storage now well-established,” Mrs Pearson said.

“Our recommendations to restore good frequency performance are about developing specific, targeted solutions to keep the lights on and secure the future for renewables and other technologies that reduce emissions, at the least cost to consumers.”

More detailed recommendations include:

  • Improved incentives for generators to respond to frequency fluctuations
  • Market development options to promote investment in emerging technologies that can provide least-cost frequency control services
  • The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to undertake monitoring and publish regular reports on frequency performance
  • The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to monitor and report on the performance of the frequency control services markets

Frequency control frameworks review draft report submissions are due by 24 April 2018.

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