Powering a 21st Century Economy: Secure, Clean, Affordable Electricity

03.10.17 By
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A modern electricity grid powered by diverse renewable energy and storage can provide secure, clean and affordable power for Australians.

The Powering a 21st Century Economy report find that the inevitable closure of ageing, inefficient, polluting coal plants provides a critical opportunity to move to a modern 21st century electricity system.

In doing so, Australia will tackle multiple policy objectives: affordable electricity for consumers; a secure and reliable electricity system; safeguarding our electricity system from worsening extreme weather; and tackling climate change by reducing Australia’s pollution.



  1. The inevitable closure of Australia’s inefficient, ageing coal plants provides a critical opportunity to move to a modern, 21st century electricity system.
    1. Within a decade, over two thirds of coal plants in Australia’s National Electricity Market will be 50 years or older, technically obsolete, unreliable and costly to maintain. Australia must prepare for a major energy transition, which is already underway.
    2. Ageing coal and gas electricity infrastructure is vulnerable to increasingly severe weather events influenced by climate change.
    3. Wholesale energy prices are rising due to rising gas prices and on-going national policy uncertainty undermining future energy investments.
    4. Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of new power.
  2. There are five key requirements in building a robust energy system that will meet Australia’s needs into the future. All five must be met for Australia to effectively meet its energy needs into the future.
    1. Clean: Tackling climate change requires a rapid transition away from polluting sources of energy to clean sources.
    2. Reliable: Balancing demand for electricity (from households, business and industry) with supply from power stations, energy storage and demand flexibility (via demand management).
    3. Secure: Meeting technical requirements for grid stability (described by terms such as “frequency control” and “inertia”), ensuring the power grid can overcome disturbances.
    4. Resilient: Delivering reliable power in the face of increasingly severe weather events influenced by climate change.
    5. Affordable: Lowering electricity costs for households and businesses.
  3. A modern grid powered by diverse renewable energy and storage can provide secure, reliable, clean and affordable power for Australians.
    1. Major authorities, CSIRO, AEMO and the Finkel Review are highly consistent in their findings that there are no technical barriers to Australia achieving secure, reliable power from a very high proportion of renewable electricity.
    2. Combining low cost wind and solar PV with other renewable energy technologies such as solar thermal, hydro and biomass plants can provide round-the-clock, or on-demand power as well as meeting technical requirements for grid stability.
    3. Adding energy storage in the form of grid scale batteries, pumped hydro and heat storage (as part of a solar thermal plant) and greater interconnection between states by transmission lines will enhance the security and reliability of power supply and increase competition in the electricity market.
    4. Major economies like California, Germany, and Spain are already actively transitioning to more flexible, modern grids powered by renewable energy. California is on track to reach 50% renewable power by 2030.
  4. A key risk for Australian grids and power stations is worsening extreme weather, particularly extreme, prolonged heat and storms. A distributed, flexible grid using multiple forms of technology will be critical to building a resilient energy system.
    1. A distributed and diverse electricity system incorporating a wider variety of supplies – wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and energy storage, spread out geographically and less concentrated – is far more resilient to disruption from increasing extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms and bushfires fuelled by climate change.