Power system services that were previously provided for free as a by-product of power generation are now not necessarily provided by new generation

Power system security relates to the technical parameters of the power system such as voltage and frequency; the rate at which these parameters might change; and the ability of the system to withstand these changes.

The rapid energy transition requires us to find new ways of procuring enough of the technical system security services that are “missing” because they are no longer necessarily a by-product of newer forms of generation.

Significant investment in new generation sources has been positive in that it has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. But nonsynchronous generators like wind and solar have no or low inertia. Systems with lots of nonsynchronous generation are weaker and harder to control. They have less time to recover from sudden equipment failures before frequency collapses.

A secure system is one which operates within a defined band of technical parameters constantly – or at least the vast majority of the time. There always needs to be sufficient levels of inertia and system strength to maintain frequency and voltage across the system. If these parameters are not within the appropriate bounds in real time, the system may become unstable and the risk of widespread blackouts increases.

The current frameworks that were put in place in 2017 to address immediate system strength issues have been successful at keeping the system secure. However, given the pace of the energy transition that is occurring, these frameworks need to adapt and evolve in a flexible way.

Together with AEMO, the AER and the Energy Security Board we are thinking through how to deliver the system strength needed for power system security, as well as what is required to support continued investment in new generation so that consumer demand for energy continues to be met in a way that is in the long-term interests of consumers.

Key AEMC projects considering changes required in this priority area of reform include:

AEMC’s system security and reliability action plan

This work is part of the AEMC’s broader system security and reliability action plan. We are developing market frameworks which allow continued take-up of new generating technologies while keeping the lights on at the least cost to consumers.