NSW energy sector firmly anchored in the ground

energy

Last Friday, Hon Anthony Roberts MP, NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, gave a presentation about the future of energy in NSW.

Right off the bat, he said, “NSW will not be banning coal seam gas – we have a plan, not a ban.”

He elaborated to state that NSW will be releasing new areas of the state for coal and gas exploration “after environmental, social and economic factors have been considered and the community has had an opportunity to identify what it sees as the issues”.

The topic then turned to renewables, which according to Roberts, will start to comprise more and more of the state’s energy generation mix. However, he maintains that fossil fuels will continue to play a role for the foreseeable future, in order to ensure a reliable energy supply.

“The increasing growth of renewable energy generators, including wind and solar, is transforming our energy sector. It will [also] change forever with the introduction and widespread adoption of battery storage products,” said Roberts.

He recalled the events of 7 July this year when less than one per cent of the installed renewable capacity was actually found to be generating power, resulting in an extreme spike in energy prices.

According to the minister, out of 1600MW of installed capacity, South Australian wind turbines were producing just 14MW. As it was 7.20pm during winter, there was no solar generation either. As a result, the demand for power was dependent on interconnection and gas-fired generation.

“Increased demand for gas meant the fuel price went higher and this was reflected in spot market prices reaching $8,898 per megawatt hour for the 30 minutes ending 7.30pm,” he said.

“The main lesson to be taken from the South Australian incident, in my view, is that we must not forget the importance of maintaining overall grid security and stability.”

In an interview with PACE, the minister elaborated on how changes to the NSW energy sector could affect industry.

“When you have a look at the disruption that occurred at 7.20pm on 7 July in South Australia, that is no good for manufacturing,” he said.

“If you have disruptions within the national energy market and you don’t have that reliability, you have manufacturers that might have to shut down and manufacturers that take some time to gear up again. So I see my role as ensuring that we have a reliable, safe and affordable network.”

He added that for NSW, the emphasis will be on keeping downward pressure on prices, having a mixture of energy sources and having a reliable network.

The minister also made a brief mention of the need to foster cyber security in the energy sector. When asked to elaborate, he alluded to cyber attacks such as the recent hack on Ukraine’s power grid.

“For us, ensuring that our networks are protected against these attacks is critical. This is a major issue across the world and many governments and corporations are looking at this,” he said.

“But certainly, the next war will be a cyber war. And that’s why we’ve got to be prepared for it and ensure that our manufacturing isn’t shut down by an attack on our networks via the internet.”