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NT Utilities Commission calls for grid investment

06 Jul 2022 10:24 AM | Stephanie Berlin (Administrator)

THE Northern Territory Utilities Commission has delivered a stark warning that blackouts could become common without investment in the ageing electricity grid.

Roughly 90% of the electricity generated in the Top End comes from the Blacktip gasfield operated by Eni. The problem is not supply, but infrastructure and the fast energy transition, the Commission warned.

Ageing poles and wires, and an unstable grid now being overwhelmed by solar power poses the biggest threat to stable electricity. 

The Commission found the displacement of gas and diesel generation by solar would only increase but the Territory's power systems were too small, isolated and lacking in diversity of technologies to cope.

The Territory government has ambitions to reach 50% renewable energy by 2030.

"System electricity consumption further decreased in 2020-21 partly due to increases in distributed PV, that is, residential and commercial rooftop solar PV systems," the electricity outlook report said.

"This trend is forecast to continue over the outlook period, although some new industrial loads are forecast to reduce the rate of decline."

Two years ago the Commission recommended the government mitigate emerging risks in the grid, however little has been done.

"Despite increased government and industry activity, particularly in terms of planning, the Commission considers limited progress has been made."

It warned that three generators at the Katherine Power Station would shutter soon, along with six large generators at Channel Island Power Station.

The Commission urged the government to accelerate market reform programs and invest in essential system services. 

"Based on the business-as-usual scenario, shortfalls are also forecast for generation

capacity and essential system services, leading to an increased risk of power outages," the Commission said.

"These shortfalls are expected as early as 2026-27 and 2027-28 in Alice Springs and Darwin‑Katherine, respectively."

Source: Energy News Bulletin

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