No need for synchronous assets in zero emissions grid, says Tesla

Global electric vehicle and battery storage giant Tesla says there is no need for synchronous assets such as coal and gas generators in a zero emissions grid, it slams some of the proposed market reforms in Australia that appear designed to favour incumbent fossil fuel interests.

“There is no need for synchronous assets to achieve a low-cost, reliable, secure and zero emission grid,” Tesla writes in its submission to the Energy Security Board’s draft energy market reform proposals.

“Battery storage paired with renewables is capable of providing all reliability and grid security services needed for an affordable, flexible, zero emissions electricity system. The technology is already proven and out-competes traditional synchronous alternatives.”

The position is completely opposite to that of coal proponents such as Trevor St Baker, who says in his submission that the transition to renewables is happening too quickly, and support is needed for traditional synchronous generation such as coal fired power stations.

Tesla built and supplied battery storage to the 150MW/194MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia – until recently the biggest lithium-ion battery in the world – which is delivering frequency control services and now “synthetic inertia” to the main grid.

It has also supplied the batteries installed at the Lake Bonney, Gannawarra and Bulgana battery storage installations in South Australia and Victoria, and is building the 300MW/450MWh Victoria Big Battery near Geelong, which will increase the capacity of the Victoria-NSW transmission link, and the smaller Wallgrove battery in NSW, which will trial “grid forming” inverter technology.

Tesla says it now has more than 1GW of battery storage commissioned or under construction across Australia, and says there are more than ten times this amount in the pipeline of proposed battery storage projects across the country.

“Battery storage can provide any grid service required, across a range of time scales,” Tesla writes. “The remaining challenge lies in incentivising and coordinating this storage deployment at scale.

“All electricity supply requirements can be accounted for with renewables and storage technologies. With rapid and continued cost reductions, renewables plus battery energy storage provides the lowest cost solution for up to 90% of the transition pathway.

“There is no technical or economic justification for prolonging the life of fossil fuel plants, and to do so would be economically irrational and in direct conflict with Australia’s net zero ambitions.”

It included in its submission this graph below, which illustrates the amount of renewable and storage capacity needed for Australia’s grid out to 2040, as identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator in its “step change” plan which considers the storage needs to meet 94 per cent renewables.

Much of this storage capacity (in red) can and will likely be delivered by batteries, Tesla says.

Australia’s Coalition government, however, has had trouble getting its mind around battery storage, seeking to trivialise the Hornsdale battery by comparing it to the Big Banana and the Kardashians, and more recently resources minister Keith Pitt refused to admit that battery storage was even dispatchable.

Tesla also included this graph (below), illustrating the storage needs in a different way, underlying the system services and storage – both daily and seasonal – that can be delivered by the various technologies.

And it highlights the timely intervention it made recently in “virtual machine mode” when the Callide C coal generator exploded in Queensland[1], and pointed to the multiple services and “non network” options that it can deliver to the market.

“As the latest data from HPR shows, battery storage with grid-forming inverters have demonstrated their ability to replace the suite of essential system services historically provided by thermal plant, such as inertia and system strength,” the Tesla submission says.

“Batteries using power electronics can create ‘virtual’ equivalents that offer a premium response with tune-ability. This completely removes the justification for deploying synchronous condensers for these services.”

This is in reference to the achievements in north Queensland where, as we reported exclusively on Tuesday,[2] the re-tuning of inverters at solar farms has effectively removed a perceived system strength shortfall in that part of the grid.

See: Groundbreaking solar inverter solution points way to grid free of fossil fuels[3]

“Australia’s electricity policy and rule makers must ensure the right incentives are in place to support investments in new, flexible capacity and structure procurement of services to match what will be needed in a 100% renewables future,” Tesla writes.

“By coordinating and strengthening investment signals for new, flexible capacity, resource adequacy will be met in a way that is both technology neutral (allowing inverter based resources to compete with synchronous machines) and scale neutral (allowing provision from distributed energy resources and virtual power plants) to ensure lowest cost, highest benefit outcomes for consumers over the long-term.”

Maybe someone in the offices of energy minister Angus Taylor or prime minister Scott Morrison’s office should read its submission.

See also: “Fundamental flaw”: Big coal generators slam Taylor’s favoured coal subsidy[4]

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