Planning the transition to a low carbon electricity sector by Dr. Roger Dargaville

Location and Date: 
Friday, August 10, 2018, 3:00 pm, F24 Mechanical Engineering



Australia has one of the most carbon intensive electricity sectors in the developed world, and Australia’s are among the highest per capita GHG emitters.  We therefore have a moral and ethical responsibility to quickly and dramatically reduce our carbon emissions.  The electricity sector will therefore need to be largely decarbonised by 2050.  But what will this system look like?


Australia has excellent wind and solar resources, and significant but not unlimited hydro and bioenergy resources.   There is potential for geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage.  And nuclear energy is also a possibility (although this would be difficult politically). The population centres are widely distributed which has implications for the transmission network.


To calculate potential pathways to low carbon electricity sectors we have built an optimisation model of the NEM (National Energy Market), which takes into account the capital and operational costs of a broad range of technologies, hourly power output from wind and solar, ramp rates, inertia constraints, the existing transmission constraints and costs of upgrades.  Results show that a several different mixes of technologies (wind, solar PV, solar thermal, pumped hydro storage, gas turbines etc) could be least cost, depending on the input assumptions. Overall the costs of going low carbon are modest, and from a technical point of view the barriers are readily surmountable.