Big boost for battery storage in new rules that reward quick response over the network

The business case for battery storage in Australia has been significantly strengthened with proposed new rules that reward the technology for its lightning-fast response to grid disturbances and the key role it can play in keeping the lights on.

Wind and solar farms will also benefit from the draft Fast Frequency Response Rules developed by the Australian Energy Market Commission, which signal significant grid evolution as regulators and policymakers accept that new technologies based on inverters can and will replace services. offered by traditional synchronous generators.

The battery storage’s ability to respond at a speed unimaginable heretofore to help keep the lights on has been apparent since the original Tesla Large Battery in Hornsdale, South Australia began operations in late 2017 and is rapidly growing. stepped in to help manage the unexpected trip of one of the country’s largest coal producers.

This intervention, along with the speed, precision and flexibility demonstrated by battery storage in many events since, have convinced market players, operators and regulators that battery storage will play an important role in the safety of the network.

But like many things battery storage facilities can do, there was no market to ensure that payments for these services could be made. Hence the push led by Infigen Energy, which operates the Lake Bonney battery in South Australia, to create a new market for rapid frequency response.

AEMC’s draft decision, released after a year of consultation and review, proposes to create a market for technologies that can respond to frequency changes in less than two seconds, much faster (in terms of the grid) than the current fastest market, which is for six seconds.

It will be open to technologies that can provide this rapid response – battery storage, wind farms, solar PV and energy users through various demand response mechanisms.

“The foundation for a low-carbon future for the energy sector is to build new ways to keep the system balanced and stable throughout the transition,” said ESMA CEO , Benn Barr, in a statement.

“Our determination project… sets the stage for the evaluation of new types of rapid response services that can keep the system in a safe operating state – balancing electricity supply and demand in real time. Achieving this balance through a stable frequency means that the system can withstand most electrical disturbances. “

The frequency varies when electricity supply and demand do not match – it should stay within a range of around 50 hertz to avoid blackouts. Small variations are common and easy to manage, but larger variations – such as the increasingly frequent sudden trips of a coal or gas generator, or grid outages – are more serious.

The important part of this decision is the recognition that the energy system is moving away from traditional inertia services – normally produced by spinning machines in coal, hydropower and gas power plants – to a new one. system dominated by technologies based on inverters (wind power). , solar and batteries) where faster frequency control services are required.

This is especially noticeable during the day, when the huge amounts of solar power on rooftops put pressure on existing generators and sideline many large coal generators during the day.

The AEMC says this will be the first of many new markets to be established to leverage system services and will enable the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to procure response services in fast frequency to better adapt the power response speed. system.

AEMO is preparing to introduce the switch to 5-minute regulations in the electricity market later this year. The much later 30-minute rule change will increase the earning capacity of battery storage and is designed to end some of the issues that have plagued the market.

AEMO and various state governments have also introduced new programs that build on the many layers of battery capacity, including acting as an emergency backup, helping to protect the network in the event of major power outages. network and increasing transfer capacity between states.

The next step will also be to focus on the “primary” frequency response. This was supposed to be supplied by existing coal, gas and hydropower generators, but many players have effectively abandoned the market by relaxing their “governor’s controls” so they can make more money in other parts of the world. market.

New rules requiring all generators to provide a “primary” frequency response have been introduced, but AEMC – at the behest of AEMO – is also seeking to create a new market, again designed to use new technologies based. on inverters such as battery, wind and solar storage. A project is expected for mid-September.

Barr told RenewEconomy that the new rule on fast frequency response will be aligned with the market overhaul that will be unveiled next week.

“As we see more and more thermal power plants retiring and generators that provide inertia leave the market, it becomes more important,” he said. “We see it as a critical and fundamental reform.”

The new rules for rapid frequency response will not be in place for three years, however. Submissions to the draft rule are due in early June, but the rules will not be in place until AEMO has been able to develop a product specification and make the necessary IT and system changes. .

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