Energy roadmap lights the way to net zero

4 min

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) today released a 25-year roadmap to transition the National Electricity Market (NEM) to net zero by 2050.

The Integrated System Plan (ISP) is the result of two years of consultation, analysis and review involving 2,100 stakeholders, 85 presentations and reports, and the consideration of 220 formal submissions.

The ISP confirms that renewable energy connected with transmission and distribution, firmed with storage, and backed up by gas-powered generation is the lowest-cost way to supply electricity to homes and businesses as Australia transitions to a net zero economy.

Urgency to renew the NEM is being driven by the progressive closure of Australia’s remaining coal-fired power stations. Ten large coal-fired power stations have closed since 2012, and the ISP projects that 90% of today's capacity will be closed by 2035 and all before 2040.

The centrepiece of the plan is the optimal development path (ODP) — a mix of replacement grid-scale generation, storage, and transmission, with an annualised capital cost of $122 billion to 2050. The ODP is the least cost path to meet Federal and state government energy policies on emissions reductions.

“The ISP is a roadmap to navigate Australia’s power system through the energy transition, providing Australians with reliable electricity at the lowest cost,” said AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman.

“A record number of stakeholders have contributed to identifying the most efficient development path of generation, storage and transmission investments, critical to meet consumer energy needs as Australia transitions to a net zero economy by 2050,” he said.

The key messages of this plan are consistent with previous editions, which AEMO produces every two years under Australian energy laws.

Those laws also set out what AEMO must address in the ISP. That includes government policies and targets. The ISP does not model nuclear power as it is not government policy and in fact is not permitted by Australia’s current laws.

“Australia’s energy transition is well underway, with renewable energy accounting for 40% of electricity used in the past year,” Mr Westerman said.

Consistent with previous reports, the plan identifies almost 10,000km of new transmission lines that are required by 2050 to connect new sources of generation and meet reliability targets at the lowest cost to consumers.

Ten projects, or 2,500 km, are already underway, and this plan identifies a further seven projects that should now progress through planning and delivery.

AEMO recognises the clear need for early community engagement and effective consultation on these projects.

The transmission projects cost $16 billion but are expected to recoup their investment costs and, additionally, save consumers $18.5 billion in avoided energy costs and deliver emissions reductions valued at a further $3.3 billion.

Building and maintaining energy infrastructure over the next 20 years is expected to support more than 60,000 energy jobs.

Gas plays a crucial energy transition role in back-up electricity generation for sustained periods when renewables are unavailable, and its contribution is integral to the ISP.

The other crucial technologies factored into the roadmap are domestic rooftop solar panels and associated batteries, smart systems and electric vehicles, or what the ISP calls ‘consumer energy resources’.

Home batteries, if well coordinated, can save consumers around $4.1 billion in avoided costs for additional grid-scale investment.

“Consumers are already a driving force in Australia's energy transition and this is set to continue. If consumer devices like solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles are enabled to actively participate in the energy system, then this will result in lower costs for all consumers,” Mr Westerman said.

The ISP also calls out the challenges and risks to the energy transition. Planned projects are facing delivery challenges, including approval process delays, investment uncertainties, cost pressures, social licence issues, supply chain disruptions, and workforce shortages.

“There is a real risk that replacement generation, storage and transmission may not be available in time when coal plants retire, and this risk must be avoided,” Mr Westerman said.

“This ISP is a clear call to investors, industry and governments for the urgent delivery of generation, storage and transmission to ensure Australian consumers continue to have access to reliable electricity at the lowest cost.” he said.

Notes for editors

This $122 billion value includes transmission augmentation, utility-scale generation and storage capex, and does not include the cost of commissioned, committed or anticipated projects, consumer energy resources, distribution network upgrades.


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