Why are ducks important to the future of our electricity network?
And how many massive solar and wind farms – or community-scale batteries – will need to be built to power the future energy needs of Western Australians in the next 20 years?
These are just some of the interesting long-range planning challenges that Western Power and other groups such as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) must consider.
When considering investing billions of dollars over decades, we want to make sure we get things right and spend every last dollar wisely. Especially as we all pay for these vital assets via our power bills.
Complicating this picture is the rapid march of technology, including solar panels on rooftops. This is a positive thing which gives households and businesses more control than ever over their power supplies.
But we must make sure that the electricity network – built largely in the 20th century – can grasp the opportunity of the 21st century and remain relevant to the community.
Recently, both Western Power and AEMO (which manages the wholesale electricity market that generates electricity) published long-range planning documents that we – and our customers and electricity generators — can use as important guides to the future.
We view our role as an energy platform for business and residential customers to choose how they want to receive and manage their electricity in the future.
You can see an overview of the reports here, and dive into more detail if you want:
- Western Power Annual Planning Report 2017
- Overview of the emerging technology and innovation projects we're already undertaking
So what about those ducks?
The duck curve is a reference to the effect solar panels – now on one in five Perth rooftops – are having on demand for electricity in the middle of the day.
There are now demand “peaks” in the morning and night as people leave and come home from work, but less demand in the middle of the day.
The ‘duck curve’ can be seen in this graphic, which references our residential customers’ average demand on any given day. Demand peaks early in the morning and in the afternoon/evening when solar panels stop importing energy
The duck curve has implications for where and how networks choose to spend their limited investment dollars. Or how batteries, for example, might be used to smooth this bumpy profile.
Similarly, AEMO must consider what power stations come next after the current older fossil-fuel plants retire in the next 20 years.
On some forecasts, Western Australia may need almost 5,000MW of solar power farms. That’s literally enough to keep most of the lights on in homes across the south west corner of WA.
insideenergy.org has a more humorous way of demonstrating the ‘duck curve’ (Image source: insideenergy.org)