Expect to hear more about decarbonisation as we find more ways to reduce our carbon output.
Most Australian governments are talking about a zero-carbon future for a range of reasons, including health benefits.
But what does that mean? And how does it impact our grid?
What is decarbonisation?
As the name suggests, decarbonisation refers to reducing the amount of carbon emitted in the economy, with the ultimate aim of eliminating it in our modern lives.
Transport, power and industry (think manufacturing, agriculture and mining) are the three big sectors (and big emitters) that will have the most impact on decarbonisation.
The good news is that all sectors are expected to increasingly electrify, partly with the increased uptake of electric vehicles (EV’s), and because renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are becoming cheaper and more efficient.
So the world’s move towards less carbon intensive systems makes sense both from an environmental and financial point of view.
The electrification of our world means the energy sector, in particular, will play a big role in decarbonisation.
How can we decarbonise electricity?
Carbon emissions are measured in grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour.
To decarbonise electricity, the typical approach is to introduce more carbon neutral power sources into a grid network including wind, solar, hydro and wave power.
How is WA decarbonising the grid?
With plenty of sunshine and space, WA has some natural advantages in the push to decarbonise.
As infrastructure, particularly long power lines to remote rural areas, comes up for maintenance, we’ve been taking the opportunity to replace some lines with stand-alone power systems (SPS), which predominantly use solar power, backed by a diesel generator, and can power up a whole farming property.
This means some farming properties are now using 90 per cent renewable power, which is also more reliable, and we’re saving a lot of money on having to maintain and upgrade thousands of kilometres of power lines.
Microgrids, like the one being installed in Kalbarri, are using local sources of wind and solar, backed by the main grid. That will help an entire regional town make more use of its renewable energy, therefore decarbonising the town’s energy – saving infrastructure costs and creating more reliable power.
In WA, already one in three homes are using solar power, and that number is only expected to increase. How is the grid helping households to play their part and reduce their impact? One way is with community batteries. Community batteries are helping us smooth the flow of rooftop solar on the grid, which longer term will mean more solar can be safely installed, meaning that number will continue to rise.
And we’ve also helped connect new wind farms to the grid, again increasing the amount of cost-effective renewables in our energy supply.
Small things also count. We’re switching our streetlights to LED where suitable, which we expect will eventually help us reduce carbon emissions by more than 50,000 tonnes a year.
The UK – the big decarboniser
The UK made headlines last year when it went a whole week in May without using any coal to power its network, a particularly big deal given the long history of coal in the UK since the industrial revolution.
Progress in the UK has been quick as a result of a concerted push to completely decarbonise by 2050.
Over the past ten years, the UK has reduced its per kilowatt-hour carbon output from around 500g in 2006 to less than 270g in 2018.
They’ve done this by increasing the use of a wide range of power sources, including solar, wind and nuclear power, with renewables, particularly wind, which is now the UK’s leading source of energy.
A bit like the UK, our approach in WA to decarbonisation is multi-faceted. We have many tools to decarbonise our grid that can help us create cost efficiencies and more reliable power, meaning a better energy future for all of WA.
Want to find out more about how we are working towards a greener grid?
Read about how how we are integrating solar energy into the network.
Find out more about the wind farm projects we are involved in.
See how we protect flora, fauna and indigenous heritage sites around our work sites.