13 April 2023

Powering up: ACT to add $400 million battery facility to energy network

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Eku’s Daniel Burrows: the new battery facility will store enough energy to power one-third of Canberra for two hours. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The ACT will take another big step towards securing electricity supply reliability as energy markets decarbonise with a deal to build a $400 million battery energy storage system at Williamsdale adjacent to the sub-station in the south of the Territory.

The 250-megawatt (MW), 500 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage system will join the Big Canberra Battery project. It will store enough renewable energy to power one-third of Canberra for two hours during peak demand periods, such as heat waves and cold snaps.

The ACT Government will partner with global energy storage business Eku Energy, which will build and operate the facility at its own cost and make its money from buying and selling renewably sourced electricity on the national market, including excess power from the nearby solar farm.

Construction will start in late 2024 with completion expected in 2025.

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The government will make fixed quarterly payments to Eku over 15 years, but a key part of the deal is an innovative revenue-sharing arrangement that will deliver a positive financial return to the Territory.

Just how positive that will be, Chief Minister Andrew Barr could not say for commercial-in-confidence reasons, but it will be “consequential”.

“This is not going to solve all of the Territory’s future budget issues, but it will make a positive contribution to the Territory’s bottom line,” he said.

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Mr Barr said the ACT was leading the way when it came to renewable energy and this project showed it was also a national leader in battery storage.

He said the deal could be a template for when the ACT added more batteries to the network and for other jurisdictions to deliver positive outcomes across the national energy market.

How many more batteries would be required to fully secure the system depended on local needs such as electric bus and EV charging, but also storage development across the border in NSW and how the national market continued to transition.

“There will come a point, I hope, when the market is nearly saturated with this sort of technology, but we are not at that point yet,” Mr Barr said.

“So the short answer is I expect that there will be further projects, both under the Big Canberra Battery banner and then where you will see current energy, energy suppliers, retailers and others wanting to enter into the space.

“But I think that the national reports are saying we need hundreds more so the ACT will play a role in that, but not 200 in the ACT, but there will be more.”

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Mr Barr said the new battery facility would join a growing integrated network that would provide many hours of backup power.

“For example, in a peak summer period, where demand across the east coast was incredibly high, we could inject this extra power into the system, which would mean people wouldn’t experience brownouts on the hottest of days,” he said.

Mr Barr said the deal met the three objectives of the Big Battery project – to grow jobs in the renewable energy sector, create a meaningful revenue stream for the Territory and improve energy security for Canberrans.

At end of life, the government and Eku will be jointly responsible for the site clean-up.

Eku’s head of Asia Pacific and Chief Investment Officer Daniel Burrows said the project would take Eku to its first gigawatt hour of storage in Australia and its global portfolio to 4-gigawatt hours.

“We look forward to delivering safe, secure, reliable energy to the grid and to support Canberrans as they transition to a clean-energy future,” he said.

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Mr Burrows said the deal also included commitments to the local community, which would be made known in coming months, and working on renewable energy research with the ANU.

Established last year by Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, Eku Energy says that it combines technical, digital and financial innovation with a local partnership approach and data-driven understanding of markets to develop sophisticated revenue contracting strategies that maximise the benefits of energy storage systems in any given location.

It will support the government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions in the Territory by 2045.

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Yet another initiative where the Govt can’t disclose costs (in this case apparent benefits). How is that transparent Barr? As a ratepayer, I’m entitled to have full information.

Bob the impala1:13 pm 14 Apr 23

goggles13, do you feel entitled to all details of every Commercial-In-Confidence deal, including at Commonwealth level?

Have you considered that it may be the private company which insists on CiC to protect their commercial interests? Why are you asking them to publicise their pricing and contractual strategies and implicitly their costs for the principal benefit of their competitors?

This Govt has a track record of not being able to disclose costs (even estimates) related to major projects which is becoming quite tiresome.

Capital Retro7:33 pm 14 Apr 23

Sounds like you have a conflict of interest problem, BtI.

Bob the impala6:38 pm 15 Apr 23

No, Capital Retro, I have observed reality, having advised each side at different times in both government tenders and private contracts, large scale.

You will have observed how goggles13 strenuously avoided my comment, to keep flogging their hobbyhorse.

devils_advocate11:33 pm 13 Apr 23

Are these batteries prone to exploding like in EVs or nah

Bob the impala1:18 pm 14 Apr 23

Be so thankful there has never ever been a fire or explosion at any coal-fired plant, let alone one fairly recently affecting half a million customers in Australia.

Alternatively, control reflexive knee motions when measuring risk.

HiddenDragon7:37 pm 13 Apr 23

“The government will make fixed quarterly payments to Eku over 15 years, but a key part of the deal is an innovative revenue-sharing arrangement that will deliver a positive financial return to the Territory.”

Sounds like this will be the financial equivalent of toll roads for electrons, which will only mean one thing for the trajectory of electricity tariffs in the ACT – particularly with the NSW coal-fired power fleet closing down and “100% renewables (on average) ACT” thus facing a very big baseload problem.

Capital Retro6:25 pm 13 Apr 23

“For example, in a peak summer period, where demand across the east coast was incredibly high, we could inject this extra power into the system, which would mean people wouldn’t experience brownouts on the hottest of days,” he said.

Hello? I can’t remember a “brownout” due to grid deficiencies in my 70 + years of life.

What he says guarantees that with unreliable renewables and phased out coal-generated power there will be brownouts and billions of dollars will be spent on “band-aid” batteries” that will deliver a fortune to the operators.

What is the percentage of homes that had ducted electric air conditioning or electric heating throughout your 70 years of life?

Almost like the demand profiles have changed significantly in that period.

Weird huh.

Capital Retro9:58 pm 13 Apr 23

I don’t see any relevance in what you said, chewy.

Fifty years ago the main home heating was electric in-wall fan forced or portable radiant electric heaters. Certainly now the most popular heating appears to be electric reverse cycle split systems rather than ducted systems. Cooling was evaporative or not at all.

If you are suggesting that these big batteries are to boost “demand profiles” then there will be blackouts, not brownouts as the batteries can only work if they are charged and if the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing where is the power to re-charge them going to come from?

Virtue signaling like this is tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

We had about half a dozen brownouts on a Saturday evening earlier this year due to grid deficiencies. Brownouts have the potential to damage electrical equipment much more than blackouts.

Capital Retro7:28 am 14 Apr 23

Can you send me details of media reports?

Media reports of the brownouts?

Capital Retro,
I didn’t say anything about the big battery.

But the point is, peak demands on the grid are now far higher than they used to be due to the proliferation of whole house heating/cooling systems. And it is the peak demands that typically drive potential brownouts.

But you know what else is true? The reason why you haven’t had regular brownouts/blackouts throughout your life is because governments and private industry have built infrastructure to maintain a reliable supply over many decades.

You know, exactly like these battery projects will continue to assist with.

Did you complain when they built electrical infrastructure previously? Or is it only an issue now because technology is changing and you don’t understand the issue you are talking about.

Capital Retro11:04 am 14 Apr 23

Yes, media reports of the brownouts.

Capital Retro11:09 am 14 Apr 23

You say: “infrastructure to maintain a reliable supply over many decades.”

Of course, and it worked and was working until it was decided to have exclusively renewables and they can’t guarantee base load reliability even with the back-up of big batteries.

Please don’t say I don’t know what I am talking about either – know how the system works.

Capital Retro,
Yes it worked until cheaper and less polluting options became available.

Why do you want to pay more for electricity?

And it is still working, as you’ve even said you haven’t experienced system failures in your life.

What isn’t working and creating higher risks is the regulation of the industry and the opinions of certain sections who are so afraid of change they can’t see the obvious benefits in the transition that is already occurring.

It’s very strange to see such an attachment to older technologies when they have now been superseded with superior options.

Capital Retro, no media reports of the brownouts that I am aware of. They did happen in Tuggeranong, so not sure why you need further evidence.

Capital Retro4:55 pm 14 Apr 23

I have lived in Tuggers for 35 years, giggles13. There has never been a brown out that I am aware of.

Bob the impala6:19 pm 14 Apr 23

The Capital Retro Awareness standard. Technical instruments defer.

Capital Retro, why do you think you would have noticed it? Perhaps managing the grid is a more complex matter than a dim light bulb in Tuggeranong.

Capital Retro, I certainly noticed it when it caused my lights to flicker and turned my amplifier off and on. This happened about half a dozen times in a couple of hours.

“I have lived in Tuggers for 35 years, giggles13. There has never been a brown out that I am aware of.”

So the proliferation of renewable energy hasn’t affected your electricity supply in the last 35 years. How good.

Capital Retro9:41 am 15 Apr 23

Introducing renewables has made it more complex. Read the headline again. The warmists have shot themselves in both feet and now have to spend billions of our money to use “band-aid batteries” which will need replacing every 5-10 years.

With options that are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

Once again, why do you want to pay more for your electricity?

GrumpyGrandpa6:07 pm 13 Apr 23

As I read it, Eku will build and own the battery, then sell it’s power to the grid.
The ACT Government will pay an undeclared quarterly fee to Eku. I assume to buy it’s Green energy?

It been reported that the Battery would be able to power 1/3 of Canberra for 2 hours. I thought we might have been getting more?

The Government is talking up the project’s contribution to achieving our net zero emissions in the Territory by 2045. However, what is the expected life of the Big Battery? I note the ACT Government’s cost for their share of the clean up of the site.

Are we buying a lemon? I hope not.

Capital Retro9:59 pm 13 Apr 23

We are buying a lemon orchard, GG.

davidmaywald6:36 am 15 Apr 23

Lithium ion batteries can have a lifespan of 10-15 years, which would roughly align to the 15-year contract period. Scanning the announcements and media articles it doesn’t actually mention the technology being proposed… These are medium-term assets, providing services to the electricity grid during the transition (from mostly fossil fuelled power to mostly renewable power). The disposal/recycling/end-of-life is particularly important with such short-lived assets. These “big batteries” will be long gone before 2050. Longer-term solutions are also needed, which may not have been invented yet.

GrumpyGrandpa5:50 pm 13 Apr 23

It will support the government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions in the Territory by 2045.

At who’s cost?, this is a lot of money with no much to show

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