The future of power in Victoria

After the failure of Loy Yang A’s lines during the storm a couple of weeks ago, there’s a bit of FUD around a future without coal. (I’m looking at you Sky News… not literally of course, I don’t watch that crap). I’ve been seeing a lot of comments on TikTok from people who are worried about the future of power in Victoria. I thought I’d do some research and see what the future might look like.

The current situation

Victoria’s power generation is currently dominated by coal. The state has 3 coal-fired power stations, which together produce 66% of the state’s power over the past 12 months. The remainder comes from wind (23%), hydro (5%), solar (3%) and gas (1%). The state has updated targets of 65% renewable energy by 2030, and 95% by 2035. https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/renewable-energy/victorian-renewable-energy-and-storage-targets

Although I do find their statement of 2.6GW of energy storage by 2030 a little odd… Do they mean 2.6GWh? (actually, I think they model it based on 2/4 hour storage at a constant capacity… but I think that’s a little unclear)

Whatever… DELWP’s reports (modelled by PwC) show some fairly conservative investment over the next 6-7 years, only 5.3 to 9.4 billion dollars into renewables. But I think they’re missing a pretty big piece of the puzzle.

The future of power

If we were to provide a massive capacity of localised battery storage, enough to cover the entire output of the coal plants, this could be done with 100GWh of storage. (which is roughly 7.4 million powerwalls) If each household in Victoria had 2 powerwalls, that would cost around $100 billion. Which is about a third of the total cost to ditch coal (for the entire country). So that’s not entirely feasible. We’d also have to massively overprovision wind and solar in order to charge those powerwalls.

But we will be getting those new batteries pretty soon. In vehicles. The average electric vehicle battery is 75kWh. If we had 1 million electric vehicles in Victoria (20% of the fleet), that would be 75GWh of storage. That goes a significant way to covering the output of the coal plants. 25% of the fleet being BEVs just about gets us to parity (with current coal generation).

In Victoria, each of the 5.1 million vehicles is driven, on average 12470km/year. Roughly 34km/day. Once a decent proportion of those vehicles is electric, we’ll have ample storage capacity, as long as they’re plugged in when they’re not being driven (which is most of the time) and support V2G. And what’s crazy, is if we had an entirely electric fleet, we’d have 380GWh of storage. That’s enough to cover the entire output of the coal plants 4 times over. And they’d only be using roughly 35GWh/day to drive around.

That means you’ll pay around $625 on overage per year in power (if paying for it, but if you’ve got solar, and your car is feeding into the grid a lot of time, you should actually be earning decent money). But you’ll also need to pay around $350 in RUC as well. Compare that to the 1387.5l of petrol you’ll have to buy, at a cost of around $2442 (@ 1.76/l), that’s a savings of $1500/year already, not to mention servicing costs being far lower.

None of this takes into account the overprovisioning of wind and solar, which would be necessary to charge all of these batteries. But it’s clear that the future of power in Victoria is not as bleak as some people might think.