ORIGIN Energy's intention to have a 700-megawatt battery built and connected to the grid at its Eraring power station is an example of big energy companies reacting to rapid developments in battery technology that are turning science fiction into reality.
Large scale electricity storage is essential if unavoidably intermittent wind and solar power is to replace coal-fired generation.
Domestically, four of the five coal-fired power stations that still provide about 75 per cent of this state's electricity are here in the Hunter and on the Central Coast.
Internationally, most of the 160 million tonnes of coal that left Newcastle last year went to Asian power stations. So this matters to us.
Each country is going about their energy transformations in their own way, but the trend is more or less in the same direction.
This is hardly a revolutionary observation.
The renewables lobby has long warned of coal's demise and "stranded assets", while Labor and the unions have had "a just transition" out of coal as the basis of their negotiations.
Shares of [Elon Musk's] electric-vehicle [and battery] maker, Tesla, fell by nearly 8 per cent on Monday, pushing Musks net worth down by $US13.5 billion, to $US176.2 billion. After briefly overtaking Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the worlds richest person last Friday, Musk has again fallen to second spot, according to Forbes estimates.Sergei Klebnikov, Forbes
But now, dramatic increases in the capacity of battery farms, and big price drops from economies of scale as frontier technologies become mainstream, could provide a tipping point of affordability and grid integration, even if lithium mining and battery manufacture have their own environmental issues.
At the same time, last week's Health of the National Electricity Market report from the federal government's Energy Security Board outlined considerable challenges in successfully integrating private-sector technology - with its dual needs of profitability as well as reliability - into a grid built for an era of centrally controlled and originally government-owned coal-fired generators.
Ultimately, however, climate policies to reduce global greenhouse emissions are the main driver of change across the world's electricity systems, and money is pouring into "tech" companies such as Tesla - a likely bidder for the Eraring battery.
Founder Elon Musk briefly toppled Amazon boss Jeff Bezos from his world's richest mantle last week when Tesla shares hit a record $US880 - ten times what they were worth at the end of 2019.
They have since fallen to $US811 and Musk's fortune has slid by a reported $US14 million.
This paper loss, alone, exceeds the $US9 billion value (at $US60 a tonne) of the power station coal shipped from Newcastle last year.
Something to think about.
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