What it takes to run a power system

3 min

When energy and energy policy are in the media every day, it’s an exciting time to be a market and system operator. We love that everyone is talking about the future of electricity in Australia, and the challenges of how the power system is transforming and transitioning to a lower carbon emission future.

We also want to remind people that an electrical power system is a large, complicated machine and there are basic engineering facts about how it works.

AEMO has published a paper called Power system requirements. In it, we have summarised the fundamental technical and operational needs of a power system – the things a power system requires for reliable and secure operation, so consumers can be confident they will have the electricity they want when they need it most.

Here on EnergyLive, we’ve taken it another step and explained in simple, everyday terms what the key technical concepts mean. Click the links below to go to these short explanations.

A power system needs:

  • Operational levers so the operator can manage the system and adjust to keep it within its technical limits at all times. We have summarised these operational prerequisites as the dispatchability and predictability of the power system.
  • Services to maintain these fundamental technical attributes:
    • Enough supply to match demand and provide reserves in case of unexpected/major changes in supply or demand, and a transmission and distribution network able to get this supply to where it is needed.
    • Frequency that is set and maintained within the required range.
    • Voltage that is maintained within limits.
    • The ability to restart and restore the system  in the rare event of a major supply disruption.

Our Power system requirements paper tells you more about these requirements and the services that deliver them. We also talk about the known and emerging capabilities of a range of different technologies (across generation, storage, demand, and transmission and distribution networks) to bring these services to the power system. Many of the services the system needs can be provided by more than one technology, and some groups of technologies can provide many services, so the aim is to find the most efficient combination that keeps the power system operating securely and delivering electricity to consumers.

As we say at the end of the paper, “efficient policy frameworks will take a portfolio approach to sourcing system services, making optimal use of the capabilities of all assets in the power system, which, when used in combination, should be capable of providing the same or better system performance than in the past”.

Do you want to know more about the power system? Send through ideas for stories via energylive@aemo.com.au
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