AGL commits to major 2024 investment in battery power

Batteries or gas? The jury is out, for now

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AGL chief says batteries can now compete with gas peaking services to keep grid stable.

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AGL, a major energy retailer in Australia this week said batteries could now compete with gas peaking power stations to keep the national electricity grid stable.

In an interview published Monday AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof told Renew Economy there was a clear business case for big batteries, adding they were starting to compete with gas peakers on commercial terms to firm up supplies of wind and solar.

The revelation from big business that gas was barely competitive with batteries already left Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis gas specialist Bruce Robertson shaking his head.

"You've got to remember AGL was founded on gas, beginning life as the Australian Gas Light Co," he said.

Mr Robertson said the Australian government appeared intent on propping up an uncompetitive industry with its insistence more gas was needed in the National Energy Market.

"This has happened, gas is essentially a failed industry. You've got engineers, economists and the Australian Energy Market Operator all telling government this is not the way to go and building more pipelines would be embedding useless infrastructure in the system at taxpayers' expense," he said.

"This is the sort of thing that causes countries such as Venezuela to fall over, our government is taking all the risks."

Mr Brokhof said: "AGL's strategy is to optimise dispatchable generation, support investment in firmed renewables and continue to invest in the accelerating emergence of batteries and other energy storage technologies."

He said AGL was looking to expand its portfolio of clean energy projects, especially storage capacity, and was targeting as much as 850MW of grid-scale battery storage, as well as 350MW of distributed storage and demand response capacity by 2024.

That claim formed part of AGL's financial year 2019-20 financial results and 2020-21 earnings guide.

AGL managing director and chief executive Brett Redman reported to shareholders and the ASX: "During the year, AGL signed offtake agreements over two major battery developments and commenced operation of Australia's largest wind farm at Coopers Gap in Queensland."

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