Alice Springs can lead on energy transformation, but urgent investment needed: Roadmap Report

Mar 2024

Alice Springs is leading the way on energy transition with today’s release of detailed plans on how to adapt an electricity grid for a renewables-dominated future. The landmark Alice Springs Roadmap to 2030 report explores the challenges the Alice Springs energy system faces, providing four possible pathways to achieving the 50% renewable energy target by 2030. It highlights the opportunity for Alice Springs to continue to lead in this space, providing Australia and the world with a ‘postcard from the future’ on how power systems can be transformed to make way for higher levels of renewables.

Type: Media release   Format: PDF

Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia will hold an open event on 15 April from 5.30pm to cel­e­brate the end of the Alice Springs Future Grid project and pub­licly launch the Roadmap to 2030, includ­ing a sun­set tour of the Solar Cen­tre at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct.

The Roadmap is one of the key out­puts from Alice Springs Future Grid, a three-year whole of sys­tem project iden­ti­fy­ing the bar­ri­ers to fur­ther deploy­ment of renew­able ener­gy in the Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem and find­ing solu­tions based on real-world tri­als, inves­ti­ga­tions, and mod­el­ling. It’s led by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy, on behalf of Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia (DKA), with project part­ners Ekisti­ca, CSIRO, Pow­er and Water, Ter­ri­to­ry Gen­er­a­tion and Jacana Energy.

The report describes four sce­nar­ios that will get Alice Springs to the 50% renew­able tar­get by 2030, explor­ing dif­fer­ent vari­ables in the amount of cen­tral or decen­tralised renew­able ener­gy assets, and dif­fer­ent oper­at­ing modes for the exist­ing gas gen­er­a­tors. It also iden­ti­fies the least regrets’ options rel­e­vant across all sce­nar­ios and rec­om­mends the next best steps to move this work for­ward. There will need to be sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment from pri­vate and pub­lic investors to car­ry out these plans, but this will be part­ly out­weighed by the reduced use of con­ven­tion­al gen­er­a­tion, the report says.

The cur­rent sys­tem was designed for con­ven­tion­al ener­gy gen­er­a­tion from diesel and gas, but the grow­ing input of rooftop solar sys­tems, cur­rent­ly esti­mat­ed to be 23 MW, is lead­ing to increased sys­tem volatil­i­ty as a result of instan­ta­neous renew­able con­tri­bu­tion exceed­ing 80% on a reg­u­lar basis. If this con­tin­ues with­out nec­es­sary upgrades, the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the ser­vice will be at risk. And this is just to adapt to cur­rent lev­els of solar input, let alone to account for renew­able lev­els of 50% and high­er. Cur­rent­ly, Alice Springs is pow­ered by 87% cen­tralised fos­sil-fuel gen­er­a­tion, 9% house­hold-gen­er­at­ed solar and 4% cen­tralised renew­able gen­er­a­tion annually.

This Roadmap recog­nis­es the chal­lenges we face. It accepts that changes must be made and pro­vides plau­si­ble path­ways to the future,” says Lyn­don Frear­son, Project Direc­tor Alice Springs Future Grid, and Man­ag­nig Direc­tor of Ekisti­ca. The chal­lenge for Alice Springs is not just its remote­ness, but also the lack of alter­na­tive ener­gy sources mean­ing that 50% renew­ables requires fre­quent oper­a­tion of the pow­er sys­tem at, or near, 100% instan­ta­neous renewables.

We think the Roadmap is a sem­i­nal piece of work that we hope many will be able to see and utilise both for the future of the Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem but impor­tant­ly for the future of pow­er sys­tems across the Ter­ri­to­ry and the rest of Australia.”

This Roadmap makes it clear; the sys­tem has to change. Whilst we’ve set out four pos­si­ble ways for­ward, we know that change will only hap­pen through col­lab­o­ra­tion,” says Jim­my Cock­ing, CEO of Desert Knowl­edge Australia.

The chal­lenges we are fac­ing as we move towards our goal of 50% renew­able ener­gy by 2030 are sys­tem chal­lenges, and any solu­tions need to be sys­tem solu­tions. All the key play­ers in the ener­gy sys­tem, includ­ing con­sumers, worked togeth­er in new and inspir­ing ways as part of Alice Springs Future Grid, and this must con­tin­ue if we’re to meet the chal­lenges ahead. This is a real oppor­tu­ni­ty for Alice Springs to come togeth­er, build momen­tum and con­tin­ue to demon­strate our place as glob­al lead­ers in this field.”

  • Exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry (p.7)
  • The rec­om­mend­ed three phras­es of tran­si­tion (p.53)
  • Pri­or­i­ty actions for stake­hold­ers (p.63)

» Read the Tech­no-Eco­nom­ic mod­el­ling report

» Explore fur­ther reports and results in the Knowl­edge Bank


Lyn­don Frear­son, Alice Springs Future Grid Project Direc­tor, 0438 839 920lyndon.​frearson@​ekistica.​com.​au

Jim­my Cock­ing, Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia CEO, 0423511931jimmy.​cocking@​dka.​com.​au