A competitive market mechanism that incentivises developers to build pumped storage hydropower (PSH) capacity is essential to meet the energy storage needs of rapidly changing power systems, says Malcolm Turnbull, former Australian Prime Minister.
Meeting net zero climate change goals can be achieved with variable renewable energy such as wind and solar, but stable energy grids require long duration energy storage.
“Right now, the single most important priority should be the planning and construction of Long Duration Electricity Storage (LDES) in the form of pumped storage hydropower.
“In most of the world, including the United States and Australia, this is not yet happening at anything like the pace we need.
“This is the ignored crisis within the energy crisis,” says Mr Turnbull, who was speaking today at the US National Hydropower Association’s Waterpower Week in Washington D.C.
PSH provides approximately 95 per cent of the world’s electricity storage. As coal and gas-fired generation is decommissioned, hydropower’senergy storage services are becoming increasingly important.
“The only way to make renewables reliable in the zero-emission energy system we need is with storage and that is going to include long duration storage for 8, 12, 24 and more hours… And it will be pumped storage that will do the heavy lifting.”
Commenting on how to accelerate the development of PSH capacity globally, Mr Turnbull says: “We need a competitive market mechanism that incentivises developers to build storage capacity some of which will not be cycled every day, like batteries, but held in reserve for those cloudy windless days or weeks when renewable production is low. And at the lowest cost to protect the interests of consumers.”
Mr Turnbull recently chaired an International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower, together with the Assistant Secretary for Energy at the US Department of Energy, Kelly Speakes-Backman. The Forum’s main recommendation was the need to urgently secure investment in PSH, to ensure more capacity is developed in time to meet the needs of the clean energy transition.
The issue is deserving of more political attention according to Mr Turnbull, who also referred to the untapped potential of off-river sites and the cost-effectiveness of PSH compared with the alternative of nuclear power.
New environmental, social and governance certification established by the hydropower industry, the Hydropower Sustainability Standard, provides assurance that all hydropower, including PSH, can be developed in an environmentally sustainable way, he says.
“Without pumped storage, the energy transition is in danger of stalling just as it should be accelerating. The energy transition, the achievement of net zero, containing global warming to 2 degrees all depends on it, depends, in other words, on us,’ says Mr Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull was in Washington as part of an International Hydropower Association #WithHydropower delegation.