how to change a capacity market that serves BAU

In States like Western Australia there is potential for around 1 gigawatt of “avoided power purchase” to insulate against price rises through wide scale adoption by 2020, or in WA’s case 25% of the existing market. This is base load regenerative power capacity. In this discussion, Peter Davies of ID Gasifiers, also said “I was struck by the potential for increasing significant reduction of demand. Small scale efficient biomass energy plants are on the way.

CO2Land org recently posted, 10 September 2013:

the claim a capacity market only serves BAU

The quote in the story was from Dr Jeffery Doyle after posting his précis of a recent conference paper ‘A Cautionary Tale’ and reported through Greentech Media.

CO2Land org included in the story that advances in waste to energy technologies could have sufficient volume available in time for the next bidding cycle – assuming a two year timeframe – they have the potential to create an industry that has multiple product streams with the developing technology. This innovation can be described as ‘batteries’. The key is that reliable and predictable supply can be managed to provide the volume needed.

What might help readers understand the story better is some background facts on how the market operates in WA. The state operates its power supply under the Wholesale Electricity Market (WEM) that was set up so generators can offer electricity for sale to retailers who purchase electricity for their customers. It was part of the Western Australian Government’s reform of the way electricity is generated, distributed and retailed in Western Australia.

The WEM is not state wide in its supply, it in effect ‘islands’ grid connected supply to the more populist corner of the state and calls this bound the South-West Interconnected System or SWIS (an area bound by Kalbarri in the north, Kalgoorlie in the east, and Albany in the south). If you need to know, the ocean forms the boundary to the west. The dominant generation supplier is Verve Energy. Verve provides about 60% of the generating capacity in the SWIS. Verve Energy sells its electricity on the WEM as well as through bilateral contracts with other participants in the market. The majority of Verve electricity is sold to Synergy.

The operator and administrator of the market is called the Independent Market Operator (IMO). The IMO arranges the orderly dispatch of all the electricity traded and the System Operator, which is an independent operating arm of the network business, manages the dispatch.The bulk of electricity is traded as contracts between generators and retailers. In addition, the Short Term Energy Market provides for day-ahead and ‘realtime’ trading.

Reliability of supply is the paramount concern in the SWIS.

More information about the market is available on and

What concerns the discussion, in this instance, is the Reserve Capacity mechanism as is intended to ensure that the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) has adequate installed capacity available from generators and demand-side management options at all times in order to:

  • Cover expected system peak demand including additional capacity to cover the failure of the largest generator on the system and a capability to respond to frequency variations.
  • Remove the need for high and volatile energy prices in the wholesale electricity market (WEM).

The Independent Market Operator (IMO) administers the Reserve Capacity mechanism.

If there is insufficient Certified Reserve Capacity to fully cover the total Reserve Capacity Requirement in a future Capacity Year, the WEM Rules (clause 4.1.16) require a Reserve Capacity Auction to be held to secure additional Certified Reserve Capacity.

A Maximum Reserve Capacity Price (MRCP) is set for each Capacity Year (clause 4.16.1) and determines the expected cost of new entrant peaking plant and other costs required to establish plant capable of supplying electricity to the SWIS (clause 4.16.4). MRCP has the following price setting functions in the WEM:

  • MRCP is the maximum offer price to apply for the Capacity Year for which a Reserve Capacity auction is being held (clause 4.18.2.(b)).
  • MRCP is scaled down by the IMO when there is more Certified Reserve Capacity than required in a particular Capacity Year (clause 4.29.1).

Clause 2.26.1 of the WEM Rules requires the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) to review a report provided by the IMO that proposes a revised value of MRCP. In approving the value submitted by the IMO, the ERA is only required to consider if the revised value reasonably reflects methodology specified in clause 4.16 of the WEM Rules and whether an adequate public consultation process has been conducted.

Clause 2.26.3 of the WEM Rules requires the ERA to conduct a review of the methodology specified by clause 4.16 of the WEM Rules on each fifth anniversary of the first Reserve Capacity Cycle.

The opportunity to influence the MRCP is also an opportunity to have in place mechanisms to encourage innovations, albeit Co2Land org has in the 10 Sept 2013 story said would require a courageous action. Writing in a preference to supply clause to alternative solutions or innovations to break the bidding ‘status quo’.

The typical Certified Reserve Capacity notices are typically listed Feb 2012 notices for MRC 2014/15, Jan 2013 for MRC 2015/16. Hence this might help you understand that bids are accepted 2 years into the future, but the need to influence should commence 2 years prior to that time of notice.

Can you bank on that?