The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has released its 2022 Integrated System Plan (ISP), which outlines the investment needed to shore up the future of the National Electricity Market (NEM) during the next 30 years.

As part of its call for action, AEMO says more than $12 billion of investment in new transmission lines should soon begin to ensure electricity supply is secure during the next decade.

“All actionable projects should progress as urgently as possible,” states the report in its 30-year roadmap for supplying reliable and affordable electricity, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The report also says speeding up five key transmission projects in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania – HumeLink, VNI West, Marinus Link, Sydney Ring and New England REZ Transmission Link – will provide “valuable insurance” against coal-fired power stations closing sooner than currently planned.

AEMO expects 60 per cent of the eastern seaboard’s coal fleet will exit the electricity grid by 2030, with the last remaining plant to be closed by 2042.

The ISP also estimates Australia’s eastern states will need at least 10,000km of new transmission lines to link up a nine-fold expansion of wind and solar farm capacity by 2050.

“Australia is experiencing a complex, rapid and irreversible energy transformation,” says AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman.

“The 2022 ISP informs Australia’s energy transformation based on an ‘optimal development path’ of essential transmission investment that will efficiently enable low-cost renewable energy to replace exiting coal generation.

“These transmission projects are forecast to deliver $28 billion in net market benefits, returning 2.2 times their cost of $12.7 billion, which represents just seven per cent of the total generation, storage and network investment in the NEM.”

The Clean Energy Council endorses AEMO’s roadmap for accelerating the transition to renewable energy and energy storage, and protecting consumers from surging power prices and energy market volatility.

“The message is clear that Australia needs to bring more clean, low-cost energy powered by renewables into the system, and it needs to do so urgently,” says Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

“Australia is in the midst of an energy crisis caused by unreliable coal generation and the failure of global fossil-fuel markets. The ISP clearly identifies that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is key to delivering Australian energy independence.

“This is needed to protect customers from the recent price spikes that saw the market nearly collapse. Having 30 per cent of coal-fired generation offline also added to the crisis.

“The 2022 ISP suggests 60 per cent of this unreliable and dirty electricity source will have retired by the end of the current decade so we need to ensure replacement renewable generation, storage and transmission is being built in anticipation of this.

“New transmission will create a modern electricity grid that ensures clean power flows from renewable energy projects to customers.

“Complemented with storage and coordinated investment in renewables will help maintain supply for consumers, while reducing the risks of the recent price shocks.”

The AEMO’s ISP also predicts rooftop solar will power two-thirds of Australian homes by 2050.