Abstract for: Exploring the Death Spiral: A system dynamics model of the electricity network in Western Australia

Power networks worldwide are facing challenges from their own consumer base in the form of private, grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems, and emerging growth in accompanying energy storage. This paper reports the findings from a system dynamics model of the electricity system of Western Australia, used to explore plausible scenarios resulting from the impact of private solar and storage for the period 2015-2035. The study finds the falling costs of solar PV systems will drive exponential growth that could result in a tenfold increase in private solar capacity by 2025 a much higher capacity than that currently predicted by the Independent Market Operator who operates the system. Eventually the daytime export of excess solar energy to the network will be so great that base-load generation will be affected, the network disrupted and tariffs will rise in a so-called electricity death spiral. Despite this, economy-wide emissions and total energy costs will be lower, which are positive outcomes for society and should be embraced rather than resisted. A coherent long term energy strategy is required to address the major implications for the network arising from the inevitable growth of private solar and storage, and for renewable energy at the network scale.