* New market boss says Australia paving way for renewables
* Market chief calls for two-way use of rooftop solar
* Better demand management can limit need for new generation
* Industry warns electricity prices to stay high
MELBOURNE, March 28 Australia can manage the
risks of its rapid shift toward renewable energy by managing
demand and taking better control over rooftop solar output, the
new head of the country's electricity market operator said on
Audrey Zibelman, who oversaw a rebuild of New York's ageing
grid following widespread blackouts during Hurricane Sandy, said
Australia was at the forefront of efforts to integrate renewable
energy into an existing electricity network.
Managing peak demand and improving data to tap energy from
rooftop solar and batteries, should limit the need for new
generation and keep prices from rising, Zibelman, who started
last week as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market
Operator, told an industry forum.
Soaring electricity and gas prices have become a hot
political issue in Australia amid a shift to wind and solar
power and the closure of coal- and gas-fired power stations,
which have led to power outages.
Declaring the nation is facing an "energy crisis", Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the rapid shift to
renewable energy and taken steps to expand hydro storage, boost
gas supplies and launched a probe into electricity prices.
Zibelman, formerly chairwoman of the New York Public Service
Commission, said Australia could "show the rest of the world
that this new technology is not threatening."
Her comments came as the market operator released its final
report on a state-wide blackout that hit wind power-dependent
South Australia last September.
Zibelman plans to focus her efforts first on ensuring the
national grid is secure and reliable ahead of next summer,
following a blazing summer when there were six power cuts across
various parts of eastern Australia.
She then plans to look at how market rules should be changed
to deal with rapidly evolving technology and the growth of
"If we compensate people who invest in batteries or
distributed generation on their side of the meter and we really
create a two-way system ... we don't necessarily have to invest
in generation we're only going to use a few hours a year," she
Other industry executives at the forum, however, warned that
electricity prices are unlikely to drop anytime soon, due to
tight gas supplies.
"I don't see electricity prices coming down fast, soon,"
Steve Masters, chief executive of South Australian transmission
operator ElectraNet, told the business forum.
The main factor driving up power prices was rocketing gas
prices, because under the current bidding system in the
electricity market, the most expensive source of power, which is
gas-fired generation, sets the half-hourly prices.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)