Monday, 20 November 2017 21:03

Lack of planning, investment will continue to drive up electricity costs: report Featured

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With energy storage and a reliable, sustainable supply of power — and government energy policies — a hot topic in Australia, a group of Australian academics has warned that without proper planning and investment in energy storage, electricity costs in Australia will continue to rise and electricity supply will become less reliable.

But despite the downbeat forecast, the report — The role of energy storage in Australia’s future energy mix — by the Australian Council of Learned Academies, also maintains that Australia has the potential to lead the world in developing large and home scale energy storage systems if public uncertainty can be overcome.

According to the report, while the Australian public had some awareness of energy storage such as batteries and pumped hydro, it has very limited knowledge of other emerging technologies such as renewable hydrogen.

It also notes reluctance from consumers to install batteries at home for perceived safety reasons.

But, the report identifies that Australians are fast adopters given the right market conditions, and there are 1.8 million buildings, mostly homes, with rooftop solar power systems that could use battery packs for energy storage.

“This report clearly shows the two sides of the coin – that energy storage is an enormous opportunity for Australia but there is work to be done to build consumer confidence,” said the chair of the ACOLA expert working group, Dr Bruce Godfrey.

“The best way to change attitudes is to increase understanding about energy storage.”

ACOLA cites comments by Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, that “given our natural resources and our technical expertise, energy storage could represent a major new export industry for our nation".

“Energy storage is an opportunity to capitalise on our research strengths, culture of innovation and abundant natural resources.  We have great advantages in the rapidly expanding field of lithium production and the emerging field of renewable hydrogen with export opportunities to Asia.”

“This is the first in a series of ‘horizon scanning’ reports. By working closely with the Office of the Chief Scientist ACOLA aims to present evidence-based reports on key issues to the Prime Minister’s Commonwealth Science Council to inform policy making and identify opportunities,” said ACOLA president, Professor John Fitzgerald.

Professor Fitzgerald points out that the report explains that energy storage solutions can improve Australia’s energy system in two major ways.

First, by providing greater security by stabilising frequencies that fluctuate within seconds especially with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms. Second, by improving reliability by providing additional back-up power when needed in times of high demand such as heatwaves.

The report has 10 key findings and contains detailed modelling and a national survey of more than 1000 energy consumers.

Among the findings is that recycling of lithium ion batteries is an opportunity for Australia, where we already have a history of recycling more than 90% of lead-acid batteries.

The report, co-funded by ACOLA and the Office of the Chief Scientist, can be accessed here.

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