In a recent report, the CSIRO, Australia’s premier scientific organisation, shows how the country could have every best outcome in its future energy market.
The report, released with Energy Networks Australia, describes Australia’s patchy performance in reducing emissions, providing energy security and maintaining low prices.
Aspects of the report include ideas appropriate for a Latrobe Valley transition and refocus away from power stations and coal mines.
The present national situation is that upwardly spiralling prices have alienated Australian householders and encouraged them to become world leading adopters of rooftop solar. There is currently 17% of Australian households with solar panels.
The report says the popularity of solar presents a major opportunity for a coordinated approach to solar energy production and localised distribution. As households continue to invest in household solar and battery storage they increase the potential for balancing supply and demand on the electricity system.
Embracing households as local electricity suppliers (as well as electricity consumers) will reduce the need for expenditure on grid infrastructure. It is a key factor for future energy security as the proportion of renewables increases.
To encourage householder participation, there needs to be the right incentives and reforms. Prices and regulation changes are important. But consumers also expect better information and engagement from providers than they presently receive.
One headache for supply companies has been the fall in electricity consumption due to more efficient lighting and appliances. To cover the fixed costs of their networks, distributors have sought compensatory price increases.
Stabilised prices would occur if there was an increase in grid-provided electricity without increasing any associated fixed costs. Additional feed-in electricity would do this, as distinct from power station generated energy. Simultaneously, that would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report shows that electric vehicles with local storage provide the greatest opportunity for this outcome and would increase grid efficiency.
Reduced network expenditures and more extensive rooftop solar can ultimately reduce the average household power bill by $414 per annum.
The CSIRO Roadmap model demonstrates lower all-round costs. It’s a model which provides greater choice for consumers, gives them fairer payment and billing, provides widely distributed electricity sources for greater grid security, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
That would be win-win all around.