ARENA’s new investment plan, which will guide almost $800 million of renewables funding over the coming years, expands the agency’s focus to better facilitate Australia’s transition from fossil fuel-dependence to low emissions energy. The agency’s new investment priorities aim to accelerate grid adaptations to increase productivity and flexibility, and integrate higher levels of renewable generation without compromising on energy security, reliability or affordability.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently launched its new investment plan, titled Innovating Energy. The plan sets out the agency’s four new priorities:
- Delivering a secure and reliable electricity system
- Accelerating solar PV innovation
- Improving energy productivity
- Exporting renewable energy
- ARENA will now assess funding proposals according to these key priorities, as well as the agency’s larger objective – to accelerate
Australia’s shift to an affordable and reliable renewable energy future by enabling more affordable, higher value renewables; increasing options for secure and reliable energy supply; improving energy productivity through innovation; increasing industry skills and knowledge; and collecting data to inform new business models and regulation.
Delivering secure and reliable electricity
ARENA intends to help provide affordable, secure, and reliable electricity into the future for all Australians by investing in innovative projects relating to renewable energy use, storage, and sharing.
Innovation in enabling technologies and new ways of managing electricity networks will smooth Australia’s path to having a higher percentage of energy generated by renewable sources.
These innovations will protect the security, stability, and reliability of electricity systems, and also help manage costs and make further investment in renewable energy (such as rooftop solar and storage) more attractive to Australian households and businesses.
Through this investment priority, ARENA aims to demonstrate how the costs of renewable integration can be reduced and where it can add value to electricity systems.
In assessing proposals according to this goal, ARENA will be particularly looking for:
- New flexible capacity and grid stability technologies, or commercial pathways to balance the electricity system with higher shares of renewable energy, ensuring electricity is there when needed
- New ways to evolve electricity grids to integrate more distributed energy resources, including solar PV, energy storage and demand management
- Projects to extend knowledge relevant to decision-making in energy policy, market rules, regulation, or network practices and procedures
Accelerating solar PV innovation
ARENA’s new plan includes a specific focus on solar PV research and development.
The agency aims to help make solar PV more affordable and competitive, to drive continuing innovation in this area and fulfil the Australian Government’s commitment to double renewable R&D spending by 2020.
Reducing the costs associated with solar PV also has the potential to make it more economically viable to build excess PV capacity to charge storage and counter intermittent renewable generation to improve grid stability.
In particular ARENA will be looking to invest in:
- New technologies and tools to reduce installed cost of PV systems, improve system reliability and longevity, and develop materials for new markets or applications
- Opportunities to help Australian businesses translate these ideas into PV manufacturing supply chains
Improving energy productivity
ARENA’s new investment plan broadens the scope of the projects it can fund to include those aiming to improve energy use productivity.
The agency intends to accelerate improvements in energy productivity to meet or exceed the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP) to improve Australia’s energy productivity by 40 per cent from 2015-2030.
To achieve this, ARENA will provide support or projects to increase the adoption of renewable energy and replicable, innovative and efficient energy use across the building, transport, and industrial sectors.
This will be undertaken towards the larger goal of demonstrating how various technologies and approaches (including energy efficiency, electrification, and fuel-switching) can reduce energy use and emissions while increasing productivity and growing the economy.
In assessing related funding proposals, ARENA will be looking for:
- Accelerated improvements in energy productivity and adoption of renewable energy by industry, particularly in applications that contribute significantly to emissions
- Innovative building technology and design to increase energy productivity
- Improvements to energy productivity in the transport sector, including electrification and fuel switching
- Opportunities to improve energy productivity and integrate renewable energy by optimising value chains across sectors
Exporting renewable energy
By accelerating innovation in the renewable export industry, ARENA aims to position Australia as a key long-term renewable energy exporter.
As the global economy transitions to low emissions energy, with the right investment and innovation, Australia will be able to take advantage of its vast renewable energy resources, good export capabilities, and strong international market relationships to export renewable energy as primary energy (such as hydrogen or ammonia) or embodied in processed raw materials.
This will contribute to Australia’s economy and create new jobs, while helping satisfy demand for low emissions energy in countries with limited renewable resources of their own.
ARENA will be looking to invest in:
- Australian innovation in future renewable energy export industries
- Innovation in technologies to improve cost and efficiency of using renewable energy to supply export value chains
- Feasibility of first-of-a-kind projects using renewable energy to supply export value chains
Funding our energy future
Innovating Energy is intended to achieve maximum impact and value from ARENA’s funding across the innovation chain, from research to pre-commercial development.
“We are looking for new ways to adapt our electricity grid to increase productivity, make the grid more flexible and better integrate renewable energy so it can be stored and shared when and where it is needed,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.
The new investment plan is set to build upon the agency’s previous successes, which have included driving down the cost of large-scale solar and contributing to 14 world solar efficiency records being broken, and to accelerate Australia towards a reliable, efficient clean energy future.