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The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) has released a report commissioned by Dr Alan Finkel on the role of energy storage in Australia which states that Australia has the potential to lead the world in developing large and home scale energy storage systems if public uncertainty can be overcome.

The report, The role of energy storage in Australia’s future energy mix, shows that Australia has a wealth of natural advantages that could aid the development of new industries, exports and create jobs in mining and manufacturing.

It also warns that without proper planning and investment in energy storage, electricity costs in Australia will continue to rise and electricity supply will become less reliable.

The report finds the public had some awareness of energy storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro, but had 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. However, the report identifies that Australians are fast adopters given the right market conditions, and there are 1.8 million homes with rooftop solar power systems that could use battery packs for energy storage.

Key findings include:

  • There is a near-term requirement to strengthen energy security in NEM jurisdictions. Maintaining acceptable energy security levels for customers will dominate energy reliability requirements until well in excess of 50 per cent renewable energy penetration
    • Batteries are cost-effective for system security when installed with a high power-to-energy ratio, noting that there are other ways to strengthen system security (e.g. installation of more fast-start gas turbines, use of spinning reserve in wind turbines, and demand response and load shedding measures)
  • At an aggregated national level, Australia can reach penetrations of 50 per cent renewable energy without a significant requirement for storage to support energy reliability
    • Installing the levels of storage power capacity (GW) required for the purpose of security creates the opportunity to expand energy stored (GWh) capacity for reliability at a lower marginal cost than would otherwise be the case
    • Despite significant development time, pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) is presently the cheapest way to meet a reliability requirement. Projections indicate that the most cost-effective energy storage
  • A high uptake of battery storage has a potential for significant safety, environmental and social impacts that would undermine net benefits
  • Australians favour a higher renewable mix by 2030, particularly PV and wind, with significant energy storage deployed to manage grid security
    • The majority of those surveyed suggested they would look to government to play a role in the future energy mix, but lacked confidence that their preference for higher renewables would be achieved without consistent energy policies

Chair of the ACOLA expert working group, Dr Bruce Godfrey, said, “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.

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

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, said, “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.”

ACOLA President, Professor John Fitzgerald, said, “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.”

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 backup power when needed in times of high demand such as heatwaves.

The forward-looking report has 10 key findings and contains detailed modelling and a national survey of more than energy 1,000 energy consumers.

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

The full report can be found at www.acola.org.au.

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