The second challenge is that renewables dramatically change the way we use the electricity grid.
Digitalisation is enabling the energy user to be increasingly more engaged with their energy choices and consumption. This trend is expected to grow, giving more control at the consumer end.
With all the above taken into consideration, I see three key changes in the way we generate and consume energy in Australia that will impact our grids significantly:
- More distributed wind and solar farms coming online, in particular, solar on roofs which the energy system has little control over
- More energy storage, utility scale storage and battery storage going into homes
- An increased uptake in electric vehicles.
As a result, the electricity grid is changing from its traditional ‘centralised unidirectional flow of energy’, where electricity production is controlled by a selection of major power producers, to a ‘distributed bidirectional flow of energy’ where the grid is powered from a wide array of distributed energy sources.
The delicate balance between electricity generation and consumption has always been a challenge. Our energy system was essentially designed and expanded upon over decades to suit centralised generation with a unidirectional flow of energy over long distances.
Now with addition of many new distributed and variable power sources, we are further challenged by the resultant instability in a power system that was not designed to accommodate these variable distributed resources. If too much or not enough energy is delivered into the system at any one moment, the power system becomes unstable and crashes.
For a country like Australia, blessed with abundant sunlight and wind resources, this volatility presents a challenge to the grid. Nonetheless, I believe it is also the source of a tremendous opportunity.