RISC’s Joe Collins says gas can help WA avoid SA’s power woes

Battery storage boost ahead of COAG meeting


Monday, 15 August 2016

Anthony Barich, ENP


WHILE politicians ponder the future of battery storage to make renewables more effective ahead of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments Energy Council meeting, Brisbane start-up Redback Technologies has opened a new research and development facility to develop new software and hardware for solar energy storage.

Redback opened up new offices at the University of Queensland campus in Indooroopilly where founder and managing director Philip Livingston hopes to employ 60 new team members ranging from software and hardware developers to client service.

The opening was the fruit of a memorandum of understanding signed between Redback and UQ whereby UQ’s commercialisation company, UniQuest, took an equity interest in the start-up in return for exclusive licences to UQ research across its engineering and science sectors to develop “disruptive” technologies.

It is hoped that these technologies will provide customers with a faster return on investment.

The centre’s R&D will be focused on developing new software and hardware that enables homeowners to store, monitor and manage solar energy more efficiently.

It’s a small but potentially important step as governments and industry – upstream, midstream and downstream – consider how to best manage the increase of renewable energy in the mix on the National Electricity Market, including pricing.

RISC Advisory told Energy News that while battery storage is possible at both a residential and utility scale, the cost is still significantly higher than that of having a gas-fired generator as a reserve at the same capacity, ready to inject power when needed.

RISC principal development engineer Joe Collins, author of the industry consultancy’s report Gas can help WA avoid SA’s power woes, said companies working on battery storage technology needed to get their costs down to under $100/megawatt hour of storage capacity before they could become competitive with the “rolling reserve” scenario with coal or gas, and replace them.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s latest Electricity Statement of Opportunities forecast that South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales could all suffer potential power shortages over the next decade as coal-fired power is withdrawn to meet the country’s COP21 targets.

NSW, whose government has bought back CSG leases, narrowing the opportunity to explore for unconventional and conventional gas, pre-empted this Friday’s talks by announcing it would invited experts to help develop a new “energy roadmap”.

Under the plan, working groups will investigate how the government could support customers to “access the benefits and cost savings that can be gained from emerging technologies like solar, battery storage, smart meters and energy management services”.

AEMO’s report also said that network or non-network developments like generation, storage and demand side management services could end up reducing the risk of load shedding if they can increase available supply or decrease demand between 2-8pm when the risk of load-shedding is greatest.

The importance of battery storage was also highlighted by the ESOO’s warning that additional intermittent generation alone “may not materially improve the reliability of the system”.

Thus far government rebates, subsidies and tariffs have contributed to an increased number of solar photovoltaic system owners, which Livingston said was having a profound impact on the way Australians consume electricity.

“We are currently at the cusp of a solar revolution as consumers begin to understand how solar can save them money, and the huge benefit it can have on the environment by eliminating dependency on fossil fuels,” Livingston said.

“We are innovating to ensure cleaner energy for future generations.”

He said the growth in clean energy had also created a promising new market that was driving employment opportunities for those is science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors.

“We’re hoping to bring on employees that have experience in industries like manufacturing and mining as these skills can be repurposed,” Livingston said.

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