Australia looks toward a future with a greatly expanded market share for renewable generation, including distributed renewable solutions. The increased penetration of distributed generation technologies, however, does not come without its challenges and risks. Our current electricity infrastructure is not designed to cope with the future increasing levels of electricity produced from fluctuating renewable energy sources. As a result a revised network infrastructure is required. Although the fundamental challenge remains the same: Power must be available when the consumer needs it.
Whilst the opportunities and challenges are easily identified there continues to be limited capacity in the market whereby stakeholders are able to either coordinate projects or share their knowledge, experience and ultimately results.
The main challenges to enabling renewables by integrating them into the grid, namely the distribution grid, can on one hand be categorized as technical and on the other hand as economic. The technical challenge stems from a need to manage an intermittent energy on a larger scale. The present energy infrastructure is simply not geared to manage it. Our research indicates that this challenge can be overcome by developing and using ICT tools. The ICT tools can balance markets via cross-border integration of markets, can improve storage solutions, can open up to incorporation of more services like access for EVs, etc., can enable customer participation (demand response) and much more. The opportunities for advancing the energy market by technological means are endless. Endless, but necessary in order to enable and integrate renewables. The other main challenge, which is economic, as previously mentioned, stems from the necessity to create a new incentive structure that will efficiently manage costs and values. This new structure needs to be designed and deployed, which implies major changes to the energy retail market. The utilities will have to come up with new business models and the consumers will find them selves transitioning into their new roles as prosumers.
The research behind the insights
The views presented in this blog post is based on a recent research study titled ‘Integrating Renewables into the Grid’, which was commissioned by ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and conducted by Marchment-Hill Consulting and VaasaETT. The project assessed 176 case studies, 116 of those were from Australia and the remaining 60 from overseas. The project represents the world’s largest stocktake of renewable integration projects. The project resulted in a comprehensive research report outlining all findings, results and recommendations. The report is publicly available here: http://arena.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/integrating-renewables-in-the-grid/
To follow VaasaETTs research projects please visit the website: www.vaasaett.com