The Australian government has legislated that 20 percent of the nation’s electricity supply must come from renewable sources by 2020. Currently only 6 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources, largely hydroelectricity. Meeting the government’s 2020 target will require very strong growth in wind and solar energy generation in the coming decade and beyond. This will be provided by large-scale systems, but also by using a smaller, decentralised approach that integrates low-technology systems.
While there is an abundance of wind and sun in Australia, these are intermittent sources of energy, and our current electricity infrastructure was not designed to integrate substantial quantities of intermittent supply. Preliminary studies have indicated that perhaps only up to 20 percent of supply from intermittent sources may be manageable in some networks.
The key to the efficient integration of renewable sources of energy is energy storage. Achieving affordable and efficient large-scale grid-connected energy storage (including vehicle-based storage) is therefore becoming one of the great scientific and engineering pursuits of this decade.
Energy storage is a crucial element of Australia’s adoption of smart grids. Smart grids integrate electrical capabilities with information and communications technology in order to improve the flexibility, security, reliability, efficiency and safety of our electricity system. They incorporate energy storage and accommodate charging of electric vehicles. They may also improve the efficiency of our response to blackouts and other climate change-induced crises.
The University of Sydney has a strong track record of cutting-edge research into energy storage and related science and engineering, and accompanying legal, regulatory and economic analysis. At Estoren our challenge is to bring together this in-house capability and, with support from external partners, provide a structure that can provide solutions to the challenges of developing, integrating and managing large-scale energy storage. This goal will be achieved through the establishment of the Australian Centre for Energy Storage Research (ACESeR) at the University of Sydney.
ACESeR will provide world leadership in fundamental, interdisciplinary and translational research that will have the potential to deliver transformational benefits to society. It will also offer practical solutions to aid the integration of renewable energy technology into current energy systems.