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Labor's energy storage plan: 4 expert reactions

23 November 2018
Four energy experts share their views on ALP policy
What do energy experts make of the federal opposition's energy policy? Four experts from the University's Centre for Future Energy examine the plan to boost renewables and cut electricity bills.
University of Sydney experts react to the ALP's energy policy

University of Sydney experts react to the ALP's energy policy.

1. Battery storage and solar: “perfect dancing partners”

“This is a very welcome initiative that will likely help in solving several technical problems as well as help in reducing power bills,” explains Associate Professor Gregor Verbic, a future energy expert from the University of Sydney's School of Electrical and Information Engineering and Centre for Future Energy Networks.

“The amount of rooftop solar has in parts of the country reached levels where it causes network problems. Battery storage is an ideal solution as it shifts photovoltaic (PV) generation to times when it’s needed most.

“Battery storage is a perfect dancing partner for rooftop solar as it addresses its variability.

“With battery storage, customers can increase the value of their rooftop solar because they can store power when it’s not needed and use it later when the consumption is high."

2. Batteries will reduce costs for households

"Household batteries will reduce costs for their owners, by allowing them to make better use of rooftop solar or avoid drawing energy from the grid at peak times," said Dr Archie Chapman from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, whose research has focused on reducing energy costs.

"However, more importantly, increasing the amount of energy storage in the electricity system generates positive externalities for all electricity users, in two main ways.

"First, increased investment investment in energy storage technology is essential to supporting the uptake of increasingly cheap renewable generation. Storage is used to firm the variable output of renewable generators. At the same time, it reduces prices at peak load times and can help reduce renewable energy "spill," which occurs when more energy is generated by renewables than can be used.

"Second, household batteries are located close to loads. This means that they can be used to support power distribution networks.

"It has been well documented that distribution networks have recently driven large cost increases to energy users. Widespread uptake of household batteries will provide power networks with new ways to deliver power and reduce network costs, which is in the interest of all energy users."

3. Proposal to cut electricity bills both "thoughtful" and "ambitious"

"The proposal to run the suburbs on batteries is a thoughtful, ambitious plan to cut the electricity bills by 60 percent. For the daily average household requirement of about 20kWh, it needs 12kWh storage to cut electricity bills by 60 percent," explained Dr Swamidoss Sathiakumar, an expert in electrical energy and power conversion from the University of Sydney's School of Electrical and Information Engineering.

"If the storage is obtained from solar power which is available during the day, the required size of the solar system with battery storage is to be installed.

“The cost of a 12kW solar system with battery storage may cost around $20,000. With the proposed Government rebate of $2,000, the household needs to invest $18,000 which will be paid back in about 14 years."

4. Energy storage necessary, but safety concerns must be addressed

“It is clear that energy storage is the way to solve the current issue of the increasing of distributed generation and intermittency.

"On the surface, battery technology sounds like an ideal solution due to its modularity and simplicity, however is still too early to predict whether it’s the best solution for Australia," said Associate Professor Weidong Xiao from University of Sydney's School of Electrical and Information Engineering, whose work has focused on electrical engineering and solar battery power.

“The battery pack used for bulky energy storage is far more complicated than batteries used in mobile phones, and most high quality batteries are manufactured in Korea and Japan, not in Australia.

“Battery lifespan is always a concern for deep cycle operations, and whilst light cycle operations are better for lifetime operations, they are considerably more expensive. Another consideration is the cost of recycling, as well as the safety concerns of Lithium and NaS batteries.”

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