While much of the debate about transforming Australia's energy industry has focused on the big end of power stations and taxes, there's an immediate potential for a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the smaller end according to a series of reports being launched today by the Intelligent Grid (iGrid) Research Cluster.
Decentralising electricity generation, introducing smart technologies in the electricity grid, improving energy efficiency and managing demand are effective measures within easy reach according to the findings of the three-year multi-disciplinary research project, supported by the CSIRO.
Researchers from five universities led by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology, Sydney are detailing their vision for a low-waste, high-efficiency electricity network at a research forum at UTS.
ISF Director and Cluster Leader Professor Stuart White said the iGrid research had covered not only the technical issues of distributed energy but the economic, environmental and social impacts and benefits.
"Our electricity grid has not changed a great deal in the last 100 years. This research demonstrates how to create a grid that meets the needs of the 21st century and helps us move towards a low-carbon future," Professor White said.
CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, welcomed the findings of the Cluster.
"The findings will help industry, governments and researchers understand how decentralised energy might fit into Australia's future electricity network, and the value of such technology and practises in cutting carbon emissions," Dr Wonhas said.
Key findings included:
- Decentralised energy, including energy efficiency, distributed generation, peak load management and smart metering, is a viable option to deliver significant cuts in carbon emissions while securely and reliably meeting customer energy needs.
- Distributed generation including wind turbines, solar panels, micro turbines, fuel cells and cogeneration (combined heat and power) can reduce power loss, improve electricity system operation and reduce transmission and distribution costs if sited and sized appropriately.
- Detailed household monitoring has established the effectiveness of energy efficiency technologies such as insulation, solar hot water and solar panels and demonstrated cost savings realised by these technologies over time.
- There is a high level of acceptance among residential and commercial energy consumers and industry stakeholders that intelligent grid solutions – such as advanced control systems and smart electricity meters – represent a genuine alternative to a centralised grid supply.
Following this week's forum, on Thursday 15 December, the ISF will launch the Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap, the blueprint for accelerating the deployment of decentralised energy.
The iGrid Cluster is supported by the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship through CSIRO's Flagship Collaboration Fund, with university partners: UTS, the University of Queensland, the University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology and Curtin University.
The CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund facilitates involvement of the wider Australian research community in addressing the nation's most significant challenges and opportunities. Flagship Clusters are three-year partnerships between Flagships, universities and other public research agencies.