The energy transition we are in the midst of is a deeply complicated challenge requiring a range of social, technical and economic solutions. It is not just about building a better piece of technology, it’s ultimately about remembering that people are at the centre of everything we do and ensuring that the electricity and energy system meets the needs and aspirations of us all.
People are seeking greater energy independence, taking back control of their electricity system and choosing to drive the uptake of renewable generation. By 2040 it is projected that Australia’s grid will be the most decentralised in the world, having close to 50 per cent of total capacity installed behind the meter in customer premises. Indeed, Australia already has the highest per capita uptake of rooftop solar and residential batteries in the world.
There is an increasing prevalence of local and community energy models and virtual power plants, alongside increasing numbers of electric vehicles being interconnected into our electricity system. The grid, originally designed for energy to flow from large centralised generation to distributed demand is now flipping about with large reverse power flows from daytime residential solar generation requiring us to rethink how we monitor, operate and manage the grid.
The Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program is taking a holistic, transdisciplinary approach to the development, integration, operation and optimisation of energy storage in electricity grids and electricity markets globally. We acknowledge the existential risk posed by climate change and the need to make decisions for the benefit of both current and future generations. Issues of energy equity and justice must be considered alongside issues of energy reliability and energy security as we transition our electricity sector away from coal-fired power generation towards a grid primarily powered by renewable generation and energy storage.
To ensure that our work will have a meaningful impact on diverse peoples we also need to ensure we have an energy community that represents the extraordinary gender and cultural diversity of our broader community. I am very proud that in pursuing our research and development activities we are also building an energy community here at the Australian National University that is both culturally and gender diverse. We are drawing on an extraordinarily talented pool of individuals with a diverse range of academic expertise from computer sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, economics and the social sciences.
There is no one solution to the energy transition, there is going to be a plethora of new generation sources, new systems and capabilities and new operational paradigms that we develop to manage the ever increasing complexity of the socio-techno-economic system. Our ultimate goal is to create an electricity and energy system that is fit for the 21st century.
Dr Lachlan Blackhall
Entrepreneurial Fellow and Head, Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, Australian National University