Network operators need to re-think existing opportunities in the energy system, according to Australian and North American experts at Energy Networks 2016.
Energex CEO Terry Effeney and Lena Hansen from the Rocky Mountain Institute agreed it would be possible to unlock greater use of hot water storage, in addition to new battery storage systems entering the grid.
Mr Effeney said the network already had huge amounts of storage connected to it – “it’s called hot water”.
However, he said the opportunity to increase the benefits and penetration of rooftop solar panels by using hot water systems as storage hasn’t received enough attention.
“Traditionally, we have charged hot water systems in the evening, but we are charging our hot water systems during the day now and using them as a ‘solar soak’,” Mr Effeney said.
Ms Hansen said there was a need to think differently about the resources already on the network, with better use of hot water systems able to save the US an estimated US$3 billion a year.
“If customers are going to spend the money, then utilities should not spend the money,” Mr Effeney added.
“Our job is to find a way to integrate that technology into our networks. We don’t have to spend unnecessary money on our low voltage network if we know we can depend on interaction with those smart devices.”
Gas and Water Association of Germany CEO Gerald Linke pointed to Europe as an example of how Australia can re-think its existing infrastructure.
“We have similar issues regarding integration in Germany. We also have more assets, which is one of the reasons why we are looking at different ways to use them rather than building more infrastructure,” he said.
“Can spare capacity for gas networks be used for wind… instead of transporting power using wires, could we make better use of gas pipelines?
“Here in Australia, if you have a situation of oversupply, why not make use of this trend and transport the power around the country? Cables are very inefficient and lead to high losses. But if we were to use pipelines, then there would be less loss.
“Australians should think in a more integrated way,” he added.