New Finkel report highlights bright future for energy storage

Australia has the potential to lead the world in developing large and home scale energy storage systems if public uncertainty can be overcome, according to a new report.

The report, The role of energy storage in Australia’s future energy mix, was funded by Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).

It warns that without proper planning and investment in energy storage, electricity costs in Australia will continue to rise and electricity supply will become less reliable.

“Given our natural resources and our technical expertise, energy storage could represent a major new export industry for our nation,” Dr Finkel said.

“Energy storage is an opportunity to capitalise on our research strengths, culture of innovation and abundant natural resources.

“We have great advantages in the rapidly expanding field of lithium production and the emerging field of renewable hydrogen with export opportunities to Asia.”

The report reveals Australians had some awareness of energy storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro, but had very limited knowledge of other emerging technologies such as renewable hydrogen.

It also notes reluctance from consumers to install batteries at home for perceived safety reasons.

However, the report identified there were 1.8 million buildings, mostly homes, with rooftop solar power systems that could use battery packs for energy storage.

“This report clearly shows the two sides of the coin – that energy storage is an enormous opportunity for Australia but there is work to be done to build consumer confidence,” ACOLA expert working group chair Dr Bruce Godfrey said.

“The best way to change attitudes is to increase understanding about energy storage.”

The report explains energy storage solutions can improve Australia’s energy system in two major ways.

First, by providing greater security by stabilising frequencies that fluctuate within seconds especially with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms.

Second, by improving reliability by providing additional back-up power when needed in times of high demand such as heatwaves.

The report has 10 key findings and contains detailed modelling and a national survey of more than 1000 energy consumers.

Speaking at a doorstop this afternoon, Dr Finkel said he was pleased with the report.

“What impresses me is the report is very broad, it’s not just looking at lithium-ion batteries, it’s not just looking at the electricity grid. It’s not just looking at transport per se,” he said.

“It’s looking at the supply chain opportunities, whether it’s lithium, nickel or cobalt.

“It’s the ability to do a little bit of development of battery technologies, battery pack technology development and looking beyond batteries at the importance of pumped hydro in our future electricity system security.

“It’s looking at the opportunity to export sunshine, take sunshine, wind, renewable electricity, and use that through electrolysis to make hydrogen and from hydrogen you make ammonia and ammonia is easy to ship and you can send it to countries that have indicated that they will have a not only growing, but a huge demand for hydrogen and they want clean hydrogen going into the future.

“So there are many, many diverse opportunities for Australia and I think this report has captured, well, all of them that I’m aware of so I’m very pleased with this report.”