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Clean Power Wind farm in rural Australia

Published on December 6th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill


Four Possible Scenarios For Australia’s Energy Future

A new report published by the Future Grid Forum has outlined four possible scenarios which could represent the way Australia’s national electricity system may grow.

The Forum brought together more than 120 representatives from the electricity industry, government, and community. The aim was to “inform and inspire the national conversation about the future of electricity in Australia”.

Wind farm in rural Australia

The report presented to the participants is available for download here.

The Future Grid Forum presented four scenarios “that have far-reaching implications for the current and future electricity supply chain and would alter the electricity system in Australia.” The four scenarios are:

  • Set and forget
  • Rise of the prosumer
  • Leaving the grid
  • Renewables thrive.

“All of the choices in the Future Grid Forum scenarios have consequences for the price of electricity, something that has significantly impacted consumers in recent years,” said CSIRO Energy Flagship Chief Economist, Paul Graham. ”Electricity will not get cheaper in the coming decades, but bills can be reduced through the adoption of energy efficiency, peak demand management and on-site generation.”

“These steps, in combination with general wages growth, means the share of income average households spend on electricity is projected to be similar – shifting marginally from 2.5 per cent in 2013 to between 2.3 and 2.9 per cent in 2050 depending on the scenario.”

The four scenarios present ways in which consumers can take greater control of how they consume and produce electricity.

“This proactive shift could potentially influence the business model for the electricity sector, encouraging the emergence of new services to supply an individually tailored product – not dissimilar to the telecommunications industry shift from a one-size-fits-all landline telephone system to a wide variety of mobile and associated data and entertainment services,” Mr Graham said. ”One of the Forum’s scenarios looks at the option for around a third of consumers to disconnect from the electricity grid through the use of on-site generation using technologies like rooftop solar panels and battery storage; and this is projected to be economically viable from around 2030 to 2040.”

“Under the full range of scenarios Australia could see on-site generation grow from the current figure of 8 per cent to reach between 18 and 45 per cent of total generation by 2050, but mostly while staying connected and using the grid as an electricity trading platform.”

The four scenarios are helpfully explained in the following four images.

set and forget

rise of the

leaving the grid

renewables thrive

The Forum is clear to make the distinction between scenarios and predictions. “They are windows through which we can view potential futures for Australia’s electricity sector and have been developed through extensive quantitative modelling, analysis and social dimensions research,” they note.

Unsurprisingly, the Forum believe that technology is going to play a much greater role in the way that we move forward, allowing for “more sophisticated ways of managing household demand during peak times through the introduction of devices such as smart air conditioners and in-home storage systems.”

“Better strategies for peak demand management could save two cents per kilowatt hour or $1.4 billion per annum on distribution costs for households,” Mr Graham said.

“This is an extraordinary time of change for Australia’s electricity industry and the Forum partners see the release of this report as an opportunity to begin a national conversation to decide the right answers for the sector, its stakeholders and, most importantly, all Australians,” Mr Graham concluded.

Australia has consistently been behind the curve in energy innovation, thanks primarily to heavy reliance on massive coal reserves. Movement has been made — including recent solar records reaching 3 GW — but there is a long way to go.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.

  • mds

    Mr. Hill,

    This is another one of those junk studies disguised as pro-renewables, but is actually opposed to renewables. There is enough reasonable information to get you to go along with it, then the author adds in some dis-information. The false information about the cost of battery storage. The author is either misinformed or is being supported by coal and oil dollars now going toward universities, quite possibly both.

    What Adam Deveraux says is exactly correct. The cost given for electricity from batteries is ridiculously high. It is nonsense. To restate Deveraux’s comment: “You can buy Lead Acid’s that will calculate to around $.20 per kWh now (Trojan RE series for example).”

    New battery storage technology is now coming to the market that is MUCH LOWER COST. The best example I have from my internet reading is EOS Systems: “Eos To Conquer The World?” – July 2013
    They are claiming $160/kWh and a deep-cycle-life of 10,000. That works out to 1.6c/kWh. They are saying they will initially sell for the equivalent of 10c/kWh and the added cost is shipping, battery management system (BMS), and profit. Obviously, there’s a lot of profit in there to begin with.

    There are a number of other low-cost battery storage contenders coming to the market this coming year. There are several other technologies coming, eg at least two compressed air power storage companies.

    End-of-grid (retail) costs of electricity in Australia are around 27c/kWh. Most of their electricity comes from their abundant coal, which is low cost. Either their grid is very expensive or their utilities are fleecing them. It doesn’t matter which. Residential Solar PV in Australia is already generating electricity for less than half of that end-of-grid cost. EOS is going to be selling for the equivalent of 10c/kWh this coming year. The cost of Solar PV is still dropping and there are other contenders for low-cost storage. Both those costs can drop by another 50%, if production can keep up with demand, by 2020.

    Bottom line is residential Solar PV with storage is already becoming cheaper than end-of-grid electricity in Australia and will drop to half that cost by the end of this decade, unless there is higher prices due to over-demand, then it will still happen but could take a few years longer.
    There should be no question that many homes in Australia are going to be going off-grid in the future. Many others will be part of micro-grids. They will have no use for the larger grid system in Australia. That is clearly where these current trends are heading. Why pay for a grid if it’s too expensive and you don’t really need it?
    The same thing is happening in Chile, Hawaii, and a number of islands right now. It is going to happen in parts of California, Arizona, Texas, and other states …maybe more rapidly at later dates because their incumbent electricity costs are lower than in Australia.
    Please be more critical of these junk studies I don’t think they deserve to get additional publication, especially not by cleantechnica. I don’t mean to be harsh. Hopefully this is helpful.
    Thanks, mike

  • Adam Devereaux

    $1.10 kWh for electricity from Batteries? How do they figure that? You can buy Lead Acid’s that will calculate to around $.20 per kWh now (Trojan RE series for example). Long cycle life advanced chemistry batteries are coming to the market that half or quarter that cost.

    Another series of pretty graphs with inaccurate information. What I do find interesting is their percent of household costs in any scenario is less then 1%. And the leaving the grid is the lowest. Not sure how they got to these numbers.

    My question is why do we allow the fossil fuel industry to drive a false narrative of expensive RE? The only real difference in cost long term between an aggressive RE and efficiency scenario and business as usual is who gets the money. I guess I already know the answer to my question.

    • JamesWimberley

      The differences in total cost between the scenarios must be within the margin of error of any predictive model with the same horizon. Professional and specialised consulting firms (IHS, Solarbuzz, Navigant, etc) have widely different predictions about solar costs in 2030, for example.

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