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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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