EVs and rooftop solar could boost SA's future grid
While more large-scale generation and transmission is needed to support Australia’s transition to renewables, there is not enough attention being paid to the massive opportunity presented by customer energy resources embedded in the distribution network. This was the view presented by SA Power Networks CEO Andrew Bills at the recent Future Energy Conference, which took place from 8–9 November at Tonsley Innovation District in South Australia.
Bills said that in South Australia there are now more than 37% of customers with solar, forming a total installed capacity of almost 2.2 GW — more than enough to regularly meet the state’s electricity needs in the middle of mild sunny days.
“South Australia already is a world leader with 350,000 rooftop solar installations, more than 35,000 batteries and significant potential that will be unleashed by electric vehicles as we electrify transport,” Bills said.
Bills described electric vehicles as the next big thing to influence energy outcomes.
“They have batteries 3–10 times the storage capacity of home batteries and are a great opportunity to utilise the state’s abundance of renewable energy,” he said.
“Emerging technologies like smart two-way chargers for EVs also have real potential to slash energy costs for consumers. We can kill two birds with one stone when it comes to electric vehicles, with cheaper transport and cheaper energy for households.”
An average household could halve its total energy spend from about $4500 to about $2400 per annum by switching to an EV, according to Bills.
With the electricity network set to become the primary ‘fuel’ source for transport, Bills said the good news is that there was enough spare capacity in the electricity distribution network to substantially meet demand from EVs and avoid the need for larger-scale network upgrades ultimately paid by consumers.
“The network has tremendous spare capacity outside peak times. We can unlock this capacity and create significant value for customers and the community by encouraging ‘flexibility’ in energy use. If we get it right, we can significantly increase network asset utilisation and help lower energy costs for all.
“The solution is a mix of incentivising as much electricity use as possible into daylight hours to take advantage of the state’s abundant, and still-expanding, low-cost rooftop solar energy; utilising smart energy management systems that look for the best outcome for customers and respond to network signals; and ensuring vehicle charging is spread across the day and week,” Bills concluded.
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