Australia has a long history of power supply and over the years the system has grown with us as a nation. Large power stations have been coupled to increasingly complex transmission and distribution networks to help keep up with demand from the end user. With energy costs and gas prices projected to increase over the coming years it is hoped that alternative energy will become the cleaner and more cost-effective energy source. New installations are trending in this direction with renewables such as wind and solar now increasing at a fast rate. As the electrical generation industry tries to balance the demand load, we are at a crossroads of how energy will be generated and consumed, presenting opportunities for the future.
Virtual power plants hope to decentralise power generation into smaller Distributed Energy Resources (DER). It is estimated that by 2050 between 30 and 45 per cent of Australia’s entire electricity needs will come from customer-owned generators. These community microgrids will aim to balance loads and provide reliability to an already overloaded network. Due to the smaller more efficient networks, less resistive losses will occur as energy will be passed across shorter distances leading to lower investment cost in infrastructure. Customer owned assets will rely on solar generation, a clean energy source and problems in network supply can be isolated resulting in minimal customer disturbances and increases in reliability.
Lack of coherent policy has stifled changes to the electricity network. Strong leadership is required with forward and holistic thinking to enable the complex changes required to develop the grid into the future. Removing the existing barriers will allow innovative thinkers and consumers access to the marketplace. Transparency will allow trust and knowledge between consumers and private enterprise with smarter more efficient systems leading to positive outcomes for carbon abatement and the community.