Our energy system is changing…

energy collage

Readers of this blog will know that I think our energy future is:

  • 100% renewable
  • decentralised
  • smart

But what do the changes look like without the advocacy? Here are some of the trends we can see right now.

Falling costs of wind and solar means more renewables
We are on track to meet the Renewable Energy Target earlier than 2020 and capacity beyond the target will be built as renewables projects sign power purchase agreements directly with customers. The prices of solar panels, wind and batteries continue to hit record lows. The residential market is predicted to have its biggest year yet.

We need to remind ourselves that we have gone from a nascent wind industry and virtually zero solar in less than a decade. If change is speeding up, we will see renewable and battery storage penetrations change at remarkable rates over the next decade.

More renewables means a more volatile market
2017 has involved a series of interventions in an attempt to stabilise the electricity system, both physically and financially. The system does not incentivise some of the assets we might need in the long term. Seasonal storage, dispatchable supplies, smart control systems and interactive loads.

In the meantime, there is a dip in prices through the day as the solar glut gets larger. And there is a strong peak in prices after sunset. The other half of pricing, networks, has little downward pressure as SA Power Networks prepares its case for pricing from 2020 – 2025.

The storage conversation is growing
There is increasing recognition of the need for storage. (the need for demand response, which can offer the same service to some extent is talked about but not so loudly). We have had good coverage of the Tesla big battery and studies to build pumped hydro schemes. The early adopters are buying batteries for their houses and experimenting with different models for how they interact.

Ultimately we need daily load shifting (with either storage or flexible load management), we need week by week balancing and we need some interseasonal storage to bring summer surplus into winter.

The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening
Many advocates are concerned that the cost of electricity is disproportionately falling to those who can’t afford solar and batteries. Our energy-intensive businesses cannot afford to carry the burden of an inefficently priced system either.


The changes in our energy system and the lack of alignment to deal with changes point to a rocky road ahead. Of course, changes always spell opportunity for some. I’m hoping the relatively blank slate can become an opportunity for communities to write their own energy future, You can read more about that here.





About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
This entry was posted in Community energy, energy transition and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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