Future Grid Cluster launched by CSIRO

Thursday, 30 May, 2013

CSIRO today launched the Future Grid Cluster, which will deliver the first analytical framework to identify low-cost pathways to integrating renewable energy sources and technologies into Australia’s electricity grid. CSIRO predicts that if these pathways are successful, by 2050 homes and businesses could be powered by over 20 different energy sources and technologies.

The research cluster involves $13 million and four Australian universities - University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Queensland and University of New South Wales - along with CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship. It will draw together engineering, economic and policy aspects of grid development and optimisation with four major areas covered in the research:

  • Improved understanding of impacts of different loads, generation sources and energy storage on system security, led by University of Sydney.
  • Planning and co-optimisation of electricity and gas networks, led by University of Newcastle.
  • Economics of alternative network development paths and estimates of total cost and price impacts, led by University of Queensland.
  • Policy measures and regulatory changes to facilitate a smooth transition to a de-carbonised future grid, led by University of NSW.

CSIRO Energy Group Executive Dr Tom Hatton said the electricity sector is undergoing a huge transformation not seen since the industrial revolution.

“We are facing unprecedented change in the electricity system over the next 20 to 30 years. We’re talking about change to a system that has seen stability for decades and has used technologies and energy sources that are predictable and controllable. Moving away from that is going to require a great deal of effort and capacity building,” Dr Hatton said.

“The Future Grid Cluster brings together Australia’s best research capabilities and provides a framework the electricity sector needs to make $240 billion worth of decisions in the next two decades.”

Such decisions will revolve around the amount of electricity derived from renewable energy sources - while this is currently 8% in Australia today, CSIRO says future scenarios could have a 50/50 split of renewable energy sources, with coal and gas power stations using carbon capture and storage technologies to decrease carbon emissions to near zero.

The leader of the research program, University of Sydney’s Professor Tony Vassallo, said, “Each university will contribute specialist knowledge and expertise and will work with CSIRO to develop a new suite of tools to understand, develop and optimise energy grids of the future.

“This will assist decision-makers in their choices about future grid development.”

The cluster will run for three years.

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