14 July 2021

ANU lab to help power ACT and Australia's energy transformation

| Ian Bushnell
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Brian Schmidt, Andrew Barr, Heather Logie and members of the Distributed Energy Resources Lab team

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt (second from left), ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr (fourth from left); and Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program chief operating officer Heather Logie (right), with other members of the Distributed Energy Resources Lab team. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Research from a new renewable energy laboratory at the ANU will help drive redesign of the ACT’s decarbonised electricity system so it will be stable and reliable.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who opened the Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Lab on Tuesday, 13 July, 2021, said the research, development and innovation from this facility could be applied in the ACT ‘s energy network, across Australia and globally.

Mr Barr said government investment decisions, such as its Big Battery project, would be based in large part on the output from labs such as this.

“[The ACT Government is] getting the best possible advice on new and emerging technology and different ways to deliver our ultimate outcomes for energy network stability, reliability and affordability, and charging our way towards a zero-emissions future for this city,” he said.

“We very much look forward to it contributing not only our investment and policy decisions at a Territory level, but feeding through into decisions taken within the national electricity market [by] larger state governments, and one would hope [it] might inform Federal Government energy policy.”

The ACT Government has injected $1.5 million into the project which has been underway for two years, and whose partners include ITP Renewables, UNSW Canberra and Evoenergy.

The DER Lab is set up to test ways to establish a stable, reliable and cheaper electricity supply from renewable energy sources in a decentralised system where devices such as batteries, vehicles and even air-conditioners play a role.

Heather Logie, chief operating officer of the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, said the DER Lab, which has its own solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, contained a ‘plug and play’ replica electricity network that would allow researchers to build, test and validate new systems, devices and capabilities.

Heather Logie

Heather Logie: “We have a unique opportunity in the ACT to demonstrate the pathway to mass electrification of the economy without compromising on economic growth.” Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

One such project is the trial of bidirectional electric vehicles that can feed energy back into the grid to stabilise it when needed.

Ms Logie said the electricity system is moving away from a centralised system based on large fossil fuel generators to one that is distributed, decarbonised and digitised.

“We have a unique opportunity in the ACT to demonstrate the pathway to mass electrification of the economy without compromising on economic growth,” she said.

“Then show the rest of the world how to do it.”

It is envisaged other universities, startups and industry will also use the DER Lab, which can be accessed remotely.

“We have some incredible equipment here that allows us to do simulated scenarios in the lab,” said Ms Logie.

This means things could be tested to their limit or simulating extreme events such as bushfires and heatwaves that put electricity systems under pressure, she said.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the DER Lab will help drive Australia towards a low-emissions society.

He said transforming the electricity system is a vital first step to lessening the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events by ultimately lowering the trajectory of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“Research in this lab will help us be equipped to smooth out and accelerate the energy transition,” said Professor Schmidt.

He said the DER Lab will provide a failsafe power system to rapidly, effectively and securely test the technologies and systems before they go out to the consumer.

The challenge was to get all the different parts of this new energy system to work together.

“Australia is a distributed energy resources superpower,” said Professor Schmidt.

“We have an opportunity to not just cope, but be leading and economically benefit in ways other countries simply will not.”

Mr Barr said it is frustrating that national energy policy isn’t more supportive of, and more conducive to, innovation and transition, and that the private sector does not have the certainty it needs.

“But sometimes small governments can run fast and achieve some really great things,” he said. “This one is a really good example of that.”

Professor Schmidt said the world will ultimately impose its views on Australia one way or another.

“We are not going to be able to go it alone,” he said. “We’re going to need to have the technology, what you see here, to decarbonise our economy,” he said.

“We have the opportunity to do that better and cheaper than literally any other developed economy in the world.

“That means we’re going to have access to the cheapest renewable electricity in the word. That creates an opportunity for all sorts of industry that will help Australia be prosperous in the decades to come, and that is why we are acting now.

“We are getting out in front of the curve so when the opportunities arise in the years and decades ahead, we already have the people, the technology and the capability to go forward.”

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Capital Retro9:00 am 15 Jul 21

The funding of renewables is like a bottomless pit.

Its almost lime there’s a clear link to industry development and the enormous profit to be made from technological improvements, which is already being realised.

Do you think that the current coal industry you idolise just sprang up overnight?

Capital Retro11:31 am 15 Jul 21

While the coal industry certainly didn’t spring up overnight, it still keeps us all warm overnight, something that solar and wind will never be able to do.

The enormous profit to be derived from “technological improvements” cannot be realised without massive taxpayer funded subsidies however.

“While the coal industry certainly didn’t spring up overnight, it still keeps us all warm overnight, something that solar and wind will never be able to do.”

Verifiably false to anyone with even a modicum of understanding as to how the energy grid works. Clearly you’ve never heard of forms of energy storage, hmmmm.

“The enormous profit to be derived from “technological improvements” cannot be realised without massive taxpayer funded subsidies however.”

Well it can be but it’s often more efficient for government to fill market gaps. The exact same way that occurred for the coal industry that despite your comment, you clearly think popped up overnight without government involvement.

Strange though, who do you think built the vast majority of coal fired power plants in Australia?

Capital Retro1:26 pm 15 Jul 21

State governments built the coal fired power plants, no secret about that and their purpose was to provide reliable, cheap power to both industry and the general population.

Over the years ownership has passed in the hands of multinationals which hasn’t been a good outcome for most Australians.

While you may criticize the coal industry don’t forget billions of dollars in royalties is paid to state governments for the coal that is extracted and on-sold for electricity generation in other countries.

I am not aware that wind farms and solar generators pay any royalties so this is free kick for them as the potential royalty is forgiven, in other words a massive subsidy.

I dont criticize the coal industry, in fact I think coal helped to transform nations over the last couple of centuries, which has been good for humanity. However, it’s now time to move one.

And seeing as you mention it, those coal plants have also never paid meaningful taxes for the pollution and carbon emissions they have made either, you can’t only consider the good.

Also, are you seriously suggesting that it’s unfair that solar and wind farms don’t pay royalties because their fuel sources (sunlight and wind) are free?

A Nonny Mouse7:31 pm 15 Jul 21

Capital Retro, regardless of coal’s historical roles, continuing with coal simply is not an option due to the fact that burning coal is a major contributor to climate change. If you don’t accept that reality, there is not much point discussing anything else.

Capital Retro8:12 pm 15 Jul 21

Coal in the ground is the property of the Crown. The miners (not the taxpayers) pay for its extraction and wages for labour are a big part of that. Then the miners pay billions in royalties. That’s not “meaningful”?

And the alleged pollution and carbon emissions you claim they have created are no more than other essential service industries are creating.

If you are claiming that sunlight and wind are “free” then so is the natural element called carbon and its various forms. That is soon to be taxed to address the unproven assertion that marginally increased levels of carbon dioxide are causing global warming yet some countries are continuing to build coal fired electricity generators, totally unchallenged by people like you.

Meanwhile, renewables are still taxpayer subsidised but are exempted from “carbon penalties” despite the considerable carbon footprint they have.

The whole “save the planet” scheme reeks of hypocrisy, not coal smoke.

Some quality ‘logic’ on display as always from CR….. if only there was a ‘rolling eyes’ emoji on Riotact.

Capital Retro7:55 am 16 Jul 21

Climate change is a natural occurrence. There is no scientific proof that burning coal causes climate change.

Capital Retro9:34 am 16 Jul 21

Typical dumb comment from someone who lives in an emoji world who can’t deal with the facts I have presented.

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