Battery storage key to growth of renewable electricity transmission

24 August 2022 3 min. read
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As Australia continues its transition to renewable energy, battery storage could be the key to solving inefficiencies and ‘wasted’ transmission capacity in the transfer of electricity from renewable sources, writes Steve Bond, General Manager Australasia of Power at Hatch.

Despite increased transmission lines eventually serving as a way to improve renewable electricity capacity from renewable generations centres to Australia’s cities, there is an opportunity to improve the capacity of existing lines now. These existing lines currently have significant redundant capacity built into the present renewable electricity transmission system.

This redundant capacity exists to provide reliable power supply to energy users during line outages, which reduce the available capacity to transfer power, or heatwaves, when demand for electricity surges.

Steve Bond, General Manager Australasia of Power, Hatch

Due to this setup, the capacity available in many transmission lines is not fully utilised, and for some transmission lines the utilisation is as low as 25 per cent. To help solve this, battery storage is a viable solution.

Currently, developing and increasing the availability of energy storage through batteries can be achieved at a reasonable cost. The gradual transition to electric vehicles will increase the amount of energy storage available in cities and households. In fact, some electric vehicles manufacturers are already providing the option of drawing the charge stored in the electric vehicle batteries for use elsewhere.

The availability of storage at households, commercial and industrial premises will change how we use electricity. As the take up of electric vehicles increases, we won’t expect electricity to be transmitted from generators to our appliances when we flick a switch. Instead, the energy will be transmitted and sorted in our batteries when it is cheapest to do so, and we will use the stored electricity whenever we need it.

Reserving redundant capacity in transmission lines for rare events will therefore no longer be needed, while the energy stored in batteries can also be used during outages.

It is important not to underestimate the impact future changes in the transport sector will have on electricity transmission. Our cars will become more than just vehicles to take us from A to B. Instead, they will be used as part of an energy storage network. An electric vehicle will be seen as a battery that comes with a car, rather than the other way around, and can connect to the grid in different places.

In the future, the fuel cells in hydrogen-powered cars will also be perceived in the same way.

The battery and system technology is already available, however government backing will be needed to increase its uptake. A policy framework and incentives are also required to increase the proliferation of batteries to our households and businesses, to increase the proliferation of electric vehicles, and a market framework where the electricity can be traded and stored for future use by consumers.

About the author: Steve Bond is Fellow of the Australian Institute of Energy and General Manager Australasia of Power at Hatch, an engineering and advisory firm in the metals, energy, and infrastructure industries.