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May 14, 2021

CSIRO gets ready for a power shift

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In 2050 CSIRO predicts that our homes and businesses could be powered by more than 20 different energy sources and technologies. So CSIRO is helping Australia’s electricity sector prepare for the monumental make-over required to undergo the transformation.

Last month, the organisation announced a A$13 million research collaboration with four leading Australian universities – University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Queensland and University of New South Wales – to develop the nation’s capacity to plan and design the most efficient, low emission electricity grid for Australia.

Launching the Future Grid Cluster, Dr Tom Hatton, CSIRO Energy Group Executive, said the electricity sector is undergoing a huge transformation, a change 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 A$240 billion worth of decisions in the next two decades.’

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,’ said Professor Vassallo.

The project is supported by A$10 million worth of in-kind contribution from university partners and a A$3.2 million grant from the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund – established to enable the skills of the wider Australian and global research community to be applied to the major national challenges targeted by CSIRO’s Flagship research program.

What is the Future Grid Cluster?

CSIRO’s Future Grid Cluster is a three-year, $13 million research program that will deliver the first analytical framework to help identify lowest cost pathways to integrating renewable energy sources and technologies into Australia’s electricity grid.

Clusters are large-scale research programs with an emphasis on people and partnerships working on a collection of strongly integrated projects relevant to a Flagship’s goals.

In Australia today, 92 per cent of electricity is derived from coal and gas. However in some future scenarios we could be looking at an even 50:50 split of renewable energy sources, with the coal and gas power stations using carbon capture and storage technologies, dramatically decreasing our carbon emissions to near zero.

The Future Grid Cluster was officially launched in May 2013 and will run for three years.

The Future Grid Cluster research program will build on CSIRO’s broad electricity sector and energy management work, including the industry-led Future Grid Forum that began in 2012.

The Cluster 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 New South Wales.

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