Enabling trends in renewable energy

Topic
Fleur Jouault10 May 2019

Over time, the growth in renewable energy has contributed to the increased use of natural resources in the production of mainstream and preferred sources of energy.1 In this insight, we explore some of the enabling trends that are facilitating the deployment of renewables and shaping the future of clean energy in Australia.

Through our Insights series, New Energy Solar (NEW) has explored a number of demand trends underpinning the transition to renewable energy – from community renewable energy projects and corporate power purchase agreements to energy initiatives in emerging markets and actions taken by states in the absence of federal policy. However, Deloitte has recently published a report titled Global Renewable Energy Trends that notes that enabling trends have also helped to lift some obstacles to the deployment of renewables.

Price parity

Even without subsidies, wind and solar are more cost competitive when compared with conventional resources than ever before.2 Solar, for example, has reached price parity in many markets.3 This is particularly true in Australia, which currently has the lowest costs for solar PV.4 Further, according to Deloitte’s report, the combination of utility-scale solar and wind plus storage is also becoming increasingly competitive in many parts of the world, providing both grid performance and price parity.5 Deloitte’s finding that the combination of renewables plus storage is reaching price parity6 is supported by a separate Australian study which found that even when adding the cost of two to six hours of energy storage, the cost of new-build renewable generation was still cheaper than new-build fossil fuel generation.7

Grid integration and support

Once considered an obstacle due to their intermittent nature, Deloitte has found that wind and solar are now viewed as supportive of grid systems.8 The firm noted that on occasions where adverse weather conditions in the United States tested grid resilience, these forms of renewables helped compensate for fuel-based shortfalls.9 Storage technologies have also helped drive grid stability. In Australia, for example, the Hornsdale Power Reserve (home of the Tesla big battery) reacts immediately to outages and is believed to have saved the market roughly $40 million on the cost of services to stabilise the grid over the last year.10

Technological innovation

Developing technologies (including storage solutions) have not only enabled renewables to achieve price parity and facilitated their grid integration, but have also provided new opportunities in the sector. For instance, artificial intelligence can now be used to analyse data to better forecast weather conditions and optimise the use of renewables, thereby allowing for operating cost savings.11 In Australia, eight large-scale solar power plants – including New Energy Solar’s Manildra Solar Plant – will soon harness the latest predictive technologies to self-forecast the amount of electricity they need to generate.12 This technology could not only help decrease frequency control costs and optimise the use of dispatchable generation and energy storage, but could also improve system reliability and, eventually, electricity prices.13

Separately, advances such as perovskite compound solar cells – one of the fastest-developing solar technologies available14 – have the potential to change the solar market entirely both in terms of efficiency and cost, particularly since many panels are currently reliant on stiff, bulky materials.15 In Australia, researchers from the CSIRO are one group considering new ways of manufacturing and using perovskite structures so the material can be suitable for broad commercial applications and long-term use in future.16

Although the scale of the future use of renewable energy remains to be seen, NEW anticipates that the combination of ever-developing enabling trends and demand trends driven by energy consumers will continue to support the transition to renewable energy. As the world heads towards a renewable energy future, NEW remains focused on identifying opportunities that will not only support the growth of its portfolio of solar power plants, but the overall growth of renewable energy in Australia.

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