The latest issue of The Economist features an excellent article (Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems) describing the challenges of integrating renewable energy into electricity systems. It is a timely article, given there is an extensive debate in Australia at the moment regarding the impact of renewable energy sources on the reliability of electricity supply and its cost.
One of the world’s leading experts on the economics of renewable energy is Professor Manuel Pinho of Columbia University, a former Economy and Innovation Minister of Portugal. The Economic Society of Australia (Qld), of which I am the Secretary, is fortunate to be hosting a lunchtime seminar by Professor Pinho on renewable energy issues on Monday 13 March in Brisbane at Morgans, Riverside Centre.
As Portugal’s Minister for Economy and Innovation, Professor Pinho was instrumental in Portugal becoming an economy with a major reliance on renewable energy. The Guardian observed that one of the 12 key science moments of 2016 was Portugal being entirely powered by renewable energy for four days last May.
At the seminar on Monday 13 March, Professor Pinho will speak on the topic of:
Zombie Electricity Utilities: A world with falling demand for on-grid electricity consumption.
This is a very important topic, because as more people install solar PV cells and batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall, the demand for electricity from the grid will fall. This could have major implications for the State Government Budget in the future, as dividends fall or subsidies need to be paid to ensure the ongoing viability of the State’s electricity distributor (i.e. Energy Queensland) and power generators (i.e. CS Energy and Stanwell).
If you are interested in attending this seminar, priced at $20 for members and $40 for non-members, please register soon (at the link above), as I expect this will be a very popular seminar.
Professor Manuel Pinho
It will be interesting as a significant number of people move away from being totally reliant on grid electricity. Of course what they are doing is prepaying years of electrical costs with some expected reasonable payback time. At the moment that has to be over 10 years which is a long term commitment. Especially as the PV panels are only good for 20 years and I am on my 3rd inverter in 6 years – all under warranty but the next one won’t be. They obviously have a very limited life. The federal government will pick up heaps of GST on these very expensive systems. Perhaps some of the GST from these systems should come back to the states. Also, I am suspecting that people will still need to be connected to the grid for the times when it rains for a few days and the batteries go flat. So there is still the significant service connection charge being picked up by the electricity suppliers.
Of course how do the suppliers predict the amount of power to be generated? They will still need to keep big coal power stations or a lot of gas fired smaller ones available. Under the current 50% proposed renewables plan in QLD there was no closure of power stations I believe. Please correct me if I am wrong. So the cost of what power is generated and supplied to less consumers most of the time has to go up. I am guessing that the service charge also goes up significantly.
Gene, I am sure you have lots of spare time 🙂 but working out the true cost of PV with batteries for a reasonable size (family) house with AC. Would need to allow for replacement of inverters every say five years, batteries every 6 to 8 and solar panels ever 20. Also, the system needs to be overspeced to allow for degradation of PVs over time and Brisabane irregularities especially in summer. Have fun.
Thanks for the comment Russell. Yes, electricity distributors may have to raise charges for those who remain on the grid, raising the possibility of the death spiral for electricity businesses, as higher prices mean more households leave the grid, meaning charges have to increase further…
That cost-effectiveness question you pose is a good one. I’ll see what I can do.
Govt could legislate that all homeowners need to pay a fee to have access to the power network whether they use it or not, most homeowners would not be able to move off grid completely without sacrificing some value of their home. Many people would want the security of access to mains power and would be put off purchasing a property that didn’t have it. A similar thing happens in the water industry now, ratepayers are required to pay for a domestic water supply that runs past their house even if they don’t have a water service to their premises.