Jonathan Jutsen speaking at ATMOsphere Australia 2018. Photos: ATMO Australia

Long term campaigner for a better more affordable clean energy Jon Jutsen has been named as interim chief executive officer for a new co-operative research centre – just one part of a broader suite of solutions urgently needed to tackle climate change.

The latest Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to attract significant federal government funding aims to significantly increase energy productivity by focusing on end users rather than on supply.

The government has committed $68.5 million to Reliable Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 (RACE for 2030) to improve energy affordability and reliability.

The new CRC has generated another $280 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry and researchers to drive its work.

The team behind RACE for 2030 has estimated that the potential benefits of its research include reducing energy costs by up to 25 per cent, reducing emissions by up to 20 million tonnes and boosting the economy by $8 billion by 2034.

The CRC’s mission is to boost energy productivity and integrate clean, distributed energy into the grid, in a bid to cut energy bills and carbon emissions for Australian businesses and households.

It is looking at energy solutions ranging from renewable micro-grids to smart inverters that can enable more efficient integration of distributed energy resources.

The CRC’s interim CEO Jonathan Jutsen said there was a lot of funding going into the supply side of the equation but the new CRC was “focused on the customer and the integration of customers with networks”.

“It is very much customer-centred, not supply-centred and that is quite unique in terms of existing funding and planning for the energy transition,” Mr Jutsen told The Fifth Estate.

Technology is a key part of the climate change solution, but it won’t be able to curb greenhouse gas emissions on its own, he said.

“I think we need a whole suite of policies to achieve the mitigation that’s required.

“Technology is a critical part of that because if we can find technology that can do the job better and cheaper, that allows the private sector to drive change based on their profit motive.

“But we will need more than that to achieve the mitigation required in the required time-line. We are one critical part of the story; we can’t be the whole solution.”

The federal government has said it won’t commit to an emissions reduction target before it can work out the economic cost of any transition, but it has not ruled out setting a target to achieve net zero emissions.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor told media on Sunday at the CRC launch that “technology, not taxes,” would be the way the government would deliver emissions reduction.

The team behind RACE for 2030 – eight major universities led by UTS Sydney, and 91 industry and government partners including the CSIRO and eight energy networks – see a high level of urgency about addressing the challenges involved in transitioning to clean energy.

“The urgency is about all three things,” said Mr Jutsen.

“It is the challenge to the networks of integrating large amounts of variable renewable energy [into the grid]; it is the need to improve energy performance for homes to reduce costs and businesses to improve competitiveness; and the urgency to reduce emissions.

“All three aspects can be only achieved together by focusing on energy end-use, including changing timing of consumption.”

The CRC, which will run for 10 years, has identified 17 projects so far, including:

  • investigating options to the use of fossil fuels for process heating/metallurgical processes above 150°C
  • improving efficiency, co-digestion and resource recovery from anaerobic digestion
  • cutting food waste and increasing food quality by better control of food temperature
  • shifting residential air conditioning load to tap surplus rooftop solar output earlier in the day on very hot days
  • collaborating with utilities and appliance manufacturers to improve hardware, software and standards to provide better control of output of solar PV and batteries, and
  • developing a national road map for integrating electric vehicle smart charging into the grid