The big glittery All Energy event in Melbourne this week was all abuzz with how irrelevant the federal government really is.

The overall sense is that while yes, some good policy at the federal level would be a valuable thing, there’s no point waiting around before getting on with it.

And it is really is moving along, with one attendee describing the new environment as one with “an unprecedented level of collaboration”.

Coming together to sort out what the government should be doing but isn’t are energy retailers, business groups and energy advocacy groups – all united in one common objective: to get progress on renewables.

And that’s about identifying the right direction to tackle things on.

For the past 50  years or so the focus of energy policy has been on the supply side of the equation, but now the spotlight has shifted to demand.

The over-riding theme of the two-day event, this year incorporating the Energy Efficiency Expo, was that the energy system is irrevocably changing faster and more radically than industry stakeholders expected.

The big questions circling the presentations by lead speakers such as chief executive of Clean Energy Council, Kane Thornton, Victorian energy and solar homes minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, keynote Richard Adams, director – Innovation & Entrepreneurship Centre, NREL, and CSIRO Energy director Tim Finnigan now revolve around the speed of the transition away from carbon-intensive energy and the effectiveness of the transition. 

How will be managed, and how will the costs be managed?

A clear indicator of the new energy picture was the involvement of energy retailers, generators and networks as attendees, speakers and panellists.

Distributed energy resources [DER] are the buzzword, with discussions around how to coordinate them and make them work, according to one of our sources who attended the event.

DER now means “everything but coal-fired power”, the source said

An important focus is resolving the technical issues and standards. One session at the event was dedicated to the new battery energy storage standard. Manufacturers including SolaX Power, Redback, Delta, BYD, SENEC, Sonnen all featured in the Clean Energy Council’s Battery Storage Installation Demonstrations.

Questions of DER coordination and “getting the market right” were also high on the agenda.

The crux is how this energy is distributed, and how the networks can cope with and accommodate more variability in energy supplies coming into the system.

While DER is not new – off-peak hot water systems being a familiar example – what’s new is the scale of the resources and their diversity.

Until now the big focus in terms of DER has been on supply in the form of solar, especially rooftop PV, but now the demand side is strongly entering the picture.

And because solar and wind can’t be easily ramped up and down, technologies such as smart controls, metering and data systems that enable demand to be monitored, measured and managed are of rising importance.

Buildings are considered our “biggest resources” in getting DER management right; and they took centre stage for a number of the sessions on Thursday, 24 October 2019.

Energy efficiency, demand response and pre-cooling buildings during the day to use excess rooftop PV going into the system were all tactics finding attention. “Load-shaping” is a trend forward-thinking building owners and managers will want to jump onboard with.

This whole emerging scenario makes buildings not just consumers of energy, but a vital part of the network and how it managed.

ARENA was talking up another way of utilising daytime peak PV – the generation of hydrogen for a new export industry. There were also workshops and discussions around waste-to-energy and bioenergy.

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