Monday, August 18, 2008

Grid idea powers renewables push

A BIG move to modernise the national electricity grid will be unveiled today as debate continues over what contribution renewable energy should make to Australia's needs.

The CSIRO will team with five Australian universities in a multimillion-dollar effort to make the grid more capable of using renewable energy sources, including wind and solar.

The CSIRO's John Wright said the highly computerised network would be capable of accommodating thousands of tiny, decentralised generators, and use weather forecasting to moderate power flows.

"The whole network will predict some hours ahead what supply can be expected and what demand can be expected," Dr Wright said. "There will be huge information flows."

Large, centralised coal-fired power stations now generate about 80% of electricity.

Meanwhile, the Clean Energy Council has criticised a move to wind back the Government's renewable energy target. The council said the Government's target of sourcing 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 had already caused a flood of investment.

Business organisations have criticised the target. The Australian Industry Group described it as "ill-advised and risky". The Productivity Commission has said the target would become counter-productive once emissions trading was introduced.

But Greens senator Christine Milne said the target was the Federal Government's only remaining scrap of credibility on climate change after it had compromised on the design of an emissions trading system.

The debate has emerged as rival renewable technologies jockey for investment dollars.

A week after engineering company WorleyParsons said it planned to build a 250-megawatt solar thermal plant, geothermal energy company Petratherm said hot-dry rock technology could compete with market-leading wind technology on price, as well as being more reliable.

The company plans to generate its first commercial electricity in 2010 from a site in South Australia's northern Flinders Ranges.

No comments: