Back to the Future Part Two: Still a long way off

Back to the Future Part Two: still a long way off

In the 1989 film back to the future part 2, we were promised we would have hover boards and flying cars by 2015. Now I know we shouldn’t believe everything we see on TV, but I think a few people feel robbed of the future they were promised! The Tesla self-driving car and a Segway is about as close as we have got by 2020.

CSIRO’s Report

When CSIRO, Australia’s main scientific research body, stated the whole of Australia’s car fleet will be electric by 2050, there were doubts. Let’s dive deeper to see if there is merit in the claim.

CSIRO released 5 scenarios incorporating electric vehicles, rooftop solar and batteries which fed into the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) Integrated System Plan (ISP). The ISP was released at the end of 2019, but the step change latest scenario has been the one to attract the most controversy. This is due to it showing what it believes can be possible from these technologies with the right grid integration and the rate of reductions in costs which could be possible for these technology with large scale uptake. It is also being overly ambitions not just limiting Australia’s contribution to warming at the agreed Paris agreements 2oc but exceeding this with an ambition to be closer to 1.5oc.

They do acknowledge with this there is significant increase in electricity demand but they do not address the cost of this, nor do they address the likely advertising campaign which would ensue if a mandatory “carbon tax on wheels” was introduced. Merely they expect a price parity of electric to petrol cars by 2025 and that charging would not be an issue.

I fear therefore that this scenario is another which is based on a chess board which is not in place. With no federal government really wanting to raise their head above this parapet, it therefore limited incentives to move to electric vehicle and investment in the electrification capabilities, i.e. charging. As such the likelihood of it coming to pass in this timescale is unlikely.

Arena (Australian Renewable Energy Agency)

However in contrast, Arena, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, has agreed to fund a two year, $2.4m trial to create a vehicle-to-grid power source where electric vehicles can provide system security and be paid to plug their EVs into the grid. With this Australia join the ranks of around 50 other vehicles to grid projects (~50% of which are in Europe). This trial is using around 50 cars from the ACT governments new Nissan Leaf fleet and could provide grid stability without the huge outlay required for a Tesla battery or a Snowy 2.0 hydro project.

Initially, these discharges will only be used for Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FACS) to the National Electricity Market (NEM). This will allow AEMO to maintain the frequency of the system. But with discharge ability within tenth of a second Dr Sturmberg (Australia’s National Universities research leader in Battery Storage and Grid integration) anticipates that if this was available across Australia’s 19 million vehicle fleet “it would store more energy than five Snowy 2.0’s or over 10,000 Tesla Big Batteries.”

These vehicles will work on bi-directional chargers and it is anticipated with more people working at home these could later become an in-home battery also. If proven feasible, this vehicle-to-grid technology could be the biggest disruptor on the Distribution System since small scale solar PV was introduced. The ability for consumers to have the control and ability to support the grid in a controllable way and with returns expected to yield around $1,000/Year this extra revenue could this create a significant incentive to start the drive towards the electrification of Australia’s car fleet with or without government legislation.


Written by: Kate Turner (Senior Manager, Markets & Advisory)


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