Solar panels, battery storage and smart devices that switch off without human intervention have been proposed by CSIRO as ways to reduce power bills in the future.
A report called <i>Change and choice: The Future Grid Forum’s analysis of Australia’s potential electricity pathways to 2050</i> presents four future scenarios for the country’s electricity system.
The first scenario is called 'Set & Forget'. Consumers would sign up to a voluntary demand control scheme, and appliances, such as air conditioning units, would be automated to adjust their power use when certain conditions are met. This could be determined by a price point or a time of high energy usage.
“Consumers do not play an active role in demand control but rely on utilities for the solutions to integrate and operate the schemes,” read the report.
According to CSIRO, the level of investment needed for the scheme would be $855 billion.
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Turning to the second scenario, 'Rise of the Prosumer', consumers would become involved with designing or customising electricity products for their own needs. This could result in more consumer uptake of solar panels and electric vehicles, according to the report.
“Moving away from a one-way relationship, the network becomes a platform for transactions. Service providers compete to integrate and facilitate these transactions."
The scheme is forecast to cost $950 billion.
CSIRO’s third scenario is called 'Leaving the Grid'. According to the report, approximately 32 per cent of Australian consumers would disconnect from the electricity grid using a combination of gas generation, solar panels and battery storage.
“Disconnecting from the grid as a residential consumer is projected to be economically viable from around 2030 as battery costs fall."
CSIRO is forecasting that batteries will cost 35 cents per kilowatt in 2030. Storage batteries currently cost 110 cents per kilowatt.
Total cost of implementing this scheme is forecast as $1042 billion.
The fourth scenario is called 'Renewables Thrive'. According to the report, batteries would be widely used in houses, cars and at power stations by 2050.
“Storage supports a 100 per cent share of renewables in centralised power supply by 2050, high electric vehicle uptake (37 per cent) and strong demand control."
Total cost of this scheme would be $936 billion.
According to CSIRO's energy flagship chief economist, Paul Graham, higher electricity prices and adoption of roof-top solar panels have changed the industry’s view of what is plausible in the future.
"Electricity will not get cheaper in the coming decades, but bills can be reduced through the adoption of energy efficiency, peak demand management and on-site generation,” he said.
"These steps, in combination with general wages growth, means the share of income average households spend on electricity is projected to be similar – shifting marginally from 2.5 per cent in 2013 to between 2.3 and 2.9 per cent in 2050 depending on the scenario.”
He added that smart air conditioners and battery storage systems could save two cents per kilowatt per hour, a total of $1.4 billion per annum on distribution costs.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick