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CSIRO says Australia’s renewable energy storage capacity needs 10x to keep the lights on

The shift to renewable energy to meet net-zero targets means Australia will need to dramatically scale up its battery storage capacity, according to a new report from the national science agency, CSIRO says.

The Roadmap for renewable energy storage outlines that between 2025 and 2050, a 10- to 14-fold increase in electricity storage capacity is required to keep the national electricity market (NEM) able to meet demand, especially as the construction and transportation sectors electrify.

More importantly, while pumped hydro and batteries are the main options, the CSIRO roadmap looks at which seven key industries have different preferences for storage technology.

Dr. CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall said new technologies are needed to increase renewables penetration and stabilize the power grid.

“Long-term storage will accelerate renewable energy integration, improve grid stability and reliability and support the decarbonization of industries,” he said.

“There is no silver bullet to reach net zero, so we need multiple shots on target, such as from renewables, batteries, hydrogen, thermal storage, pumped hydro, sustainable jet fuels and a host of new science-driven technologies.”

CSIRO energy director Dietmar Tourbier said that while batteries may be the best option for local and short-term storage of electricity, thermal or heat energy, such as steam, could be better suited for heat-intensive industries.

“Government and industry have recognized energy storage as a priority. However, significant knowledge gaps remain, requiring further research to support informed action,” he said.

“Joint investments are required across the system to accelerate and scale technology commercialization across a diverse portfolio of energy storage technologies.”

The roadmap explores new technology options such as hydrogen and thermal energy storage.

Dominic Zaal, director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute, said the CSIRO roadmap shows there is no one dominant energy storage technology.

“An integrated mix of storage technologies is needed across and across different sectors of the Australian economy,” he said.

“The roadmap identifies renewable energy-based thermal energy storage (TES) as a relatively low-cost solution with multiple end-use applications, including utility-scale power generation, renewable fuel production, and industrial process heat.”

Responding to the report, Federal Science and Industry Secretary Ed Husic said the government is focusing on domestic battery production capacity.

“Large-scale introduction of battery storage and battery manufacturing will be vital in the country’s transition to net zero and in helping Australia become a world leader in clean energy,” he said.

“The government recognizes the critical role that cheap, widely available energy storage will have to play in the transition to renewable energy. That is why the government is delivering the Australian Made Battery Plan, spearheaded by the development of Australia’s first National Battery Strategy.”

Husic said the battery manufacturing industry has the potential to be worth nearly $17 billion by 2030 and create more than 61,000 jobs, but the CSIRO report shows new ideas are needed to unlock the full potential of renewable energy .

“That means there is a huge opportunity for the development of new systems and technologies to manage the production, storage and use of renewable energy,” he said.

“The private sector is eager to invest in these innovative storage projects that are critical to Australia’s energy transformation, and we are committed to supporting efforts to move these projects forward.”

The government aims to reach 82% renewables in the Australian energy grid by 2030.

You can download the Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap here.

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