For example, at dawn on 29 January 2009, it was a sweltering 32 degrees Celsius in Victoria and residents naturally turned on their air-conditioners and pedestal fans in record numbers. By 9 am, demand had spiked. So many extra generators were turned on that the electricity price had soared to $10000 a megawatt. Wholesale prices are usually between $35-50/Mwh.
Now the way the National Electricity Market works, this excessively high price was tagged to EVERY generator switched on at that time, even though it is still only cost $4/MWh to shovel the coal in their power plant.
That day alone, the state generating board would have pocketed $550 million, nearly a fifth of their annual revenue. This is admittedly an extreme example but it is also not atypical on the NEM. The business models of the energy utilities actually depend on these figures!
The most widely disseminated reason for escalating electricity prices has been the cost of maintaining and upgrading the electricity distribution networks, including these generators. Certainly, the proliferation of air-conditioning units has put the grid under stress, necessitating full upgrades.
What has been done so far to relieve the grid?
The widespread uptake of solar energy has produced a significant amount of clean energy for the very hungry grid. However the time of day it is available does not solve the dilemma of peak demand versus grid interaction. A significant number of panels in NSW and Victoria make a major difference to the grid. Still, there is still nowhere to store the power in order to redistribute it at peak time: early morning and evening – the very times when the panels are not effective.
Or so it's been…
Robert Campbell, director of Vulcan Energy, created quite a stir at the Solar 2011 exhibition in Sydney, early in December.
He presented an entirely new battery concept offering the safest, cleanest and ultimately the most efficient method of shifting the time at which the power is delivered to the grid. His Lithium Iron Phosphate battery promises 5000 usable cycles and would allow the solar energy to be redistributed to the grid when it is really needed and therefore eventually dismiss the need for generators and ultimately power stations.
Every citizen could have solar on their roof, store the power they are not using and feed it to the grid when needed. Its retail price has been evaluated at $3000 and it would even be fairly easy to recycle. Robert Campbell is now seeking government funding to make his Sol-Ace Grid Demand System available to the public.
Hoping it will not be one of the many innovations Australia has let go overseas, the visionary company owner who has been in been in business on the Gold Coast for over 25 years, says he is not afraid to look for investors in a global market, if need be.
The future of our planet is in our hands. Our state government should do everything in their power to protect our environment and find solutions genuinely beneficial for consumers. It is time to see a real change in policies. The roll-out to renewable energy should reach its full potential and not be stopped by laziness or greed.
Psalms 37: 37–38 NIV " Consider the blameless, observe the upright... But all sinners will be destroyed, the future of the wicked will be cut off."
Julia Baber is French and has migrated to Australia with her English husband. Julia created "The means to the way", a non-profit body that promotes French- Australian business and cultural relations around the world.
Julia's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/julia-baber.html