Myopic thinking in Australia on electric vehicles and renewable power

May 24, 2021

Everyone’s looking at the transition to renewable power but ignoring another massive transition that has huge implications for the grid – the transition to electric vehicles. Looked at together changes the story.

Here are some sums:

  • We have 20million vehicles in Australia;
  • if these were all electric vehicles each with a 60kWh battery;
  • driving just 3% of the time (current average) and 97% of the time connected to the grid;
  • that amounts to 1164GWh of vehicle battery storage – that is 3.5 Snowy 2.0’s or 2.3 days of storage of our entire electricity consumption!
  • If these cars are bi-directionally charged – so that they can supply back to the grid overnight or when demand exceeds supply;
  • then the whole question of grid level storage is completely solved by the EV transition!
  • For pumped hydro storage, Prof Blakers (ANU) has estimated that the most storage the grid will need to support intermittent renewables is 450GWh;
  • so on the very worst day of the worst year, our car battery may drop to only 60% fully charged to help out renewables on the grid.
  • I do not lose any sleep over my petrol cars’ tank being only 60% full and if I had a long journey planned for the next day I could override helping out the grid for that day.

The transition to electric vehicles seems inevitable, not least because they will very soon be the cheapest to buy, cheapest to run (free) and cheapest to maintain and most manufacturers are planning their withdrawal from even producing petrol/diesel vehicles.

Other nations are incentivising or setting deadlines to ban the import of petrol and diesel cars:

  • Denmark expects to have 1 million electric vehicles by 2030
  • UK will mandate that all new cars from 2030 are hybrid or electric
  • Netherlands – Amsterdam is banning all polluting cars by 2030 – old or new
  • Germany is subsidising electric vehicles with grants of up to 6,000€
  • Ireland is setting a target for 900,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030

Research in the US is proving out Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology and considering standardisation, permits and time-of-use tariffs to enable electric vehicle and bi-directional charging to become a viable technology.

The International Renewable Energy Agency has spotted the potential of electric vehicles providing storage for the grid and are advising nations of the potential and need for smart charging to implement it successfully. Here in Australia, ARENA is also researching this potential.

Although during the transition, there may be some grid bottlenecks at particular times, in the long run, since the vehicle battery storage will be distributed around the grid just as consumers are distributed – it should reduce demand on the grid not increase it – our grid will on average become oversized for this future.

The electric vehicle transition will make “gas-led-recovery”, publicly funded gas power stations, blue or green hydrogen, all fossil power, community batteries, Snowy 2.0 and its associated grid upgrades, certainly Carbon Capture and Storage completely redundant Kodak technologies within a decade and we should not be wasting a penny of public money on any of them!

So accelerating the transition to electric vehicles is highly strategic for accelerating distributed (car battery) storage onto the grid, which will in-turn maximises the viability of low-cost intermittent renewable energy, with no need for any curtailment of renewable energy generation. It will accelerate the transition from fossil fuel-powered grid electricity to cheaper renewable electricity and provide 4-10 times the jobs per dollar invested compared to the fossil fuel power supply chain. These jobs will be in technologies that are sure to win out over all of those being promoted by our governments in stranded asset fossil fuels.

Whilst other nations are moving on the transition to EV’s aggressively our governments are sitting on their hands. ACT Government do seem to be the exception having realised the potential to stabilise their extensive but intermittent renewable energy supplies. They are actively promoting electric vehicles through their rEVolution programme and installing charging infrastructure around the territory.

So how good are electric vehicles and renewable energy combined? They are good for everyone except the fossil fuel industries. So, of course, the fossil fuel companies are fighting tooth and nail to stop us from spotting this synergy and keeping us distracted by gas-led recovery, hydrogen etc.

Our hapless, sold-out governments are colluding (both Coalition and Labor) to do the bidding of their fossil fuel sponsors and impose on us exactly the opposite of what is in our best interests.  Best interests economically, for our economically competitive futures, for sustainable jobs and especially for our kids and grandkids having survivable climate-safe futures.

Our governments are also making us a global climate pariah internationally – it is only a matter of time before Europe and the US place punitive sanctions and tariffs on our exports to collapse the viability of our appalling fossil fuel exports and force us to act with global responsibility.

Australia is the lucky country, despite our Governments’ incompetence and lack of foresight.  It is an embarrassing time to be Australian!

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